Bath Rugby were double award winners at the 14th annual RPA Computacenter Players' Awards held on Wednesday 23rd May, with Michael Claassens and Ben Skirving winning The Sunday Times Try of the Year and the Aviva Player Development Award respectively.
Claassens won the award for Try of the Year for his score against London Irish in the bonus point 30-3 win on New Year's Day. Nick Abendanon, who started the move deep in Bath's own half, blitzed down the wing with Tom Biggs and Claassens in support. He drew his defender to release Biggs, who in turn did the same for Claassens who flew over the line finishing off a full pitch effort.
It is the second year in a row Michael has scooped the award, which was voted for by fans at www.therpa.co.uk from a short list selected by Stuart Barnes.
He said: "I'd like to say a big thank you to the fans who voted for me - there were some great tries shortlisted this year, so I feel honoured that people selected this one as the best. I've got to give credit to Bendy and Biggsy though, as they really made the try with their hard work – I just finished it off!"
Skirving was awarded the Aviva Player Development Award in its inaugural year. It recognises the player who has engaged the most with the Player Development Programme (PDP), and demonstrated significant progress in their personal development and a clear pathway towards their career after rugby.
Ben has decided on a career in teaching when he hangs up his boots. He is currently studying for a BA (Hons) Degree in History through the Open University which is required to gain a PGCE and will help him make the full-time move into the teaching profession. He has worked closely with his RPA Player Development Manager, Richard Bryan, and together they have pinpointed opportunities for Ben to broaden his teaching experience in order to improve his post rugby employment chances. He's spent time working with the History department at Colstons School, Bristol, and last summer coached rugby and taught History at King Edwards VI School in Stradford-upon-Avon.
Ben said: "I'd like to thank The RPA and Aviva for nominating me for this award, it's much appreciated and something I'm very proud of. I think it's great that players' off-field work is being recognised as that is really important too.
"The way the sport is now unfortunately means serious injuries do happen and careers can be cut short, so you've got to be thinking about the future. I think we all need to be thinking about life after rugby, the support the RPA provides is fantastic and the more players who take advantage of it the better."
(Image courtesy of Action Images / Andrew Couldridge)