On this day in 2013: Northampton’s Dylan Hartley sent off in Premiership finalMay 25 | 1 min read
Gallagher Premiership 2020/21 - BT Sport's end of season awards
BT Sport is the only place you can watch every single minute from the semi-finals and final of the Gallagher Premiership
After 22 rounds, eight months and three lockdowns, the Gallagher Premiership is down to four teams in the race to be crowned kings of English rugby.
With both semi-finals live and exclusive on BT Sport on Saturday afternoon, what better time to celebrate an extraordinary season of domestic rugby by handing out a few virtual BT Sport gongs.
Premiership Player of the Year
Winner: Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Honourable mentions: Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers), Piers O'Conor (Bristol Bears) and Danny Care (Harlequins)
It's impossible to look past Sam Simmonds for this accolade.
Having starred in Exeter's league and European Cup double-winning campaign last year the number eight has gone from strength to strength in 2021.
Indeed the Chiefs forward's game has reached new heights with a record-breaking try-scoring spree, earning a shock call up to Warren Gatland's British & Irish Lions squad.
Undeterred by his ongoing omission from Eddie Jones' England plans, the 26-year-old has used his estrangement from the international scene as motivation to spearhead Exeter's bid for back-to-back Premiership crowns.
In May he scored a hat-trick in front of Jones to break Christian Wade's record for the most tries in a single season.
His current tally stands at 20, eight more than his nearest challenger Danny Care, and few would bet against him adding to that number as Exeter prepare to face Sale for a place in next weekend's Twickenham final.
Most Premiership tries 2020/21
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) - 20 tries
Danny Care (Harlequins) - 12 tries
Josh Bassett (Wasps) - 9 tries
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins) - 9 tries
Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) - 9 tries
“Sam has been phenomenal this year," BT Sport's Ugo Monye told Premiership Rugby's website.
"I think he started the season fuelled by bitter disappointment (through lack of England selection), but he has focused on it in the right way, to become a record-breaker, help his team into the Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-finals and is now a British and Irish Lion.
“He has excelled in a year where it has been tough for all players in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, with back-to-back seasons and not much time off. But he hasn’t let off from being European player of the year last season to Premiership player of the year this season, which is outstanding.
“His season has been one of the best individual seasons in Premiership history. I think when you are breaking any sort of record, it has to be put down as a memorable year.
“He has smashed the try record - not only beaten it but smashed it. That is the kind of form he has been in.
“It is unbelievable when you consider just how many talented players we have in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, and yet he has been the shining star, among a galaxy of superstars."
Premiership Young Player of the Year
Winner: Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Honourable mentions: Ioan Lloyd (Bristol), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish) and Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
Marcus Smith has been playing at the highest level for so long it seems wrong to place him in this category, but the fly-half is still only 22.
The season began with lingering question marks around the Quins playmaker's consistency and reliability in defence, but Smith has silenced his naysayers.
His dazzling form and metronomic record with the boot have been instrumental in Quins' return to the play-offs after a seven-year absence.
Smith book-ended the regular season as the highest points-scoring individual in the entire league, racking up 270 points in total, 82 more than Sale Sharks’ AJ MacGinty who was next in the rankings.
An elusive and dangerous runner, Smith has once again been one of the most exciting players to watch in the Premiership as Quins prepare for a return to the semi-finals with Bristol Bears standing in between them and a first final for 13 years.
Most Premiership points 2020/21
Marcus Smith (Harlequins) - 270 points
AJ MacGinty (Sale Sharks) - 188 points
Paddy Jackson (London Irish) - 177 points
Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) - 156 points
Rhys Priestland (Bath) - 150 points
Smith's stellar year has caught the eye of Jones as the Australian looks to re-build his side after a fifth-placed finish in the 2021 Six Nations.
Jones has described Smith's development as “really positive” in his clearest indication yet that the 22-year-old will earn a first international cap later this summer.
While the Quins playmaker faced the Barbarians two years ago and impressed in a non-cap match, he has been made to wait for another opportunity but that looks set to change following a mature campaign as playmaker-in-chief at Quins.
“What we are seeing from him is more like when he played at Brighton College. I remember watching him in 2015 at Brighton College and when there was something on, he took it and maybe for a period of time he was more likely to be a pattern player.
“And I think he is getting a nice balance in his game between understanding the responsibilities of getting the team organised, but then playing what is in front of him. I think his development is really positive.”
Premiership Director of Rugby of the Season
Winner: Pat Lam (Bristol)
Honourable mentions: Steve Borthwick (Leicester), Billy Millard (Harlequins) and Alex Sanderson (Sale Sharks)
Having delivered Bristol's first ever European trophy last season, Lam is on the verge of creating more club history as the Bears chase a maiden Premiership crown.
The West Country giants have enjoyed a meteoric rise to English rugby's top table under Lam's stewardship.
The former Samoa captain began his coaching career with Scotland at the 2003 World Cup, before taking up coaching roles at the Blues and at Connacht in Ireland. Since moving to south-west England from Ireland he has revitalised the Bears.
Last season he navigated the Bears to a third-place finish before they ultimately lost out to Wasps in the semi-finals.
This time around the 52-year-old has helped his side finish top of the pile in the regular season, edging out defending champions Exeter Chiefs.
The Bears responded brilliantly to a narrow opening day defeat at Wasps, winning six rounds on the spin, to set the tone for a magnificent season.
A particular highlight of the campaign for Lam’s side was the stunning comeback win at Bath Rugby in May that secured their last-four place.
Despite going 15 points down to their local rivals in the first half, the Bears roared back to a 40-20 victory.
If Bristol can end their semi-final hoodoo with victory over Harlequins in the last four, few would be against the West Country outfit going on to win a maiden Premiership title.
Premiership Match of the Season
Winner: London Irish 34-34 Bristol Bears
Honourable mentions: Bristol 35-33 Harlequins, Bath 44-52 Wasps and Harlequins 48-46 Wasps
Eighty-eight points, nine tries and a sin-binning: this game had it all as London Irish and Bristol Bears slugged it out in a remarkable high-scoring draw from round 10.
Irish could even have snatched victory in stoppage time, but Tom Parton's pass inside was knocked on with the try-line begging.
Premiership Try of the Season
Winner: Paolo Odowgu
For pure invention, skill and raw pace, Wasps star and England new-boy Paolo Odowgu's scintillating solo score against Bath was our favourite try from another enthralling season of top-flight rugby.
10. Harry Wells
9, Harvey Skinner
8. Ollie Hassell-Collins
7. Josh Hodge
6. Adam Radwan
5. Nathan Earle
4. Semi Radrada
3. Tom O'Flaherty
2. Siva Naulago