Sam Simmonds has today been crowned the Gallagher Player of the Season for 2020-21, scooping the most coveted accolade at the Premiership Rugby Awards.
The award caps off a remarkable campaign for the Exeter Chiefs’ star, in which he broke the record for the most tries in a single Premiership season, with 20.
Simmonds has been instrumental in another fine year for the Chiefs, who finished second in the table, booking a semi-final place and keeping alive their hopes of retaining the title.
The Torquay-born back-rower had already been recognised for an outstanding season with a call-up by the British & Irish Lions for their summer tour to South Africa, and he has now capped that feat with the prestigious Gallagher Player of the Season gong.
Earlier this month he also became the first ever player to win two Gallagher Player of the Month awards in a single season.
Simmonds crossed for a hat-trick against London Irish in May, to break Christian Wade’s and Dominic Chapman’s Premiership Rugby try-scoring record for a single season.
Gallagher ambassador and BT Sport pundit Ugo Monye believes Simmonds' ability to stand out in a league brimming with quality shows how high his standards have risen. He said: “Sam has been phenomenal this year. I think he started the season fuelled by bitter disappointment [at not being selected for England], but he has focused on it in the right way, to become a record-breaker, help his team into the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals and is now a British and Irish Lion.
“He has excelled in a year where it has been tough for all players in the Gallagher Premiership, with back-to-back seasons and not much time off. But he hasn’t let off from being European player of the year last season to Premiership player of the year this season, which is outstanding.
“His season has been one of the best individual seasons in Premiership history. I think when you are breaking any sort of record, it has to be put down as a memorable year.
“He has smashed the try record - not only beaten it but smashed it. That is the kind of form he has been in.
“It is unbelievable when you consider just how many talented players we have in the Gallagher Premiership, and yet he has been the shining star, among a galaxy of superstars."
Simmonds edged out Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith to win the award, with the latter selected as runner-up.
Smith continued his remarkable rise with a brilliant year at The Stoop, finishing the regular season as the highest points-scoring individual in the entire league.
The 22-year-old scored 270 points in total, 82 more than Sale Sharks’ AJ MacGinty who was next in the rankings.
An elusive and dangerous runner, Smith has once again been one of the most exciting players to watch in the Gallagher Premiership, as Quins prepare for a return to the semi-finals.
Another Chief - Dave Ewers - was third. Ewers has also played a big part in his team’s success this season, chipping in with six crucial tries of his own.
The shortlist and winner were selected by a panel of media professionals: Sarah Mockford (Rugby World), Craig Swayne (Fab Rugby), Hugh Godwin (The i), Martin Gillingham (Commentator), Stuart Barnes (Sunday Times), Alex Lowe (The Times), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Bobby Bridge (Reach Media), Ugo Monye (BT Sport) and Daniel Schofield (Daily Telegraph). The panel was chaired by Premiership Rugby’s Communications Director, Paul Morgan.