Despite securing a home semi-final in the Premiership semi-finals, scoring more tries and conceding fewer than any other side and being the only English club to reach the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, there was a notable absence of Saracens players from this year’s award nominations.
Not one player was selected among the Rugby Players’ Association shortlists for Players’ Player and Young Player of the Year, while Saracens were also absent from the Premiership’s five-man shortlist for their Player of the Year gong – both top awards went to Newcastle’s Vereniki Goneva with the RPA’s Young Player awarded to Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and the Premiership Discovery of the Season going to Exeter’s Sam Simmonds.
Saracens prop Mako Vunipola did claim the England Player of the Year award for his international form this season while the retiring Chris Wyles took the RPA’s personal development programme award for his work off the pitch, yet there was not a single Saracens player named in the Premiership Team of the Year.
Mark McCall, who missed out on the Director of Rugby award to Newcastle’s Dean Richards on Wednesday night, questioned why his players had been missed off, with one omission in particular standing out.
“The biggest I thought was Nick Isiekwe wasn’t in the young player of the year nominees, which is a surprise because he’s played 20 Premiership matches and he’s been exceptional,” Saracens boss McCall said. “He’s played in the second-row and back-row for us, he’s played in the Champions Cup quarter-final, and I think he’s played really consistently all season so it was a surprise not to see for example his name there. Why that’s the case, I’m not sure.”
There was one accolade for a Saracens player at the Premiership’s awards’ ceremony in honouring Owen Farrell as the season’s Golden Boot winner, which McCall admitted was all the more impressive considering he has made just 13 league appearances out of a possible 22 this season.
“It is remarkable that Owen Farrell won the Golden Boot given he started less than half the games for us,” McCall added. “Thankfully for once he’s kicking conversions for us rather than penalties.
“We scored 89 tries in 22 Premiership games, we won the Premiership in 2001 and we scored 35 tries in 22 games! So I think we’re moving in the right direction from that point of view.
RPA Young Player of the Year nominees
Josh Adams – Worcester Warriors
Jake Polledri – Gloucester Rugby
Sam Simmonds – Exeter Chiefs
Marcus Smith – Harlequins (Winner)
Jack Willis – Wasps
“We conceded the fewest tries as well. Exeter and ourselves are the two best defensive teams this season. Exeter have conceded two more than us, so there’s more tries scored in the Premiership and it’s harder but our last four performances post-Leinster we said we wanted to be really consistent during that period and I think we’ve got a real level of performance from those games to go into the Wasps game in good form.”
That could well spur Saracens on this weekend when they host Wasps, and if they go all the way and win the final for a second time in three years, the decision to omit them from nearly all of this year’s accolades will look a rather strange one indeed.
Follow the Independent Sport on Instagram here, for all of the best images, videos and stories from around the sporting world.