Awards: Take a bow
Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:00
Well done if you had money on England
The November internationals provided an intriguing conclusion to Test rugby in 2012; we look back at the action and hand out some awards.
The battle of the hemispheres at the end of the year was as intense as usual, with some big blows struck on either side ahead of the draw for the 2015 World Cup.
The top sides in the world put together some impressive performances, but did not have things all their own way, with a few crucial upsets in the European conditions where the World Cup will be played.
Whilst there was plenty of skill to admire, there were a few lowlights as well, and we reflect on both the heroes and the villains in our list of awards.
Team of the month: New Zealand
The All Blacks may have lost their unbeaten record this year in their last game, but they were the most dangerous team on show and proved that nobody in the world can live with them when they click.
Player of the month: Richie McCaw
The All Blacks skipper will put his feet up for the next six months after pushing himself to the limit once more and proving that he is still a few steps ahead of the rest.
Forward of the month: Eben Etzebeth
The young Springbok lock continued his remarkable debut season by adapting well to European conditions in a series of dominant performances.
Back of the month: Frederic Michalak
He may play at scrumhalf for his club, but Michalak's return to the Test arena at flyhalf has been a resounding success. Having added some reliability to his creative spark, he looks set to keep the No.10 jersey for a while longer as well.
Match of the month: England v New Zealand
Apart from the significance of England's first victory over the All Blacks in over a decade, this match was also highly entertaining, with both sides scoring some quality tries.
Ripe for the plucking: Scotland
Although there was some positive sentiment when they scored three tries against the All Blacks, Tonga's win showed just how desperate the Scots have become
In the doldrums: Wales
The Grand Slam champions found life against the southern hemisphere nations far tougher and ended the month as the only Tier One country without a victory.
The one-finger salute to the critics: Heyneke Meyer
The Bok coach has been under some serious pressure this year, but can take some satisfaction for getting through the year-end tour unbeaten.
Villain(s) of the month: Andrew Hore
The New Zealand hooker found little sympathy after his attack on Wales lock Bradley Davies; with a dishonourable mention to Adam Thomson.
Ambush of the month: England's 38-21 win over New Zealand
We predicted a 15-point plus win for the Kiwis which was regarded as being 'conservative', so well done if you had money on England.
The P Divvy award for foot in mouth disease: Steve Hansen
The All Blacks' coach's suggeston that Hore didn't deliberately punch Davies did not go down incredibly well with the critics.
Try of the month: Johnny Leota (Samoa) v Wales
There were some quality tries scored, but Leota's dramatic dive in the corner to hand Samoa another victory over Wales trumps all of them for its significance and execution.
Wing David Lemi claimed a drop-out and darted ahead before kicking a skidding grubber that rolled into Wales's in-goal. Leigh Halfpenny and Autagavaia raced for the ball, Halfpenny ahead. Halfpenny dived to ground the ball but his left had missed it and, just short of the dead-ball line, Johnny Leota plunged onto it for the try.
Individual Performance of the Month: Manu Tuilagi versus New Zealand
The England outside centre may have his critics, but he produced the goods when it mattered by punching holes in the vaunted All Blacks midfield to provide the spark his team needed to power to victory.
Is that your final answer?: Chris Robshaw
The England captain became the subject of some ridicule when his decision to kick for poles when trailing by four points and with two minutes left on the clock backfired against the Boks who could not believe their luck.
Waterworks: Yannick Nyanga
The French flank has spent the last five years in the Test wilderness and could not hold back the tears when he lined up to sing the Marseillaise at a packed Stade de France.
Bowing out in style: Nathan Sharpe
The Wallaby veteran's Test career may have lasted longer than he planned, but he was all class right until the end when he finished things with a touchline conversion kick which did not quite have the distance.
Do you have any awards to add to ours? Leave your suggestions below in the comments section.
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