We've had some great feedback on our 'Team of the Tournament' that we released earlier this week and we thought we would add a little context to some of the reasons why we placed people where we did. Although it's really positive and uplifting to talk about the barnstorming performances and awesome skirmishes, it's actually really fun to talk about the not so great stuff... We always run an award ceremony after every big tournament where we run down some of our favourite, and not so favourite, moments of the competition. Enjoy!
Most Underrated Player: Iain Henderson (Ireland)
Now there were a lot of names you could have thrown into the mix here, with great performances going under the radar consistently from the likes of Earls, Ollivon and Harris, but we decided to go with the behemoth himself, Mr Iain Henderson. He tops just about every stat in the competition, with turnovers, tackles made and dominant collisions right at the top of his hit list. Henderson could have well won 'Player of the Competition' for us too but we thought this category summed him up perfectly; no matter how stunning his work rate and assertiveness is, he always feels so immensely underrated.
@ Sky Sports 2021
Try of the Tournament: Antoine Dupont vs England
I'm not being biased just because I won a small fortune on a bet for Dupont to score first against England, I do truly believe this is an excellent score and it had a wider context to it that I still find fascinating. Although LRZ finished some unreal chances over the last two months, May scored a somewhat illegal high jump that blew media brains and Earls also scored a blinder off of the back of lineout against England, I thought this try was the catalyst for one of the games of the tournament. France hit hard and fast off of the reset, drew English forwards from side to side over the course of one minute and then a little dink ended up in the mercurial hands of one monsieur Dupont.
Biggest OMG Moment: CJ Stander Sitting Down Taulupe Faletau
In a tournament full of mesmerising moments and game changing contributions, we decided to go with CJ Stander absolutely flattening Taulupe Faletau in the Ireland/Wales clash. From the moment the ball touched CJ's hands, you felt like someone was on the chopping board. The fact that the stalwart number 8 managed to land himself between CJ's sights is still nuts to me; who picks out another number 8 as the one they want to smash? Regardless, huge collision and Faletau was left eating mud. A couple of quick nominations for this include France's last gasp try to deny Wales the Six Nations Grand Slam, Earls' shock try against England off of the back of the lineout, Robson throwing an absolute pill to May to score when playing at Fly Half and Wales' shock try vs England when Farrell absolutely lost his bottle.
Best Refereeing Performance: Luke Pearce (Wales vs France)
It's important to recognise when a ref has a really good performance, especially with the scrutiny every official is under by the general public in the modern game. With a couple of shaky performances by ref's over the pond, it was so refreshing to see an official absolutely kill it in the middle of the park. Pearce has been one of the top Prem ref's for a couple of years now, and he's taken his time in the spotlight absolutely fantastically. His instructions are both clear to players, and clear to us onlookers at home. He lets the game flow, choosing the benefit of the doubt at the right time and taking a Spreadybury-like approach to minor infringements. I think it's also important to note that he was the only ref who could fully control the breakdown to the point that BOTH sides understood what he would penalise ahead of time. Sure, there is a little controversy over a lack of penalty try that could have handed Wales the game, but that's 50/50 call at the best of times.
Best Individual Performance: Callum Sheedy (Wales vs England)
Madness right? You can't pick a substitute as the performance of the tournament?! Well yeah, I just did. Sheedy DECIMATED England in his short cameo earlier in the competition scoring 13 points and creating the try that sealed the match; if you include that assist, he averaged a point a minute. He broke the line twice, threw some pearlers out to his wide runners and put in a kicking clinic to secure the win for the men in red. There have been some great performances this competition like Beirne vs England, Ford vs France and Van Der Merwe vs Italy, but Sheedy's influence on this game upset the balance of the whole tournament.
Worst Individual Performance: Johnny Hill (Wales vs England)
Funny how a match can really slide both ways? I think Hill is a cracking premiership talent, showcasing real physicality in the tight and leading a Europe-dominating maul that has led Exeter to countless triumphs. However, he completely lost his head in this match. He started the match a little unsettled, getting knocked back in a couple of collisions and failing to make dominant tackles. It was the last twenty minutes that really hurt the side, with Itoje and Hill putting in a combined penalty count of 8 in the closing stages. With Itoje you could at least say some infringements were harsh and that he was right on the line of disruption and s***housery, with Hill, they were braindead penalties such as hitting a ruck after the ball was released from the side; really painful viewing. A couple other nominees include Canna vs Ireland, Lawrence vs Ireland, Russell vs Ireland.
Game of the Tournament: Wales 30 - 32 France
Okay I get it, England's game vs France had all the thrills and spills you'd expect when putting both sides' tournament into context. It had great running Rugby, fantastic moments of individual brilliance and a thrilling conclusion, however, the Wales and France game had all of that and then some. It was such a back and forth game and as a spectator, it actually felt like this NFL-style hybrid; who was going to be the first team NOT to score when in possession. It was surely helped by a sterling refereeing performance by Pearce, but it just felt like two teams that were happy to put absolutely everything on the line to win. Although Wales dominated the first hour, France's comeback and subsequent win will be in highlight reels for decades to come and to be honest, they perhaps deserved it. In twenty minutes of desperate Rugby, it made us forget how poor the opening stages of the tournament were and as a neutral, it actually made me fall back in love with the competition once again.
@ Getty Images 2019
Player of the Tournament: Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
Yup, we went there. For me, Beirne is both the breakout performer of the year, as well as the 'Player of the Tournament' for the 2021 Six Nations. Even when Ireland lost, you could not deny that they were the dominant side for large periods of each game. Against France, you felt with a better performance in the half backs, they could have snatched that game puerly on the platform the forwards gave them. Against Wales, if O'Mahony doesn't do what O'Mahony does and again, the half backs have a better performance, perhaps they win simply down to their packs performance. Squidge put it best when he said that, 'Ireland play best, when they make the other teams play at their worst', who is the main reason for that? It's gotta be Beirne! Heavy hitter, suprisingly great offloader, fantastic jackaler, aggressive mauler, intelligent target man and incredibly well disciplined, Beirne destroyed England, as he destroyed Italy, as he destroyed Scotland; in fact he made Curry look like an average prem player, something only previously achieved by world player of the year Steph du Toit.
Worst Player of the Tournament: Mark Wilson (England)
Incredibly hard? Yes, I know. I also LOVE Mark Wilson as a player and he often is overlooked as one of the Premiership's finest; even when he's played for England in the past, you'd struggle to deny his all round game. However, the reason I've picked Wilson for this slot, is down to game-time played versus impact made. He started the majority of England matches, very rarely lasted the full match and was often hauled off to give Earl some game time to fix things. He was second best in most collision's, didn't win a single turnover all competition (which as a Flanker is pretty terrible) and just didn't look international standard throughout.