There were pre-Play-Off boosts for all four Magners League semi-final teams as they picked up trophies at the annual Magners League Awards dinner in Dublin.
Table-topping Munster led the way as they picked up three major awards on the night with head coach Tony McGahan picking up the Coach of the Season title from one of his predecessors, Irish coach Declan Kidney.
Ronan O’Gara won the ‘Gilbert Golden Boot’ after emerging as the league’s most consistent marksman during the regular season, while Munster stalwart Alan Quinlan was named as the recipient of Andy Irvine’s ‘Chairman’s Award’ following his remarkable 15 year career.
Munster host reigning champions the Ospreys at Thomond Park on Saturday, 14 May in the second Play-Off semi-final and the Welsh region also left Dublin with a trophy after centre Ashley Beck was voted as the winner of the ‘Try of the Season’ for his effort against Glasgow Warriors at the Liberty Stadium.
Leinster, who welcome Ulster to the RDS on Friday, 13 May for the first semi-final, left the Awards ceremony at the Carton House Hotel with the ‘Specsavers Fairplay Award’. That title, which comes with a £10,000 prize to put towards youth development, is given to the team that gathers the fewest yellow and red cards over the 22 rounds of the regular season.
But there was also a major fillip for Ulster ahead of one of their biggest assignments of the season as South African recruit Ruan Pienaar was handed the top prize on the night after being voted ‘Players’ Player of the Season’.
“It has been an unbelievable first season for me at Ulster. I came to a place that I didn’t know but, thanks to the team, I settled in very quickly and enjoyed myself,” said Pienaar.
“It is going to be a massive challenge for everyone this weekend, but we will go to Dublin and enjoy the whole experience.”
The final award went to the rising forward star of Welsh rugby, Toby Faletau. The Newport Gwent Dragons back row man was voted as the ‘Young Player of the Season’ by a panel of 19 journalists from around the four nations involved in the Magners League.
PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
COACH OF THE SEASON – Tony McGahan (Munster)
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons)
CHAIRMAN’S AWARD – Alan Quinlan (Munster)
TRY OF THE SEASON – Ashley Beck (Ospreys)
GILBERT GOLDEN BOOT – Ronan O’Gara (Munster)
SPECSAVERS FAIRPLAY AWARD – Leinster