After Harlequins RFC did the tremendous double, with both the Women's and Men's team's coming up as underdog winners, this season can be summed up with one word; unpredictable. We saw epic fall's from grace, with the likes of Wasps falling to the bottom half of the table with a horrendous injury list, we saw unbelievable turn's of form, with Leicester becoming the battering ram we all remember, and we saw Harlequins put on not one, not two, but three performance of the season contenders, winning a thrilling finale against Exeter, overturning an unsurmountable lead against Bristol in the semi's and putting Wasps to the sword by a solid 40 point deficit. Despite there being no fans, a ridiculous over-reliance on the TMO and red cards galore, I think the majority of fans, especially those who consider themselves as neutral, will look back on this season as one of the best in recent memory; much better than whatever happened last year anyway!
Now it's our favourite time of the season, to run through our favourite players on our end of season lists. Despite both season's coming in quick succession, it'll be interesting to compare this list to what we did last October!
Scrum Recap's Premiership Team of the Season: 2021/2022
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Like this was going to anyone else! Not only does Joe Marler serve as a beacon of all things fun about Rugby Union, he's also just potentially put in the season of his career. The parts of his game which he's long established such as his tough scrummaging and hard hits were ever prevalent this season, but his dynamism around the pitch is certainly a welcomed improvement. The guy has always been mobile, but his work rate from game to game often separated him from other top contenders for this spot - carry after carry, tackle after tackle, clear out after clear out. He was just relentless, and in the final, he deservedly took home the MotM award due to putting in a season defining performance. Ellis Genge is our honourable mention for this slot.
2. Julián Montoya (Leicester Tigers)
Although he didn't perhaps play as much as you'd want a contender on this list to, Montoya has definitely been one of the defining factors in Leicester's return to form. In six games and just four starts and slightly under 300 minutes on the pitch, he scored five tries, assisted a handful more and was often used as a gamechanger in some trickier clashes. His performance against Wasps in the final game of the season away from home summed up everything he does so well, being towards the top of the tackle stats, scoring a try, making a crazy amount of metres for a front rower and having a perfect lineout success rate. Luke Cowan-Dickie certainly came close here but a couple of injuries and a break with England perhaps scuppered his chances of unseating Montoya.
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears)
Bit of a tricky one to fill at Tighthead, with injuries blighting a lot of the top contenders track records. However, with 15 appearances and ten starts this season, we fill that Sinckler just about edges out any other favourite for this spot. Sinckler looke dback to his best this season, with his notorious pick and go's, and cracking strike lines causing havoc to many midfields; he often left most coaches wondering how they were going to prepare for a prop that constantly bashes it up through the centres. However, he's far from a one trick pony, performing expertly at scrum time and often clearing out some tricky situations. It's no wonder his win rate at Bristol sits at a staggering 73%; he's the same game changer that he's been for over three years now. Often complimenting the raging John Afoa, Bristol have THE best depth in the league at Tighthead.
4. James Gaskell (Wasps)
Right, the first controversial inclusion on this list, Gaskell is notoriously marmite with most supporters. Even if you ask the Wasps supporter base, half the fans have already declared him a club legend, the other half see him as a bit of a penalty magnet. However, in patches, he's been by far Wasps most efficient and effective forward, and when reading through the stats for this calendar year, he trumps the likes of Jonny Gray, Dave Ribbans, Sam Skinner and more; you wouldn't expect that when you look at Wasps Season. 3 tries, 3 try assists, 59 carries, 108 successful tackles at a high completion rate of 94%, 8 turnovers won and 0 red or yellow cards; if another lock in the top four has that season, then serious discussions about international call-ups start. What makes him even more effective, especially with the context of Wasps' season, is that he can play at 4, 6 and even 8 if really needed. With the injuries Wasps have had to endure throughout the season, his flexibility alongside the likes of Shields has been a key into Wasps remaining competitive in some of the lower table scraps. A really underrated season by the formidable, utility forward.
5. Chris Vui (Bristol Bears)
Potentially another controversial call, but I actually think some of the most useful forwards this season have been those who have a decent disciplinary record. With the likes of Jonny Hill and Dave Ribbans often living life on the edge, their penalty count is hence always significantly higher than others who choose to play a structured game. Hill played five times less than Vui this season, but conceded four more penalties... That's a staggering statistic. Vui's stats were also very impressive this season, making 115 metres from 71 carries, making 2 clean breaks, scoring 2 tries, creating three try scoring opportunities and putting in 90 successful tackles at a solid completion rate of 93%. If this were a traditional league, then Bristol would have romped to the title thanks to their hyper aggressive pack, and no one summarised that approach more than Vui.
6. Lewis Ludlow (c) (Gloucester)
Gloucester have really struggled in streaks this season, however they are incredibly lucky to have such a constantly consistent performer in Lewis Ludlow. 224 tackles this year puts him drastically ahead of any other player on the tackle charts this season and he still managed to keep a 90% completion rate. However, what a lot of people forget is that he makes ground in attack too. 3.3m is his average carry gain which is more than Vui, more than Sinckler, more than Ribbans and all of these other huge units. The guy has really deserved his call up and his leadership in that Gloucester dressing room makes him a clear favourite to captain our team of the season.
7. Miles Reid (Bath)
Due to so many injuries and international breaks hampering this season's numbers, it was quite difficult to define a shortlist for 7 this season. However, the outstanding candidate probably has to be the young man at Bath, Miles Reid. There are strong stats to back this up, with Reid putting in 14 performances this season, making 127 tackles at a high success rate of 93%, scoring two tries and conceding just three penalties despite his impressive breakdown stats. He's all action, and has often been the difference between a win and a loss for the men in blue. Just look at that comeback performance against Northampton for an excellent case study. Another player who thoroughly deserved his England call up earlier this summer.
8. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Could it be anyone else? Well, even though Alex Dombrandt put in a typically awesome season and even lifted silverware, you cannot deny that Sam Simmonds has been the player of the season. With some Lions appearances now on the way, Simmonds is so good, he's being used as a propaganda machine as to why Eddie Jones might be clueless; that takes some doing. 21 tries this season, 1029 metres made, 7 turnovers won, 0 yellow or red cards, 17 clean breaks, 12 try assists, 183 tackles out of 195 at a completion rate of 94%, the guy is all action. It is that tackle stat I want to concentrate on though, as it very much rivals the best in the league and people often forget that about Simmonds. He is a bullet off the line in both attack AND defence. Easiest pick of the list.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
Danny Care has been a revelation this season, putting in a vintage performance and perhaps playing some of the best Rugby of his career. The guy decimated some of the top 9's in the league with his trademark snappy, intelligent sniping, with the likes of Maunder, Spencer and Heinz all on his hit list. With 1443 minutes played, he's also towards the top of the game-time list, and with a further 63 points scored, he's also right up there with the top performers in his position in the northern hemisphere. Should he have been called up to the international squad? Well, maybe it's a bit too late, but surely our newbies could learn a lot from someone so in form.
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Finally he's in the England team! Other than the aforementioned Simmonds, there isn't a guy in recent memory who I think is more deserving of a call up than him. If history reflects on this campaign kindly, then Smith will potentially be remembered as the man that dragged Harlequins to the most unlikely of Premiership wins. 286 points scored, 100 more than the next person, 8 tries scored (putting him in the top ten for tries too), 20 clean breaks (the most for a fly half this season), 5.5m gained per carry, and an 83% tackle rate (much higher than what the nay-sayers will make you believe online), makes his season one of the most proficient on record. With perhaps the best hitch kick in the league, he ran rings around his opposite number on multiple occasions, and even during blips of form against the likes of Leicester, he still created two try scoring opportunities.
11. Tom O'Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs)
Could have been on this list last year too, Tom O'Flaherty has become one of the leagues most consistent performers. Not many people understand how difficult it is to be so consistently creative too, as O'Flaherty doesn't just bosh his way to glory, he cuts teams to shreds and scores some wonder tries in the process. 8 tries this season and an unreal 1395 metres made, means he tops the distance per carry charts as well. He's so effective in broken play and it's an absolute oddity that he has no international caps yet.
12. Mark Atkinson (Gloucester)
Alongside Ludlow, Atkinson has been one of the shining lights of Gloucester's sub-par season. It's often regarded that the best inside centres are the anchor of the backline both in attack, and in defence. They make the hard yards, they create the angles that the ten has visualised and they do it all unselfishly. Despite a really rough season, Louis Rees Zammit and Ollie Thorley have managed to shine due to the gaps created by this big guy in the middle of the park; his offloads genuinely are next level! With over 1000 minutes clocked across 15 Premiership starts, he's been mister consistent and often has to mop up poor service from Twelvetrees and Heinz.
13. Piers O'Conor (Bristol Bears)
I know a lot of people would have been screaming for his inclusion ahead of Atkinson, but instead, I felt like pushing him out one place so we could accommodate them both. A lot is made of how much of a superstar Radradra is, but O'Conor has really been the gem in Bristol's crown this season. With Radradra spending lengthy stretches on the side-line, O'Conor has had to pick up the burden with an often altered centre partnership and has managed to surpass expectations every time. He's rapid, surprisingly powerful and incredibly agile, and is often the creator to some of the best moves Bristol create. 20 games played, playing the full 80 minutes on 19 occasions and scoring an impressive 6 tries in the process. #Deserved
14. Paolo Odogwu (Wasps)
Just about pipping Louis Rees Zammit and Ollie Hassell-Collins to the punch, I think Odogwu has done just enough to earn this spot down to pure game-changing ability. Wasps have had an injury torn season, and unfortunately in the penultimate game of the season, Odogwu was added to that long list of players with serious injuries. But up until that point, and barring that woeful Six Nations campaign, Odogwu has been Wasps most threatening option in a slightly dysfunctional backline. The guy makes 6.5m per carry, that's absolutely mental for a guy of his size, and his tally of 7 tries and 8 try assists, proves he has an instinct to score. Also, all of those armchair pundits who think he can't cut it defensively, his tackle percentage is currently sitting pretty at 90%, around 5% higher than the Premiership average. His singlehanded destruction of Bath earlier this season, made him a certainty for an international call up, perhaps it even made him a certainty for this list.
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
We've been saying it all season, Freddie Steward is the future of the England 15 jersey. In a position that seems so bereft of northern hemisphere talent, with exception of Hoggy, Steward looks to be the future of what a Full Back looks like. Built like an Aussie-Rules player, Steward is tall, lean and is just as quick as he is powerful. He's incredibly safe under the high ball, has a siege gun boot and genuinely backs himself in difficult scenarios. The only area of his game that could perhaps do with improving is his tackle success, as it sits at a fairly lowly 68%. Malins drove him very, very close to this spot, but I think Steward doesn't have the luxury of playing with such a nimble and fluid back three like Malins does, meaning he covers more ground and fills in more than you'd expect the average full back to in attack.
Coach: Rob Baxter (Exeter Chiefs)
Perhaps not the result they wanted at the end of the season, but over the course of the last 18 months, you'd struggle to find a better coach in the northern hemisphere than Rob Baxter. Exeter don't play a hyper technical game, I know that, but they do play a very stylised and effective game, made to win matches through brute force and determination. Everything Exeter has done well this season, largely comes from set plays and platforms that Baxter clearly devised on the training ground. Although they ran out of steam in the final and were put to the sword by an incredibly attacking Harlequins side, I think Exeter could have edged out that game providing they had Ewers on the pitch and an impact player like Skinner to bring. His commentary after the match proved he's still the humble, Rugby loving professional that we all know he is.