Kate Rowan: Highs and lows of the rugby year
Whether you loved or hated it, there was an abundance of catchy up-tempo pop music in 2012. Some of the most infectious songs provide the perfect soundtrack to reflect upon the rugby year.
Irish player of the Year
Euphoria by Loreen
Swede Loreen romped to Eurovision glory this year with the critically acclaimed upbeat dance track “Euphoria”. Two lines are particularly reminiscent of a certain Louth man’s highball heroics.
The lyrics “We’re going up-up-up-up-up-up-up” and “We’re higher, we’re reaching for divinity” could have been written specifically for the purpose of a highlights reel showcasing Leinster and Ireland fullback Rob Kearney’s stellar season as he flung himself in the path of Garryowens.
It is rather fitting that Europe’s winning song would be the perfect match for the European Player of the Year.
Kearney even tweeted that he was a fan of the Eurovision hit that has crossed over to mainstream chart success!
Despite Ireland’s patchy Six Nations, the 26 year-old was electrifying aerially, pacy and brave.
It was not just Kearney that had Leinster fans in a state of “Euphoria” as they scooped a third Heineken Cup in four years. Players such as Jonathan Sexton and Cian Healy put in notable performances to name just a few as coach Joe Schmidt’s influence continued to exert itself on the province.
Unfortunately this term, Leinster have yet to reach the heady heights of last season with a number of high profile absentees through injury including Brian O’Driscoll and of course Kearney.
After Clermont Auvergne’s two weekends of wreaking revenge for that semi-final defeat, the Leinster fans may be thinking back to Bordeaux and Twickenham echoing Loreen with “Why, why can’t this moment last for ever more?”
Hope for the future
Chasing the Sun by The Wanted
Ireland may have thoroughly beaten Argentina at the conclusion of the autumn international series but with Los Pumas’ introduction to the Rugby Championship that breadth of margin may become a thing of the past.
The Argentines led by the valiant blindside Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe may have lost five out of six Rugby Championship fixtures, clocking up a draw against the Springboks but they were by no means push-overs.
To the contrary, Santiago Phelan’s side showed grit and determination but also demonstrated exciting back play. They put a particularly impressive performance against New Zealand in Wellington. If they continue to grow with the competition, they are likely to get their first win against the All Blacks before Ireland do!
A highlight was beating the Welsh, so perhaps in “Chasing the Sun”, the Argentines got too close to the heat this first season, tumbling with their defeat at the Aviva Stadium came at the end of an arduous season.
Surprise of the year
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
The Welsh may have been Grand Slam champions but they just piped Ireland at Lansdowne Road, while the English steamrolled Ireland 30-9 at Twickenham. It may have been partially down to Ireland’s tighthead crisis but the forward pack in white stole the show on St Patrick’s Day.
With a four out of five record in this year’s Six Nations, Stuart Lancaster cemented his position from caretaker to permanent coach.
Their autumn series was looking set to fall flat with defeats to the Wallabies and the Springboks, with the media braying for blood, criticising Chris Robshaw’s captaincy.
This was blown away by a decisive victory over the All Blacks, the only side to achieve that feat this season.
The culling of established playing and coaching personnel in the wake of a World Cup campaign that became notorious for off the field antics and the manner in which the whole drama unfolded in the British media, was not unlike the messy end of a celebrity relationship.
Just like the scorned lover of Kelly Clarkson’s smash Stronger, England with an infusion of new blood and pride in the Red Rose came back tougher and more determined than ever.
Ladies Choice Award
How to Be a Heartbreaker by Marina and the Diamonds
The fabulously flamboyant, dual-code star come heavyweight boxer Sonny Bill Williams was one of the heart breakers that night in the Waikato Stadium.
Williams’ thunderous pace and glittering off-loads combined with an impressive physique and boyish good looks make him the top contender for the contentious ladies’ choice.
It is not just Irish hearts that the centre was breaking. After a successful season helping guide the Waikato Chiefs to a first Super Rugby title, Williams just as he was establishing himself as a starting All Black chose to head off to Japan for a brief money-spinning sojourn before returning to rugby league.
If loyalty is a quality you rate highly, then perhaps Aurélien Rougerie as a hometown boy playing for the now big spending since childhood Clermont may be your choice after his role in leading them to break Leinster hearts earlier this month.