LLANDOVERY RFC Head Coach Euros Evans and star flyhalf Jack Maynard both picked up major awards at the 11th Principality Premiership Awards Evening at the Principality Stadium.
Ebbw Vale captain Damien Hudd picked up the biggest accolade of the night – Player of the Season – after leading his side to the title for the first time.
“It’s been an amazing year, especially considering where we were five or six years ago. It’s nice to pick up an award towards the end of my career but it’s a club award really – I wouldn’t have had it without my teammates.
“We’ve come a long way together as a club, both off the field thanks to Jonathan Jones in large part, and on the field, led by Jason Strange for five years with some good forwards coaches and Nigel (Davies) coming in last year and adding his own stamp too to steer us to the title.
“When I joined the club after relegation, I knew the ethos of the club having been with Ebbw Vale at Under 21 level, it was clear what it meant for the whole of the valley. We weren’t where we wanted to be.
“We dug in deep, especially in Division One East, losing in the league play-offs that year but I don’t think we were ready to go up anyway. The three years of ringfencing put us in a good position to go up last year and be competitive.
“Last year was fantastic to exceed most people’s expectations and reach the final but this year, although we had a dip in form, our last three games were some of the best we’ve played and I think we deservedly won the title in the end.”
Llandovery coach Euros Evans was presented with the Coach of the Season award, while Aberavon’s Jay Baker won Best Newcomer.
The try of the season was won by Ebbw Vale’s Ryan Gardner who finished off an impressive team try against Cross Keys at Eugene Cross Park in October.
Awards were presented to Llandovery’s Jack Maynard for ending the normal league season as top points scorer with 148, while, unusually for a forward, Ronny ‘Catch n’ Kynes finished as top try scorer with 16 – before the added three he claimed in the Principality Premiership Play-Off and Final.
Ben Whitehouse was awarded Principality Premiership Referee of the Year, and Cross Keys received the Fair Play award for the best discipline record in the league.
Volunteers in the semiprofessional game were recognised too, Cross Keys assistant secretary Angie Prangell winning the Unsung Hero award as an acknowledgement of her commitment and especially her efforts to grow the club’s fan base with new ideas and initiatives.
Martyn Phillips said: “The Principality Premiership is a vital cog in the player, coach and referee pathway deserving of continued recognition and exposure, and the Principality Premiership Awards Evening is a celebration of some of the best attributes of Welsh semiprofessional rugby.
“We are grateful to the Premiership clubs for their continued hard work to maintain and drive standards on and off the field to cater for players, coaches and supporters, to the players and coaches for producing an entertaining and competitive brand of rugby to underpin professional rugby in Wales, not forgetting the important role of referees in this aim.
“We are delighted with the continued support from Principality and from our broadcast partners S4C and BBC.”
Phillips is determined to build on the Principality Premiership’s success so far with the expansion of the league to 16 clubs next season.
“It’s one of our key competitions and we will be working with the broadcasters over the summer to ensure we retain and grow the profile of the newly expanded Premiership. We will also explore new digital opportunities.
“We also plan to invest considerably more in coach development over the next few years to ensure our players are getting the very best coaching, the latest thinking and the benefits of sports science that the professional tier enjoys.
“We are united in our belief that our teams can take their game to a new level.
“Whilst we recognise some concerns that have been rightly expressed about ring-fencing the league, having met with the clubs recently, we are unanimous in our ambition for the Premiership and excited about the opportunities in front of us.
“We all agree that we want a league that rewards supporters with fiercely contested games week in week out and one that bloods and develops emerging talent while maintaining a strong element of experienced club players.
“Uniquely in Wales have a rich heritage at club level that we all feel proud of. It’s more than a game.”
Principality CEO Graeme Yorston said: “These awards are all about celebrating success and in common with the WRU and its member clubs, Principality Building Society strives for excellence. We like to support what is excellent in Wales and that’s why we are proud to continue to support the Premiership which has established its position as the breeding ground of Welsh rugby talent.”