The 2018 Champions Trophy final takes place on Wednesday, with Wellington College and Epsom College meeting at Allianz Park.
The game kicks off at 1pm, and whichever side wins, the remarkable record of a new winner being crowned in every year of this competition’s existence will continue.
Millfield, Bedford, Tonbridge, and Dulwich College are the only winners of this prize so far, and the strength of those four names tells you everything that you need to know about this competition. It is a brutally tough competition, welcoming in some of the biggest names in the country. You only have to look back at some of the games and results through this year’s tournament to see that – for instance reigning champions Dulwich being knocked out by a last second try to Hampton, who might reasonably have fancied a real go at the title after that, only to be knocked out by Hurstpierpoint, who were then beaten by Epsom.
It is hard, it is unpredictable, and it is always dramatic. Win or lose on Wednesday, both sides have achieved something special. Just reaching the final in this competition is outstanding, particularly given the demands that it put on players to play Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday every two weeks for the duration of the term.
A trip to Allianz Park for this final is an occasion to remember for a lifetime for these players. As a school Epsom have been here before, losing the 2015 final to Bedford, but for both sets of players it is a first in a game like this in school colours.
For the vast majority this will be the biggest game of their rugby lives so far, and for most it will be the biggest game they will play in at all.
Wellington College had a massive game on Wednesday against Sedbergh, and it truly was massive. But this is different, this has a prize at the end of it and no matter how much we all like to preach that schools rugby is not about wins and losses or trophies, trying telling that to either side come the final whistle on Wednesday. There will be rightly be a huge amount of pride in the long run, but in the immediate aftermath there will only be joy or despair.
In these one offs form goes out of the window, it becomes about cool heads and performance on the day. Take last year’s final, Dulwich arrived with just the perfect mindset and put in probably their best performance of the entire season to blow Blundell’s away despite Blundell’s being the pre game favourites for many.
It is wonderful for the tournament to have two such presitigous rugby schools in the final too. The tinkering of school tournaments and regulations has seen a number of sides dip in and out of competition and the only way to give such tournaments oxygen in the long run is for there to be a sense that the side that wins them really is one of the very best teams in the country or that has performed above and beyond all possible expectations to achieve something outstanding.
On Wednesday we will see two sides that are without doubt among the best around, and who in just being there have already achieved something outstanding.
All that remains now is for spectators to make the short trip to Allianz Park and for one of these two outstanding sides to lift the Champions Trophy, the more supporters that come the more special the occasion becomes and the more special a memory it becomes.
These are the days that stay with you forever, win or lose.
Champions Trophy Final: Epsom College v Wellington College – Wednesday 5th December, Allianz Park, 1pm.
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Champions Trophy Semi Finals:
Bristol Grammar 16-19 Wellington College
Hurstpierpoint College 13-22 Epsom College
Champions Trophy Quarter Final Results:
Berkhamsted 24-50 Wellington College
Bristol GS 15-7 St Paul’s
Hurstpierpoint College 34-22 Hampton
St John’s, Leatherhead 14-27 Epsom College
Champions Trophy Last 16 Results:
Bedford 11-26 Hurstpierpoint College
Berkhamsted 63-14 Kingswood
Bryanston 17-46 Bristol Grammar School
Epsom College 38-5 Grammar School at Leeds
Hampton 25-22 Dulwich College
Oakham 20-22 St Paul’s
St John’s Leatherhead 20-5 Blundell’s
Wellington College 47-0 RGS Guildford
Champions Trophy Round 1 Results:
Berkhamsted 39-12 Haileybury
Bristol Grammar 33-10 Eton College
Eastbourne College 7-24 Hurstpierpoint College
Hampton 57-10 St Albans
Monmouth 23-24 Bryanston
Oakham 36-19 Stowe
Tonbridge 22-33 RGS Guildford
Bedford, Blundell’s, Dulwich College, Epsom College, Grammar School at Leeds, Kingswood, St John’s Leatherhead, St Paul’s, Wellington College