Stuart Hogg’s 2016 Guinness Six Nations was jam-packed full of dazzling brilliance. The Scot’s blinding campaign saw the fleet-footed full back at his very best, bamboozling defences week after week.
During a tricky period for the Scotland side, Hogg used all his trickery and dynamism to provide a silver lining for the BT Murrayfield faithful.
Whether with the ball in hand, kicking off the tee or leading from the front, Hogg lit up every single round.
A statistician’s dream
Sometimes, the statistics do not provide a full picture. Nevertheless, just one look into the figures and it is clear why the public were in awe of the former Glasgow Warrior.
Only two players made more than his 379 metres – at an impressive average of 75.8m per game. He finished joint fourth overall for defenders beaten with 17, and joint fifth for clean breaks with five.
But individual stats wasn’t all the then 23-year-old brought to the table. His playmaking attributes were also on display as the Hawick man laid on three scores for his teammates – an assist total that only fly-halves Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell could match.
Fireworks in Rome
It wasn’t until Round 3 of the Championship until Stuart Hogg, and Scotland, burst into life following defeats to England and Wales, respectively.
The full back’s all-round display against Italy on the third weekend of the competition took everybody’s breath away at the Stadio Olimpico – even the most hardened of Italians.
On a nine-game Championship losing streak coming into the Rome affair, the pressure was well and truly on Vern Cotter’s men.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man. Hogg got off to an electric start, bursting down the left touchline before offloading to John Barclay for the side’s opening score.
And it did not stop there. The full back used his fabulous footwork to evade the Italian defence and produced a sumptuous offload to Tommy Seymour for another Scotland try.
London buses for Scotland
With the wind in their sails and the monkey off their backs, Scotland went into Round 4 full of confidence. Hogg and his comrades took on France at BT Murrayfield, looking to end a ten-year hoodoo against Les Bleus.
The Scotsman’s first-half try set them on their way, with fellow back Duncan Taylor crossing soon after. Hogg’s impact on the game wasn’t over there though, with his expert goal kicking required this time.
The current Exeter Chief smashed over an audacious second-half penalty from his own half to add another three points to his side’s tally. That 58m effort was longer than anything anyone else managed in the entire Championship.
To add the cherry on top of the cake for the Tartan army, his superb no-look flick pass over his own head released Tim Visser for the vital second-half try to secure a historic win.
Despite a package of highlights worthy enough to be a viral sensation, Hogg’s finest moment of the Championship was yet to arrive.
Scotland may have fallen to a Round 5 defeat to Ireland but it was Hogg’s brilliance that stole the show once again.
A clearing Conor Murray box-kick found its way to the full back between Scotland’s ten-metre line and the half-way mark. After taking a moment to survey his surroundings, the hot-stepping star pounced.
A dummy pass helped open up a green wall of defenders, before he turned on the afterburners to evade Keith Earls and CJ Stander and dot down. A thing of real beauty.
Top of the pile
Hogg took the gong with 30% of the public vote, edging out England No. 8 Billy Vunipola with 27%, with Wales winger George North taking third place.
Ireland’s scrum-half Conor Murray, winger Jack Nowell and Italy captain Sergio Parisse completed the six-strong shortlist.
The Melrose-born back followed up his success in 2017 with another Player of the Championship award – the only person to have won the accolade in back-to-back seasons.