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THORmeulen claims blue ribbon prize

Twelve matches, 49 tries, plenty of drama and – most of all – heaps of entertainment. Now it is rugby365's turn to dish out our famous Rugby Championship kudos.

New Zealand won the Rugby Championship, while South Africa and Argentina made big statements in the final round.

Australia had yet another big wobble.

However, all-round it was an entertaining tournament with many highs and some lows.

We bring you the best and worst of the 2014 Rugby Championship!

Player of the tournament: All Black wing Julian Savea was so impressive it was suggested he was better than Jonah Lomu, However, we opted for Duane Vermeulen, who consistently produced world class performances in the tournament and played through the pain barrier to help the Springboks break that All Black hoodoo.

Best forward: It should be Duane Vermeulen as well, but he already has an award so this goes to the other man that consistently produced world class performances – Brodie Retallick.

Best back: There were many who put their hands up at various stages – Israel Folau, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Handré Pollard, Tevita Kuridrani, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Juan Martín Hernández, Manuel Montero and Nicolás Sánchez. However, our award goes to the BUS, Julian Savea.

Best coach: His team won the tournament, even before the final round, and for that Steve Hansen gets our vote.

Moment of the tournament:  It has been a long-time coming, but we are giving it to Argentina for finally breaking their Rugby Championship duck.

Team of the tournament: Yes, they did stumble in the final round, against a vastly improved South African team, but New Zealand is still No.1.

Try of the tournament: There was that awesome Manuel Montero try when he waltzed through several Wallaby defenders, there was Ruan Pienaar's try two minutes into the first Test at Loftus Versfeld and that amazing All Black try when – after Australia had spilled the ball inside the All Black 22 – Aaron Cruden and Julian Savea worked the opportunity with inter-passing on short side to put The Bus into space. However, our award goes to the Francois Hougaard try in the Springboks versus All Black Test at Ellis Park, which finally laid to rest the theory that the Boks are not creative enough to counter from inside their own 22 and score a sublime five-pointer.

* In case yo missed it, watch this Rugby Championship montage (more awards follow below the video clip!)

 

The 'did that really happen?' moment: The direful and forbidding sight of a Springbok scrum in retreat, the Pumas pushing backwards 10 metres at a time.

The 'don't try that at home' moment: Pyrotechnics going wrong at Eden Park in Auckland, putting three spectators in hospital.

Back to earth with a bang: We may never know which hookah-smoking blue caterpillar advised the Wallabies that they were actually a real threat to the All Blacks, but in the most classic of 'flatter-to-deceive' displays they coughed up 50 points just a week after holding an out-of-sorts All Black team to a 12-all draw.

Most brutally honest assessment: "They were there for the knockout [blow] and we didn't deliver it. All we lacked was knowing how to win it," Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade told reporters in Salta after his team's 31-33 loss to South Africa.

Father time simply can't catch up: Victor Matfield silenced a few critics with his more than credible performances in the tournament, having turned 37 on May 11 this year.

Father time is way behind: All Black captain Richie McCaw, who turned 33 on December 31 last year, made an astonishing 77 tackles in six matches –  that is an average of almost 13 tackles per match.

The gemütlichkeit award: This one goes to New Zealand and South Africa for continuing the long tradition of goodwill and mutual respect that exists between their national teams – the All Blacks and Springboks. Long may this tradition live!

* Did we miss anything? Give us your views and awards!

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