Edinburgh’s Viliame Mata named Pro14 player of the year
The 27-year-old Fijian was voted by his peers to take home the Players’ Player of the Season award. Edinburgh also saw stand-off Jaco van der Walt claim the Gilbert Golden Boot with a goal-kicking accuracy of 86.84 per cent, while the club’s retiring Scotland hooker Ross Ford, the country’s most-capped player on 110, was recognised for his 17-year professional career with the Chairman’s Award.
There was more Scottish success as 22-year-old Glasgow stand-off Adam Hastings was voted young player of the year and took the Energia Next-Gen Star of the Season, following in the footsteps of fellow Warriors Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg who are past recipients of the award.
Mata has become a firm fans’ favourite at Edinburgh with his all-action style. Tonight he was rewarded for his performances in the Pro14 but the highlight of his excellent season was undeniably the outrageous offload for James Johnstone’s try in a historic European win at Toulon.
The man known as “Bill”, who won an Olympic sevens gold for Fiji at Rio 2016, signed a contract extension until 2021 with Edinburgh in February, after head coach Richard Cockerill had joked that he would be willing “to sell one of my children’s kidneys” to keep him at the club.
Italian side Benetton’s historic success in reaching the play-offs, where they were narrowly beaten 15-13 by Munster on Saturday, was recognised with Kieran Crowley receiving the Coach of the Season Award, which was voted on by his fellow coaches.
Two South African players were also honoured on the night with Toyota Cheetahs pair of Rabz Maxwane and Tian Schoeman picking up awards. Maxwane’s 14 tries saw him win the SportPesa Top-Try Scorer Award while Tian Schoeman’s accumulation of 1,564 playing minutes saw him named the Dacia Iron Man winner.
Glasgow won the Conference A for a second year running and are now looking forward to a semi-final against Ulster, who beat Connacht 21-13 in the quarter-finals on Saturday, a week on Friday. The northern Irish province were also the last-four opposition back in 2015 when Glasgow went on to win the then Pro12 title.
Meanwhile, former Scotland hooker Kevin Bryce has joined National League 2 side GHK after being released by Glasgow.
The 30-year-old had two spells with the Warriors and a short-lived attempt to switch positions at tighthead for Edinburgh. He earned three caps for Scotland and was called into the 2015 World Cup squad after current skipper Stuart McInally suffered an eve-of-tournament neck injury.