Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Classy Kiwi is pick of fellow stars at awards

Ulster's Nick Williams has just completed the second leg of a remarkable double.

On Sunday at the RaboDirect PRO12 awards gala in the Clontarf Casle Hotel he was presented with Player of the Year Award.

Last night in another famous Dublin hotel, The Burlington, Ulster's burly New Zealander pipped fellow-nominees Cian Healy and Simon Zebo to the coveted Hibernia College Ireland Rugby Union Players Association's Player of the Year 2013 prize.

With the winner being the player chosen by his fellow-professionals, that is considered to be the biggest accolade of all.

By beating Irish internationals, Healy – Leinster's 2013 Lions loose-head – and Munster winger Zebo, the back row forward who has made such an impact since joining Ulster last summer became only the second overseas player to win the award.

A delighted Williams said: "It is an honour to be recognised with this award, especially as it's voted for by the players."

Omar Hassanein, CEO of IRUPA said: "Winning an IRUPA award is the highest honour a player can receive. Nick and all the winners and nominees have the total respect of those who they play with and against."

Nor did Ulster's success end there. Williams' team-mate Craig Gilroy walked off with the VW Try of the Year Award in recognition of an outstanding touchdown in his international debut against Argentina in November at the Aviva Stadium.

Last night's Dublin double followed Sunday's successes which saw Ulster lift four of the eight PRO12 awards – Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year (Luke Marshall), Try of the Year (Andrew Trimble v Connacht in Galway) and winners of the SpecsSavers Fairplay League.

There was a poignant moment last night for the northern contingent with Connacht's highly promising back three performer Robbie Henshaw lifting the Young Player of the Year Award, now named after Nevin Spence.

And it was a former Ulster player now with Leinster, scrum-half Isaac Boss, who pipped Chris Henry in the award for exceptional commitment to the game both on and off field.

Now-retiring Ulster hooker Nigel Brady lost out to Munster's Billy Holland in the Unsung Hero category.

Last night's winners: IRUPA Player of the Year: Nick Williams (Ulster)

Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year: Robbie Henshaw

VW Try of the Year: Craig Gilroy (Ulster, for Ireland v Argentina)

O2 Unsung Hero Award: Billy Holland (Munster)

Hibernia College Medal for Excellence: Isaac Boss (Leinster)

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