Scarlets emphatically secured their maiden Pro12 title this year in somewhat surprising fashion against a much-fancied Munster side that have been on their best form in years after the untimely passing of head-coach Anthony Foley. For the second year in a row, Rhys Patchell was the tournament’s top points scorer – overtaking Kiwi Tyler Bleyendaal’s tally of 144 points in the final – but was not named in the Pro12’s Team of the Year (Kiwi born Bleyendaal was selected at 10).
Top Points Scorers 2016/17:
Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) – 145 points
Tyler Bleyendaal (Munster) – 144 points
Angus O’Brien (Newport) – 130 points
Steve Shingler (Cardiff)– 128 points
Duncan Weir (Edinburgh) – 116 points
Only two Scarlets were named in this year’s Team of the Year (Ken Owens at hooker and James Davies at openside), whilst Munster boasted six players, Leinster and Ulster contributed two players each, and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Connacht had one player each included in the XV.
Pro12 Team of the Year 2016/17:
15 – Tiernan O’Halloran – Connacht Rugby
14 – Tommy Seymour – Glasgow Warriors
13 – Jaco Taute – Munster Rugby
12 – Rory Scannell – Munster Rugby
11 – Charles Piutau – Ulster Rugby
10 – Tyler Bleyendaal – Munster Rugby
9 – Ruan Pienaar – Ulster Rugby
1 – Dave Kilcoyne – Munster Rugby
2 – Ken Owens – Scarlets
3 – John Ryan – Munster Rugby
4 – Ben Toolis – Edinburgh Rugby
5 – Billy Holland – Munster Rugby
6 – Dan Leavy – Leinster Rugby
7 – James Davies – Scarlets
8 – Jack Conan – Leinster Rugby
The league’s top try scorer Steffan Evans was not included in the Team of Year despite his 13 tries being four better than his closest rivals, but has been rewarded for his form with a call up to Wales’ squad for the upcoming tour of Tonga and Samoa.
Twenty-one-year-old Jacob Stockdale is second on the list of try scorers, equalling the tallies of the more experienced Munster wingers of Andrew Conway and Ronan O’Mahony. Similarly, to Steff Evans, Stockdale finds himself excluded from the Team of the Year, but is included in Ireland’s squad for their upcoming tour of the USA and Japan. The Ulster flier is touted to be a mainstay in Irish squads for years to come.
Top Try Scorers 2016/17:
Steffan Evans (Scarlets) – 13 tries
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster) – 9
Ronan O’Mahony (Munster) – 9
Andrew Conway (Munster) – 9
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow) – 8
Rory O’Loughlin (Leinster) – 8
Joey Carberry (Leinster) – 8
DTH Van Der Merwe (Scarlets) – 8
Charles Piutau has been one of the standout performers over the course of the season, having a huge impact on what has ultimately been a disappointing season for the Ulster faithful. His powerful ball carrying, eye for space and skilful ball-handling has led to him being top of the defenders beaten and offload lists, coming second for most carries (behind Connacht full-back Tiernan O’Halloran), second for clean breaks (behind Steffan Evans) and third for most metres made.
|Most Clean Breaks||Most Offloads||Most Carries||Most Metres Made||Most Defenders Beaten|
|1||Steffan Evans – 33||Charles Piutau – 29||Tiernan O’Halloran – 292||Tiernan O’Halooran – 2,011||Charles Piutau -74|
|2||Charles Piutau – 26||Bundee Aki – 27||Charles Piutau – 252||Dan Evans – 1,682||W. Halaholo + S. Evans – 64|
|3||Dan Evans – 25||Jake Heenan – 26||Dan Evans – 231||Charles Piutau – 1,567||B. Aki + T. O’Halloran + N. Grigg – 54|
|4||Jacob Stockdale – 24||Josh Matavesi – 24||Bundee Aki – 230||Matthew Morgan – 1,495||Daymien Holand – 49|
|5||R. O’Mahony + D. Holand – 23||Reynold Lee-lo – 23||Dan Baker – 206||Steffan Evans – 1,330||Matthew Morgan – 48|
The 2016/17 Pro12 season was a historic one for a number of reasons. With 711 tries scored over the course of the championship (a new record) whilst there were more passes per match than any other of Europe’s top leagues (307 per match), fewer penalties (18 per match), joint most tries (5.4 per match) and the most ball in play time (38:55 minutes per match).
Leinster secured the highest number of try bonus points in the tournament’s history with 12, scored the most tries ever in a season with 91 and scored the most points in a Pro12 regular season with 674. Munster equalled the record for most wins in a regular championship season with 19, whilst Glasgow secured a total of 14 bonus points.
|Most Offloads||Connacht – 310|
|Most Turnovers||Scarlets – 174|
|Most Passes||Connacht – 4,880|
|Most Clean Breaks||Ulster – 178|
|Most Defenders Beaten||Glasgow – 471|
|Most Metres Gained||Ospreys – 8,417|
|Most Points per Match||Leinster – 30.6|
|Highest Tackle Success Rate||Ospreys – 92%|
Despite the 2016/17 being a record setting one in which competition for playoff places was competitive to say the least, there is still a certain degree of uncertainty facing the tournament as a whole. One such issue is the fact that there are plenty of calls from inside and outside the Pro12 hierarchy to remove Italian teams altogether (with a move to the French leagues being a plausible alternative for Italian rugby to develop). With Italian teams finishing bottom of the table every year since their inclusion and becoming increasingly indebted to the Pro12, it might be time to make some changes.
Another major issue to whether to commit to capitalising on the increasing popularity of rugby in the Americas. It is another opportunity for the Pro12 to expand as a brand and improve the financial prospects of the league as a whole – with the potential financial rewards being sizeable compared to other markets. With such high rewards, there is increased risk and uncertainty, as well as competition from other rugby based championships such as Super Rugby, the Aviva Premiership and the newly founded Major League Rugby.
Graham Manditsch, Pundit Arena