Best Six Nations try, pass and tackle – plus 21 other things you might have missed

Stevie Mulrooney

The busiest seven weeks of northern hemisphere rugby is over for another year, which means the time has come to hand out some prizes (some serious, some less so). Welcome to the Telegraph’s 2024 Six Nations awards.

Best debut: Harry Paterson

Louis Lynagh joked that he might retire after his try on debut in that Italy win over Scotland. But this award goes to Scotland’s Paterson, thrown in very late after Kyle Steyn’s wife went into labour and playing brilliantly at full-back against France in his only appearance of the tournament.

Best atmosphere: Rome (Italy v Scotland)

Perhaps not a surprise given what it meant to Italians to finally see the Azzurri win again in the Six Nations in Rome, and in front of a rare sellout crowd at the Stadio Olimpico. Men and women in tears, a PA system threatening to blow up – it was quite something. Twickenham waking from its usual slumber for the win over Ireland has to be considered, along with Lyon.

Best match ball deliverer: Craig Maxwell

Rather moving to see Maxwell deliver the match ball before Wales’ game against France. Maxwell, the Six Nations chief commercial officer, was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer last year at the age of just 40. He has since raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity, delivering the match ball alongside his wife and children having completed a 780-mile charity walk from Anglesey to Cardiff.

Best anthem singer: Stevie Mulrooney

No contest; why have the IRFU not signed this kid up on a multi-year contract? Stevie instantly made Ireland’s Call sound better.

Best fashion accessory: Benjamin Kayser’s gloves

Cannot stop thinking about them. Marigold yellow but you would never clean anything wearing them, clearly bespoke. Like putting on Homer Simpson’s hands. A real statement.

Worst camera angle: End of Murrayfield

The Scots will be asking ‘what if’ about that final moment for years when Sam Skinner seemed to have scored at the death, only for the match officials to be unable to find any conclusive evidence. Boot cams for referees? Maybe that is the solution…

Worst pyrotechnics: Lille

Fireworks under a roof meaning the smoke does not clear for the first 15 minutes, meaning that no one can see anything – how does this keep happening?

Best celebrity spectator: Willem Dafoe

The usual suspects popped up across the tournament with your Tom Hiddlestones, your Gerard Butlers. Ally McCoist going ballistic at Ben White’s try against France was lovely. But the sight of Willem Dafoe on the big screen in Cardiff during Wales-Scotland is still a surprise many weeks later.

Best trophy celebration: Dr James Robson

What better way for the great doctor to bring down the curtain on his 30 years in sport than being hoisted on the shoulders of Scotland’s players lifting the Calcutta Cup.

The ‘Deserved Better’ award: George North

That was a desperate way for a fine Test career to come to an end. Not only because of the result against Italy at the end of a chastening campaign, but because North had to be helped from the field before the end with a knee injury. A great player for Wales deserved a far more fitting farewell. That is sport.

Worst kicking tee: Paolo Garbisi

Not only because of the nightmare at the end of the game against France in Lille when the ball fell off, before Garbisi’s kick went wide and Italy missed out on a win (although why on earth wasn’t the kick retaken with a water carrier in the middle of the field?). The same thing then happened again before Garbisi’s first kick against Scotland in Rome. At least this time he could laugh about it.

Best try: Lorenzo Pani (Italy v Wales)

This category certainly livened up on the final day with those superb scores by Lorenzo Pani against Wales and the team try finished by Nolann Le Garrec for France. But then you also had Duhan van der Merwe’s solo efforts against Wales and England, Italy beating England’s blitz to score through Tommaso Allan, not forgetting England’s slick score at Murrayfield through George Furbank and also Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s brilliant chip and chase try at the same ground. After careful consideration, Pani takes it.

Best finish: James Lowe (Ireland v England)

A personal preference to split these off from try of the tournament, with Ben Earl’s powerful leg drive against Wales and Lowe somehow getting through four Italian tackles against Italy considered. Instead, Lowe’s diving finish in the corner against England for his first try, under pressure from two England defenders, gets the nod.

Best assist: Leo Barré (France v England)

Plenty to pick from, going all the way back to the opening weekend with Jack Crowley setting up Tadhg Beirne in Marseille and Finn Russell’s hard work on a kick return to put Van der Merwe away. Calvin Nash did brilliantly under pressure from Josh Adams to get a final pass away to Lowe, and then there was Leo Barré’s excellent offload inside for Nolann Le Garrec to finish that brilliant French try against England. Not forgetting two of Scotland’s tries against England, with Huw Jones doing well to release Van der Merwe and Russell’s perfect cross-field kick to complete Van der Merwe’s hat-trick. Tricky. Barré a late winner.

Best 50:22: George Ford v Wales

A collection to pick from by Russell, starting against Wales when he pinned Adams into a corner, while another against Italy left Russell pumping his fists and led to Pierre Schoeman’s maul try. Ford however sneaks it, given that his 50:22 against Wales – changing direction and drilling one right into the corner – essentially won England the game.

Best tackle: George Martin on Tadhg Beirne

One of the highlights of a great championship for Tommaso Menoncello was his tackle on Van der Merwe in Rome when the Scotland wing seemed certain to break clear. But the hit by George Martin on Tadhg Beirne, forcing a knock-on which set the tone for England’s physical performance, is the winner.

Best kicker: Thomas Ramos

Fitting, given Ramos landed the winning penalty against England. No player kicked more successful penalties (13) and only Jack Crowley had more conversions (13) compared to Ramos’s 12. As a result, Ramos was the top points scorer on 63.

Best defender: Michele Lamaro and Tommy Reffell

Shared between two outstanding players. Lamaro was the only player in the tournament to top a century of tackles, finishing with 103. But Reffell, in a grim campaign for Wales, deserves recognition for his brilliant individual effort, having hit more defensive rucks and won more turnovers (eight) than any other player. The next best were Sam Underhill and Gianmarco Lucchesi on four.

Best pass: Nolann Le Garrec

Outrageous, wasn’t it? Such a bright talent and if you’re flicking passes 30 metres out the back in your first Test start, what are you going to be doing in a few years’ time?

Best match: England v Ireland

Last year Ireland-France was a clear winner but this time there are a few to consider. Wales against Scotland on that first weekend was bananas given how Wales nearly came back from so far behind. Italy’s history-making day in Rome was special. England against Ireland was Test rugby at its very best, while France’s dramatic win over England was an entertaining way to sign off. Let’s say England’s win over Ireland, given the impact of stopping another Grand Slam and the fact that Twickenham came back to life.

Best breakthrough player: Nolann Le Garrec

This seemed to be Joe McCarthy’s to lose after the opening night in Marseille, when the young lock was immense. But into a Dupont-shaped void stepped Le Garrec, just 21, to whom France should have turned from the start of the Six Nations instead of Maxime Lucu. Le Garrec shone in the wins over Wales and England and looks the business.

Best coach: Gonzalo Quesada, Italy

Italy pushed England close (they were thrashed by Ireland, ignore that), then drew with France, defeated Scotland for a famous home win, and lastly hammered Wales in Cardiff. All in Quesada’s first campaign? Very impressive, and makes you excited for what’s to come for this side in his tenure.

Best player: Bundee Aki, Ireland

Serious pushes for representation here from Italy, with Lamaro, Juan Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello all in the frame. Brex in the last two weeks was fantastic. Ben Earl could not have given more in an England shirt, excelling against Ireland in particular, and the fact that he was penalised at the death in Lyon as France went on to win was a cruel ending. Yet following on from an excellent Rugby World Cup, Bundee Aki is still playing the rugby of his life, the glue of Ireland’s backline with his presence helping Jack Crowley along during the No 10’s first championship as a starter. Defenders now don’t know whether he is going to fling out a late pass or bash through them, while in defence he hits as hard as anyone.

Best team: Ireland

The obvious choice, even if they ran out of steam at the end somewhat and limped over the line against Scotland. Andy Farrell described the defeat to England as a “powerful lesson” for his players, which seems slightly terrifying given how well Ireland have played in the last couple of years. The rest were either too inconsistent – France, England, Scotland – or still developing like Italy. As for Wales, the less said the better.

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