Saturday's Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12 finals signalled the end of the British & Irish isles' domestic season. Monday Maul looks back at some highlights from an eventful nine months.
The Championship play-off final
Unless you are of Bristol persuasion or on deadline, the second leg was the most remarkable rugby match of the season. It was a case of despair morphing into elation for Worcester and the counter opposite for Bristol as they saw a 13-point aggregate lead evaporate thanks to Chris Pennell's late try and Ryan Lamb's nerveless conversion and with it their chances of securing top-flight status. It was also proof for why the play-off-relegation system has to stay in place. It was unrivalled domestic brilliance.
The Bath outside centre enjoyed a remarkable season and was the centre of both domestic and international highlights. The win over Toulouse saw Joseph bamboozle the Top 14 side's defence and he was also exceptional in England's triumph over Wales. If England are to have any hope of winning the World Cup, Joseph's form is key.
Jamie George's try
Those who are of front-row inclination could do nothing but smile when George snaffled up the loose ball and galloped over the Bath tryline like a rampant baby rhino. He had an exceptional game and though he will never win try of the season for that effort - Joe Simpson was the deserved recipient of that - it was wonderful to see a player of stature running in from 35 metres. No doubt by the end of the evening it was extended to at least 150.
The Glasgow Warriors
Finally a Scottish side has won the Celtic league. Their thrashing of Bath earlier in the season was a remarkable display and they managed to keep the required consistency to end the campaign as PRO12 champions thanks to a commanding win over Munster on Saturday. Gregor Townsend deserves a huge amount of credit for all he has done there but so too do the retiring Al Kellock and fly-half Finn Russell. Coupled with Edinburgh's appearance in the Challenge Cup final, there are signs of recovery and optimism north of the border.
Personally to be able to hang up the boots in this way is amazing. For now though it's party time... pic.twitter.com/8lR984kwj4— Alastair Kellock (@AlastairKellock) May 31, 2015
The rise of American rugby
Those who were present at the USA Eagles' game against the All Blacks in Chicago knew they were witnessing something unique. The soldout Soldier Field saw a thorough hammering dished out by the Kiwis but it was a game which potentially signalled the launch of rugby stateside. It was a melting pot of American rugby with the country's oval-ball fanatics descending on Chicago en masse. The next three months see the Wallabies travelling to Chicago after Harlequins play the Eagles in Philadelphia. The USA Sevens win at Twickenham was also a momentous event; it has propelled the short-form game on to the next level.
Wasps' move to Coventry
When Wasps announced they were up sticks and moving in region of 71 miles north to Coventry, there were the understandable doubters. It was a shift in geographical location that saw them leave behind their London roots for a new life in the Midlands. But it has paid dividends both in their coffers and as a club. The Ricoh Arena is an exceptional addition to the Premiership stadia and it will see Wasps move on to the next level as a club. The game against Leicester in front of a near-sold out stadium was a great occasion, bar the result for the home crowd, and proof their gamble was the right move.
The Aviva Premiership end-of-season dinner saw the top flight lose an instrumental figure in England's top flight. Dean Mumm's impact at the Exeter Chiefs during his three-season tenure was huge but he will now return home to the Waratahs to chase the World Cup dream. Such is Mumm's influence the Wallabies have inherited a weapon which could be the ingredient to solve their front-five problems. He will bring a level head off the field and a presence on it. He has been a wonderful servant for the Premiership and the Chiefs.
The most self-indulgent day of rugby
If ever there was a day when patriotic emotions were strained it was the final day of the Six Nations. There were three potential winners heading into the trio of matches dubbed 'Super Saturday' and in the end it was Ireland who were triumphant after England's driving maul in the final stages of their match against France was penalised. Ireland were deserved winners, they were the best side throughout, but England showed huge character to nearly haul back the 26 points disadvantage while Wales did well to dominate Italy to the extent they did. It breathed new life into the competition.
Connacht have been an entertaining team to keep an eye on this season and Lam's rant against Leighton Hodges was a break from the toe-the-line normality of post-match press conferences. From a Premiership perspective Richard Cockerill offers the most in his self-deprecating manner but Lam's animated take on where he believed the official to have gone wrong is worth a listen.
Competitiveness of the PRO12
On the final day of the PRO12 just one point separated the top four teams. If ever someone picked up a quill and etched an ideal scenario for the end of a normal season, this was it. Further down the league there were battles to get into the play-offs during the final throes of the season and also a competitive edge to break into the top half and into Champions Cup qualification. It has been a season of resurgence for the PRO12.
The Monday Maul will return in August