Tommy Bowe’s career-defining Guinness Six Nations performances will forever be cherished by Ireland’s faithful, with his majestic displays earning the Player of the Championship award in 2010.
For Bowe, it was always going to be a challenging year because it was the rugby equivalent of a musician’s sophomore album.
The year before he had helped Ireland achieve their first ever Grand Slam title in the Six Nations era and was voted the British and Irish Lions’ second-best performer on the South Africa tour.
But he proved form is temporary and class is permanent. The Ireland winger recorded three tries and turned in one of the most memorable solo performances in Ireland’s recent history.
The Championship was Tommy Bowe at his blistering best and he ensured the title remained in Irish hands following Brian O’Driscoll’s exploits in 2009.
Cementing his spot
Declan Kidney’s reign as Ireland boss will be best remembered for the historic Grand Slam title success the year before Bowe’s accolade. But it proved to be instrumental for Bowe, too.
The winger played a pivotal role. It was Bowe’s match-winning try in the last-game decider against Wales that sealed the triumph. The former Ulster and Ospreys back then went on to start all three British & Irish Lions Tests that summer in South Africa – just one of three players on the tour to do so.
With his spot in the Ireland XV cemented, Bowe was able to flourish surrounded by an abundance of talent.
Dynamite back three
With Bowe’s exuberance combining perfectly with Geordan Murphy’s experience and Keith Earls’ youthfulness, the back three were an outstanding trio. There was also a midfield partnership of O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, to boot.
A talented Gaelic footballer in his youth, Bowe’s athleticism in the air was indisputable, but it was his searing pace and carving runs which made the Irishman stand out.
In fact, it is now only Earls and O’Driscoll who sit above himself in the try-scoring ranks for Ireland. Bowe tallied up an astonishing 30 tries in his 89 caps for his country.
A pair of Twickenham tries
Of course, it was Bowe’s match-winning brace of tries against England at Twickenham which began to showcase his outstanding ability with the ball in hand.
The first of the game displayed Bowe’s speed as he collected a kick in behind from Johnny Sexton to cross over in the fourth minute after Ireland turned over the ball on the halfway line.
But it was his second which is most remembered. With just six minutes remaining and trailing England 16-13, Bowe linked up with Sexton once more as he got on the end of a short ball to carve through England’s defence and dot down under the sticks. It was Bowe at his best.
Ireland clung on for the last five minutes and cost England a shot at their first Grand Slam in seven years.
A man of the people
While his try against Scotland in the final round may have been in vain, it was another example of Bowe at his best. Coming off his wing, he found a gap in Scotland’s defence and crossed over.
Rather fittingly, this was the last try scored during Ireland’s temporary stay at Croke Park. The once promising Gaelic footballer capped off a memorable period for the Irish at the home of the sport.
A France quartet consisting of centre Mathieu Bastareaud, scrum-half Morgan Parra, skipper Thierry Dusautoir and No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy all made the six-strong shortlist, alongside legendary Wales back Shane Williams.
But there was no doubting Bowe’s popularity, securing a massive 50% of the public vote. He also proved popular with his own teammates, winning the IRU Players’ Player of the Year 2010.