Chiefs lead the way in year to remember
By Mark Stevens
The rugby world may never experience a year quite like 2020 again.
The Covid-19 pandemic threw unprecedented amounts of disruption at the sport across the globe, as it did with all aspects of life, and Gallagher Premiership Rugby was no different.
But out of the darkness came some great competition with fantastic battles and thrilling entertainment on show in the top tier of English club rugby.
And, as we now embark upon the final day of a year like no other, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on what has been a Gallagher Premiership Rugby season like never before.
We may have missed five months of action during the middle of the year, but there are plenty of remarkable feats to look back on with a whole host of statistics to sift through.
In all, across the 113 matches that were played a total of 5447 points were scored - including a mammoth 682 tries.
Players from 28 different nations took part in the premier domestic rugby competition as a total of 669 men donned their respective clubs colours and went to battle in the Gallagher Premiership.
Of them, 245 were internationally capped players from 17 different countries – showcasing the breadth of high-quality talent which graced the competition in 2020.
It was a record-breaking year for Exeter Chiefs of course, as they secured their second Gallagher Premiership Rugby crown before then becoming European champions for the very first time by beating Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup final.
And that was driven, in part, by the phenomenal standards of Chiefs back-row Sam Simmonds.
The 26-year-old has long been one of the hottest commodities in European rugby but went to another level during 2020 as he racked up a mammoth 17 tries from just 16 appearances across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
And alongside Sam, his brother Joe, the imperious club captain and fly-half has been as reliable with his kicking as you could possibly want.
He showed just how deadly he is from the boot, and his all-round brilliance, when registering 25 of his side’s 30 points courtesy of three penalties, three conversions and two tries in Exeter’s 34-30 defeat to Harlequins in last season’s Round 12 thriller.
But if one fly-half doesn’t get you, the other will with Gareth Steenson registering the best kicking rate across the year of 89.7%.
The Gallagher Premiership Rugby stalwart marked his final season in the professional game in 2020 in fine style, ending with the figures of 290 appearances and over 2,500 points for his club side.
And lock Jannes Kirsten symbolises Chiefs dominance across the year, having won more Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches than anyone else with 15 to his name.
Wasps also enjoyed a fantastic 2020, reaching the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final and pushing eventual champions Exeter all the way in a memorable Twickenham tussle.
The vibrant Wasps side, led first by Dai Young before Lee Blackett took temporary charge in February and then became the permanent appointment two months later, set the rugby world alight with their brand of attacking rugby.
Winger Zach Kibirige was at the heart of his side’s flair and he was an ever-present, registering the most minutes played in 2020 with 1,348.
And they duly registered the most points as a team across the year, notching up an incredible 678.
Much of that was driven by their classy Kiwi fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, who scored 190 points in 2020 – the most of any individual player.
And the 37-year-old is showing no signs of stopping yet either, having featured in all four of Wasps' Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures so far this season.
Indeed, he has certainly got around in 2020 having made the most appearances of any player with 20 while, at 37 years and 181 days old, his most recent appearance against Sale Sharks on 27 December made him the oldest player to feature this year.
While Gopperth continues to belie his advancing years, back row Ethan Staddon also showed that age is just a number as he became Bath Rugby’s youngest ever Premiership Rugby player when he featured against Worcester Warriors on 5 December.
At 18 years and 155 days Staddon was also the youngest player to feature in the Gallagher Premiership in 2020 and is certainly one to look out for in the future.
Defending champions Saracens were relegated from the Gallagher Premiership but continued to show off their pedigree as they racked up the most points in a game by a team.
On 4 January, they welcomed in 2020 by putting 62 points past Worcester at Allianz Park, crossing the whitewash a sensational ten times!
A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER – 2020 in stats
Most tries: 17 - Sam Simmonds (in 16 appearances)
Most points by player: 190 - Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
Most points by a team: 678 - Wasps
Most points in a game by player: 25 - Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins, 29 February)
Most points in a game by team: 62 - Saracens (vs Worcester Warriors, 4 January)
Best kicking rate: 89.7% Gareth Steenson (Exeter Chiefs) – more than ten attempts at goal
Youngest and oldest player: 18y 155d Ethan Staddon (Bath Rugby v Worcester Warriors on 5 December) and 37y 181d Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps v Sale Sharks, 27 December)
Most appearances by one player: 20 Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
Most minutes played: 1348 Zach Kibirige (Wasps)
Most wins: 15 Jannes Kirsten (Exeter Chiefs)
Total number of matches: 113 (not including cancelled matches)
Total number of points: 5,447
Total number of tries: 682
Players born in 28 different nations played
A total of 669 players featured plus ten more who were on the bench but did not get on.
245 of those were capped players from 17 different countries
Statistics from Stuart Farmer Media Services