Streatham-Croydon RFC’s Rhiannon Kennedy has won the inaugural Rhino Prop Star, receiving the prestigious award from England icon Martin Johnson at half-time during yesterday’s Varsity Match at Twickenham. 

Rhino’s year-long search for the grassroots prop that goes above and beyond saw more than 40 props from across the UK nominated. It was then down to the judging panel of British & Irish Lions Adam Jones and Jason Leonard, together with England legend Rocky Clark, to whittle the list down to three.

Joining Rhiannon in the final at Twickenham was Bolton RUFC’s Jon Paul Hardman and Beckenham RFC’s James Cleverly. All three went to a public vote with thousands taking part to decide the winner.

The judges acknowledged that all three finalists were deserving of the accolade, doing incredible amounts for their club and community.

Rhi is a well-deserved winner, she has shown dedication to the game and a real warrior in the front row.

James Cleverly not only coaches in the youth and senior section, but also uses rugby as a way of building confidence among children with special needs.

As senior chairman, Jon Paul Hardman helped increase the player base substantially, but also got funding for new pitches, arranged charity tournaments and reached out to children from diverse backgrounds to come and try the game.

Judge Rocky Clark said of the result: “Rhi is a well-deserved winner, she has shown dedication to the game and a real warrior in the front row. Her commitment to her club and helping others is the perfect attitude of a Prop Star.” 

When the result was announced on the pitch, Rhiannon’s dad, Neil, watching from the stands, said: “All three of them would have been a worthy winner, but I’m so proud. I’m actually shaking, she really does a hell of a lot for the club. She did all of this work for the club before she moved in there as well, so she’d be taking the bus home and not getting in until 2am. She’s so thoughtful and it’s great to see that big smile come out like it is now.”

Reg Clark, Rhino CEO, said: “It was fantastic that we were able to bring together these two incredible events – the final of Prop Star and the Varsity Match. It brought the very best aspects of grassroots rugby to Twickenham at one of its most prestigious fixtures.

The next Rhino Prop Star will launch in 2018, with a junior version starting early in the new year.

You can view all of the Rhino Prop Star videos below.

James Cleverly, Beckenham RFC
Jon Paul Hardman, Bolton RUFC
Rhiannon Kennedy, Streatham-Croydon RFC 

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