Bath Rugby’s 2020/21 campaign came to an end on Saturday with victory over Northampton Saints securing Heineken Champions Cup rugby next term.
The Blue, Black and White finished seventh in the Gallagher Premiership whilst making the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup.
It has been a year of many highs, including several debuts for homegrown Academy players, and some lows, but one thing for certain is the whole group – players, coaches and staff – have continued to strive together.
Following the conclusion of the season, Bath Rugby can today announce the winners of its end of season awards.
Will Muir’s outstanding first stint in the XVs game has seen him crowned the club’s Breakthrough Player as well as collecting the Try of the Season. The wing, who crossed the whitewash seven times, will share the Top Try Scorer award with hooker Tom Dunn.
A powerhouse in the second row, Josh McNally has earned the Best Forward accolade with the ever-impressive Ben Spencer winning Bath’s Best Back.
With injuries at fly-half, homegrown Senior Academy 10 Orlando Bailey seamlessly stepped up to the senior squad and made his first starts in both the Premiership and Europe. He has been awarded the Academy Player of the Season.
The Bath supporters voted in their thousands for their Player of the Season. They recognised outgoing centurion Zach Mercer as their best performer in the 2020/21 campaign.
Finally, it is always an honour to be recognised by your peers. The Players’ Player of the Season award is a prestigious accolade which has been awarded to the hugely talented Miles Reid.
🏆 Top try scorer: Tom Dunn and Will Muir
🏆 Try of the Season: Will Muir’s second try v Worcester Warriors (H)
🏆 Academy player of Season: Orlando Bailey
🏆 Breakthrough Player of the Season: Will Muir
🏆 Best Forward: Josh McNally
🏆 Best Back: Ben Spencer
🏆 Supporters' Player of the Season: Zach Mercer
🏆 Players' Player of the Season: Miles Reid
TOP TRY SCORER – Tom Dunn and Will Muir
Tom Dunn’s seven tries: Harlequins (Home), Sale Sharks (Away), Newcastle Falcons (Away – two tries), Worcester Warriors (Home – two tries), Montpellier (Home - Challenge Cup)
Will Muir’s seven tries: Worcester Warriors (Home – two tries), London Irish (Away), Leicester Tigers (Home – two tries), Harlequins (Away – two tries)
TRY OF THE SEASON – Will Muir’s second try v Worcester Warriors (H)
Bath have scored many sensational, well-worked tries this season but Will Muir’s second against Worcester Warriors at the Rec sealed the 2020/21 Try of the Season.
Buoyed by his first for the club moments earlier, the 25-year-old galloped in for second midway through the first half to finish off a fluid attacking set.
The forwards set the base for Ben Spencer to deliver a long pass to Jonathan Joseph in the midfield and his cutback allowed Rhys Priestland enough time to swing a cultured pass to the onrushing Tom de Glanville.
The full-back glided from his own 10-metre to the halfway and executed a perfect two-on-one with Muir. Fifty metres out, Horse’s lengthy stride saw him gobble up the space in front and when confronted by a covering Worcester defender, he bamboozled them with a beautiful step before diving in the corner.
Skills coach Ryan Davis credited the score as a team try which included individual brilliance from Muir.
“Will Muir’s second try against Worcester was an excellent set-piece, team try superbly finished off by the galloping horse!
“The forwards laid the platform with the maul, then some slick passing from Ben, JJ and Rhys allowed Tom de Glanville to get outside the Worcester defence. Tom times his pass perfectly to Will who doesn’t have to break stride.
“Will still had a lot to do to finish from 50 metres; his in and away step was at full pace to beat the covering wing which was really impressive. He then showed great strength to score in the corner.”
BEST FORWARD – Josh McNally
Josh McNally has been a consistent performer for the Blue, Black and White in the 2020/21 campaign.
The second row is one of the team’s leaders and has set an exemplary example to the young players coming through the pathway through his discipline, work rate and attitude.
He scored five tries in 21 appearances in all competitions, including a wonderful solo effort against Harlequins, and earned his 50th Bath cap on the final day of the campaign.
With a high tackle completion rate of 97%, 14 of which were dominant hits, McNally has similar statistics for his clearout work at the breakdown as well as playing a key role in the side’s line-out and high-functioning maul attack.
Line-out coach Luke Charteris praised McNally for his growth as a player and his consistency throughout the season.
“Josh made an immediate impact on his arrival at Bath last season with some strong performances. This year however, he has grown massively both on and off the field. He puts in a lot of work for the group off the field and is hugely respected both by the players and management.
“On the field, Josh has put in quality performances week after week. To play at such a high level with the consistency he has this year is testament to his professionalism and his desire to keep working to get better.
“I’m sure everyone will agree that Josh is massively deserving of the Forward of the Year award and hopefully he will continue to grow and lead as he has done for years to come.”
BEST BACK – Ben Spencer
Ben Spencer has been an influential catalyst both as a leader and playmaker since joining Bath Rugby.
The scrum-half’s kicking consistency and ability to put contestable kicks into precise areas as proved a real weapon alongside his sharp passing and organisational skills.
He also has an eye for the creative, constantly looking for gaps to dart in behind to get the Blue, Black and Whites on the front foot.
In total, Spencer has accumulated 84 points in 24 games this season.
Attack and backs coach Girvan Dempsey is pleased with how Spencer has “taken extra responsibility” and lead from the front this season.
“Ben has been excellent for us this season. He has been a consistent performer, scoring some excellent tries - Leicester away and Worcester at home come to mind.
“He has also shown a lot of leadership and took on the extra responsibility of the kicking duties when Rhys was injured and also playing out of position both at 10 and on the wing when we had injuries in the backline. A thoroughly deserving winner of this award – congratulations, Ben!”
ACADEMY PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Orlando Bailey
It has been a breakthrough season for Academy fly-half Orlando Bailey who was trusted to command the Bath number 10 jersey during a key part of the campaign.
After first appearing this year at home against Worcester Warriors where he kicked his first Premiership points, the 19-year-old earned a first league start on the road at London Irish before making his European debut in Italy against Zebre.
He has experienced a great amount and has developed a lot in such a short period of time, learning from the likes of Ben Spencer, Cameron Redpath and Anthony Watson on the field, and Rhys Priestland off it.
On Bailey’s accolade, Academy Manager Craig Lilley said:
“Orlando is one of the most competitive and self-driven players we have in the Academy at Bath Rugby.
“His determination to improve and to learn as a player has helped him to develop some really positive problem-solving skills as a decision maker on the field. His game is built around his creativity, his ability to beat defenders, and to make space and find space with his running, passing and kicking game.
“He is a young fly-half, with a lot of promise and potential. Orlando has developed his knowledge significantly during the course of the past few seasons, and he has grown his understanding and influence on the game.”
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Will Muir
Will Muir has been a fantastic addition to the Bath Rugby squad and has thrived in the environment.
Joining ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, the wing bided his time before earning a debut against Harlequins in February and hasn’t looked back since.
A massive stride, searing pace and an excellent step to boot, he has proved a menace in the wide channel but has developed significantly in defence with a 95 per cent tackle completion rate.
His ability to win aerial battles in key areas of the field has been extremely positive for Bath alongside his brilliant try-scoring rate (seven tries in 13 Premiership matches).
Head coach Neal Hatley admits it was a tough choice “due to the number of quality players” coming through this season but insists Muir’s displays have been exceptional.
“This was probably one of the hardest decisions we had to make due to the number of quality players who have really ‘announced’ themselves throughout the course of this season.
“However, Will has gone through a tough transition from his Sevens background to being one of the first names on our teamsheet. A hugely popular member of the squad, he is someone who works so consistently hard to become the best player he can be, his application in training and games has been nothing short of sensational.
“He has forced his way into the starting team and repeated performances of exceptional quality have seen him retain his starting spot and push himself into consideration for international recognition.
"Will has been a pleasure to work with and is an inspiration to all the players in our squad.”
SUPPORTERS’ PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Zach Mercer
One hundred Bath Rugby matches and out for Zach Mercer who departs for Montpellier with an accolade from the supporters for his outstanding performances in 2020/21.
With his move confirmed at the beginning of February, the Number 8 remained 100 per cent committed to the Blue, Black and White and became a centurion on the final day of the season.
He was a constant threat throughout the season, scoring six tries in all competitions and his efforts in April saw him awarded Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month.
Mercer was second in the league for defenders beaten (over 60) and was also a nuisance in defence too, making the top five for most tackles in the Premiership alongside Miles Reid.
Scrum coach Mark Lilley believes Mercer is thoroughly deserving of the award.
“During his time with the club, he has offered so much both on and off of the field.
"His determination and skill is clear to see and it is unsurprising that this has been acknowledged by the fans.
“I am entirely confident that Zach will go on to achieve great success with Montpellier and we are glad he had the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans, who have been so supportive of his journey with Bath, on Saturday.
PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Miles Reid
Miles Reid’s outstanding effort and dedication to the Blue, Black and White has earned him plaudits far and wide, but most importantly, it has earned him an award that means so much with it decided by his peers.
The homegrown Academy graduate has been an influential team player who has consistently produced high-quality performances in 2020/21.
He scored his first tries for the club in the backend of the season as well as making his first European outing against Zebre.
He has made over 200 tackles in the Premiership this term, with a 93% success rate, as well as a 98% clearout efficiency, thus proving his determination to excel in defence whenever called upon.
Reid has been hailed as a ‘true Bath man’ by Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper who credits the 22-year-old for giving his all for the club and his teammates.
“There is nothing that can be said by me which can count for more than being voted by fellow players as their Player of the Year.
“In a season of so much uncertainty, Miles has provided an anchor for this team, a dependable presence who inspires those around him. He wears his heart on his sleeve, pushes himself to compete for everything whilst always putting the team before himself.
“Miles is a true Bath man and fully deserving of the Players’ Player award.”