From Leinster’s heroics on the domestic and European stage to Chris Ashton’s remarkable try-scoring form for Toulon, it’s been a club season to remember.
Here are our main highlights.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
PRO14: Leinster. The European champions showed plenty of class in sealing a third domestic title in six years. To underline their squad depth in this competition, Leo Cullen used 55 players during the 21 regular season matches. With the personnel and youth, the Blues will be difficult to stop next season.
Aviva Premiership: Newcastle. A semi-final defeat to Exeter two weeks ago will have done little to disappoint the Geordies who enjoyed their best season since 1998. Under Dean Richards, the club has purred with confidence and look a genuine force against any opposition.
Top 14: Lyon. An outstanding season for Les Loups, finishing fifth in the regular season and reaching a first ever semi-final. Showed they have no shortage of ambition mixing with the likes of Toulon and Racing.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
PRO14: Tadhg Beirne. The Munster-bound lock-cum-backrower has been a totemic presence for Scarlets all year, topping the charts for most turnovers – with a stunning 37 and his closest pursuer miles ahead. He also played in every PRO14 and Champions Cup match for Wayne Pivac’s side across the season.
Aviva Premiership: Vereniki Goneva. The Fijian winger was a key figure in the Falcons’ run to the semi-finals, scoring a joint-highest 13 tries. His stellar form culminated in picking up the Premiership Player of the Year award and, at 34, shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Top 14: Chris Ashton. The 31-year-old has been in prolific try-scoring form since moving to Toulon last summer. His 24 tries racked up this campaign is the most scored in a single season. Remarkably, the Stade Mayol side has scored 23 tries more than their 2016-17 campaign – largely thanks to the Englishman’s finishing ability.
TRY OF THE SEASON
PRO14: Jordan Larmour. A piece of magic from the 20-year-old. Collecting the ball on his own 22, the Leinster full-back stepped off both feet three times en route to scoring a sublime individual try.
Aviva Premiership: Billy Twelvetrees. A pivotal figure in Gloucester’s formidable run to seventh this term, the former England international got on the end of a superb length-of-the-pitch team try initiated by centre Henry Trinder in round four against Worcester.
Top 14: Chris Ashton. It could have been many of the 24 tries he scored, but the solo effort against Brive in October stands-out the most eye catching. Receiving the ball on his own 22, he swatted the length of the field to touch down, covering 96m in 11.16 seconds.
FLOP OF THE SEASON
PRO14: Southern Kings. Hard to draw many positives for the Port Elizabeth-based side in their debut season. Lacked any creativity and consistency with ball in hand. Defensively, the gaps grew as the campaign progressed and they shipped a woeful 829 points.
Aviva Premiership: Harlequins. A season of horror for Quins and one that went from bad to worse, finishing third last in the table. New head coach Paul Gustard will have sole responsibility for turning fortunes around at the Twickenham Stoop after a disastrous campaign which cost John Kingston his role as director of rugby.
Top 14: Clermont. A disappointing season for the defending champions, finishing ninth. For a side who should be competing for domestic and European honours on a yearly basis, les Jaunards struggles with 14 defeats in 26 matches.
EUROPEAN TEAM OF THE SEASON
15. Willie le Roux. Four tries and 21 assists in 19 matches for Wasps. A superb asset to any starting line-up, thanks to his concrete-like tackling and terrific pace.
14. Vereniki Goneva. Electric speed and a real menace with ball in hand, capped off with 13 tries in Newcastle’s run to the domestic semi-finals.
13. Garry Ringrose. One of the stand-out players of the year for Leinster and Ireland, his contribution with ball in hand and defence was seminal to the Blues’ domestic and European successes.
12. Hadleigh Parkes. The Welsh international carried time and again through the heart of opposite defences. Always defensively sound and never looks in trouble. A classy operator.
11. Chris Ashton. The outstanding Englishman broke the record for most tries scored in a single Top 14 season with 24. Continues to show his mettle as one of the best finishers in the game.
10. Johnny Sexton. May have played a lack of PRO14 minutes due to Ireland’s player management system, but when involved, the Leinster fly-half constantly keeps opponents guessing with ball in hand. Second best out-half in the world behind Beauden Barrett.
9. Faf de Klerk. Conor Murray and Aaron Smith may be the two best scrum-halves in the game, but de Klerk has emerged as third on this list. Produced a masterclass for Sales this term and has an outstanding ability to bring players into the game from any attack.
1. Rob Evans. The 26-year-old has been a colossus for Scarlets in the front row, with superb scrumagging ability and low penalty count conceded.
2. Camille Chat. A talismanic figure. Made his tackles and carried aggressively. His throwing was immaculate too.
3. Tadhg Furlong. An imposing presence. His ball carrying was a major weapon in Leinster’s armoury.
4. James Ryan. An inspirational player who continues to play with maturity beyond his 21 years. Yet to lose a game in 23 games for club and country.
5. Leone Nakarawa. A powerhouse in attack and defence. Produced mammoth displays in Racing’s run to the Champions Cup final. The best player in Europe this year.
6. Tadhg Beirne. Normally lines out at lock for Scarlets, but played a lot of rugby at six. The Munster-bound star is an ultimate warrior who is always in the thick of the action. His eight PRO14 tries were exceptional too.
7. Sam Simmonds. A high class operator at the breakdown, he was a constant source of inspiration for Premiership finalists Exeter.
8. Yannick Nyanga. The retiring back-rower was one of the most effective players in the Top 14 and Champions Cup this season. Didn’t deserve to be on the losing side in the final, with his brute strength a nightmare for the opposition.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has signed a contract extension at the club, along with six members of the backroom staff.
Defence coach Alex Sanderson, performance director Phil Morrow, backs coach Kevin Sorrell, skills coach Joe Shaw, forwards coach Ian Peel and kicking coach Dan Vickers have joined McCall in extending their stay at Allianz Park.
The news comes just a few days after Saracens won their fourth Aviva Premiership title in seven years on Saturday with a thrilling victory against Exeter Chiefs.
“It’s great news that they have all re-signed. They’re a team within a team; a group of friends together – they’re my friends,” said chairman Nigel Wray.
McCall joined Saracens in 2009 and took up his current position during the 2010/11 season, leading the club to the Premiership title.
The 50-year-old has helped steer Sarries to three Premiership crowns in total as well as back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Brad Barritt has signed a new contract with Saracens two days after leading the club to the 2018 Premiership title.
Barritt, a hard-running inside centre who excels at defence, has spent the last decade at Allianz Park and will extend his stay by a further two seasons until 2020.
The 31-year-old was at the helm for Saturday’s rout of Exeter in the Premiership final at Twickenham and was captain of the double-winning side of 2016.
“It’s pretty much a no-brainer for me. Being part of Saracens has been an amazing journey and I’m really pleased to be able to extend my time at the club,” Barritt said.
“I think the hallmark of our success as a club over the past few years has been the stability and the consistency of the squad we’ve kept together so I’m delighted to stay on the train and be part of this fantastic club.”