School Rugby

2019 St Joseph’s Festival: Group by Group & Individual Team Analysis

17th October 2019
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Ahead of this weekend’s annual St Joseph’s Festival, we take an in depth look at every group, each team, and who we think could be the big contenders.


Elsewhere we have previewed the tournament as a whole, taken a look at the format, the schedule, and what to expect and you can view that here: 2019 St Joseph’s Festival Preview.


Preview Show


The 2019 Festival begins, as last year, with the St Joseph’s Festival Live Preview show (below) on Friday evening at 8pm. Once again our man Angus Savage will be among the guests, hosted by Joe Byrnes analysing the various teams and groups as we look forward to one of the great weekends of school rugby on the calendar.



Saturday Groups & Contenders


Group 1 – QEGS Wakefield, Dulwich College, Hampton, Kirkham Grammar


A spicy group to kick the tournament off, with three sides that all have superb track records in the tournament in the form of QEGS Wakefield, Dulwich College, and Hampton. Kirkham Grammar School add an extra layer of intrigue, they are new entrants to the tournament but come in with a glowing reputation having shown serious levels of performance and consistency in the last few years of school rugby.


Hampton have made a habit of winning silverware here in recent year’s, winning the Festival in 2015 and the Plate in 2018 and 2016, QEGS meanwhile won the Plate in 2017. Dulwich College last won the Cup in 2011 but have been perennial Cup challengers almost every year since.


QEGS Wakefield


Form this Year – P6, W4, L2


Victories have come over King’s Macclesfield and Loughborough Grammar, with defeats to Woohdouse Grove and fellow Festival goers, St Peter’s York. However QEGS have also picked up two victories in the Schools Cup, over Giggleswick and Cheadle Hulme, sending them to the Regional Semi Finals in North A.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners, 1997, Cup Runners Up 1996, Plate Winners 2017, Plate Runners up 2015, 2014, 2006, & 2002.


Last Year – Plate Groups, 4th in Group.


Dulwich College


Form this Year – P7, W5, L2


It has been a strong season so far from Dulwich, including making the Champions Trophy quarter finals with a victory over St John’s Leatherhead. Victories have come over Bedford and Harrow too, as well as defeats of two sides at the Festival, Brighton College and the hosts, St Joseph’s College. Only Berkhamsted and Wellington College have got the better of the so far, and having played 3 teams at the Festival, their knowledge of the field is up there with the best.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2011, Cup Runners Up 2006, 2005, & 2004


Last Year – Cup Groups, 2nd in Group




Form this Year – P6, W5, L1


It has been a strong start to the season for Hampton, only Cranleigh have beaten them while they have seen off challenges from Seaford College and two fellow sides at the Festival, John Fisher and RGS High Wycombe. They have also been in form in the Champions Trophy with victories over Tonbridge and Berkhamsted taking them to the quarter finals. Last year they had a seriously tough group in the Festival, but having ended up in the Plate they did all they could do, going on to win it for the second time.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2015, Plate Winners 2018 & 2016


Last Year – Plate Winners


Kirkham Grammar


Form this Year – P6, W6, L0


Kirkham Grammar School arrive for their debut at the St Joseph’s Festival in red hot form. They have played six games so far this season, won all six, and conceded in just four of them. Of those four, only once have they conceded more than one try, that being in mid September when Sir Thomas Rich’s gave them their toughest game of the season, though Kirkham still came out 29-20 winners. This weekend will be a step up for them though, how they respond to this unique and intense challenge will probably determine how well they fare.


Tournament Record – Debut Tournament


Last Year – N/A


Who do we this will progress to the Cup Groups? Dulwich College and Hampton

Who will make the Cup from Group 1? (Choose 2)

View Results

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Group 2 – Brighton College, Denstone College, St Peter’s York, John Fisher


Another pretty brutal group that includes 2017 champions Brighton College, 2009 champions John Fisher, a St Peter’s York side that can compete with, well, anyone, and a Denstone College side playing some outstanding rugby and have been knocking on the door of a standout schools rugby achievement for some time.


There is plenty of ambition in this group and a huge amount of skill. Brighton College v Denstone College is probably going to be one of the most hotly anticipated games of the first day.


Brighton College


Form this Year – P5, W3, L2


A mixed set of results do not quite tell the full story for Brighton College this year, just ask St John’s, Hurstpierpoint College, and Trinity. At times the rugby has been sublime. Defeats have come to two sides that will be at the Festival too though, Dulwich College and RGS High Wycombe, though that will all be useful info. Even in defeat there was much to be positive about, against Dulwich they fought back in thrilling fashion, while against RGS in torrid conditions only a late score denied them victory. They love this tournament, and will have high ambitions.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2017, Cup Runners Up 2016, Plate Winners 2014 & 2002


Last Year – Cup Groups, 4th in Group


Denstone College


Form this Year – P4, W3, L1


The only side to beat Denstone College this year are Sedbergh, and really that tells you everything. Particularly as Denstone gave the back to back triple tournament winners about as good a game as anyone has managed. In their other three games Denstone College have won, and won big, scoring some glorious tries throughout. This weekend will be a stern test, but one they are surely absolute desperate to take on.


Tournament Record – Plate Winners 2015


Last Year – Cup Groups, 2nd in Group


St Peter’s, York


Form this Year – P6, W5, L1


Like Denstone College, St Peter’s only defeat this year was at Sedbergh and all you can say to that is ‘you’re not alone’. Prior to that they had won five on the spin and have been looked in really good form, winning in the Schools Cup against Grammar School at Leeds in a nailbiter too, setting up a Regional semi final against a side that have already beaten this year, Woodhouse Grove. In such a tricky group it is a tough ask in Suffolk, yet form this year indicates that St Peter’s have every chance of a place in the Cup groups.


Tournament Record – Debut in 2018


Last Year – Plate Groups, 4th in Group


John Fisher


Form this Year – P8, W5, L3


John Fisher arrive with probably more rugby under their belts that anyone else, having played 8 times already this season. Only local rivals Whitgift and Trinity, as well as fellow Festival goers Hampton have beaten them. Their five victories included a first victory at Eton College in a decade, and Cup victories over Reed’s and City of London Freemen’s that have seen them into the Regional semi finals. Always a dark horse, John Fisher have a great track record in tournament rugby.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2009, Cup Runners Up 2012


Last Year – Plate Groups, 3rd in Group


Who do we think will progress to the Cup groups? Brighton College and Denstone College

Who will make the Cup from Group 2? (Choose 2)

View Results

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Group 3 – Wellington College, Whitchurch High School, Millfield, Hurstpierpoint College


A bit of a blockbuster group this given that it contains two of the biggest names not just in UK school rugby but also in global school rugby, Wellington College and Millfield. When the two of the meet on Saturday at 1pm it will be one of the signature games in the competition. In that sense it is a touch unfortunate for Whitchurch High School and Hurstpierpoint College, particularly after Hurstpierpoint did so well last year. Both have bags of ability, and will know that a result against one of those two giants would produce probably the story of the day – and secure them a Cup spot. Plenty to look forward to in this group!


Wellington College


Form this Year – P6, W6, L0


Wellington College arrive unbeaten and in awesome form. They have faced two Festival heavyweights in Dulwich College and Millfield and won well, 31-0 and 34-15. They have also beaten the likes of Whitgift, and remain in the hunt to retain the Champions Trophy having beaten Kingswood to qualify for the quarter finals. They may not have played the Festival since 2003 but on their return they are immediately considered to be among the favourites. Should they manage that on their return it would make them the first side ever to have won the Rosslyn Park 7s, Schools Cup, Champions Trophy, Daily Mail Trophy, and St Joseph’s Festival. As tournament veterans will tell them though, this is a fiendishly difficult tournament to win.


Tournament Record – Cup Runners Up 1992


Last Year – N/A


Whitchurch High School


Form this Year – P5, W2, L3


Whitchurch arrive off the back of a big victory over Coleg Llandrillo, 46-5, so should have a bit of a spring in their step, and they were in good form against Newport High School too. Coleg Sir Gar, Cardiff & Vale College, and Glantaf have all got the better of them, but all are strong sides as we all know from their performances at Rosslyn Park down the years. It is Whitchurch’s fifth crack at the tournament, they will be determined to try to get through to the Cup groups for the first time.


Tournament Record – Tournament Debut in 2015


Last Year – Plate Groups, 3rd in Group




Form this Year – P6, W3, L3


Millfield have the best record in St Joseph’s Festival history, with six Cup wins and six Runners Up spots, including finishing as runners up in each of the last two seasons. This year has been a tricky one though, only a fortnight ago they were looking in a bit of tricky looking spot, their only victory being against South Africa tourists Maritzburg College, Clifton College and two of this week’s contenders, RGS High Wycombe and Wellington College, had beaten them. Since then though back to back victories over two sides that have proved themselves outstanding this year, Bromsgrove and Sherborne, have seen them bouncing towards this tournament once more. With that upsurge in form and a bit of payback on this mind, their clash against Wellington College at 1pm on Saturday could be an epic.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2014, 2012, 2006, 2004, 1993, & 1990, Cup Runners Up 2018, 2017, 2008, 2007, 2000, & 1994, Plate Runners Up 1995


Last Year – Runners Up


Hurstpierpoint College


Form this Year – P5, W0, D1, L4


After a promising summer tour this year has been a tough one for Hurstpierpoint College up to this one, a run of five defeats on the spin only halted by a draw at Skinners’ last time out. The picture is brighter than it looks though, defeats have generally been close and certainly not runaway defeats. They should take inspiration from last year’s performance here too, where in just their second appearance in the tournament they reached the Cup groups, ending in a odd scenario where themselves, Merchiston, and Denstone were all level behind RGS Newcastle, having all one against one of the others and lost to the other.


Tournament Record – Tournament Debut in 2017, 2018 Cup Groups


Last Year – Cup Groups, 4th in Group


Who do we think will progress to the Cup groups? Wellington College and Millfield

Who will make the Cup from Group 3? (Choose 2)

View Results

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Group 4 – RGS Newcastle, Eltham College, St Joseph’s College, RGS High Wycombe


The hosts, St Joseph’s College, are in this group and that makes things very tough for the other three – always. The reason for that is the superb atmosphere that surrounds every St Joseph’s game. It is an intimidating one for an opposition side and can drag along St Joseph’s sides beyond even what they thought they could do. With Cup champions RGS Newcastle Festival legends RGS High Wycombe, and last year’s Plate runners up Eltham College though, this group ought to be well equipped to rise to that challenge and should make for a pretty fascinating day of action on Saturday.


RGS Newcastle


Form this Year – P8, W7, L1


RGS Newcastle sensationally won the Festival for the first time last year, playing superbly and producing a tactical game plan that few on the field against them had experienced. They are playing just about as well again this year and arrive with the joint most rugby behind them too. Only Sedbergh have beaten this year, something that they have in common with Denstone College and St Peter’s York, but they have won their other seven matches. Their tournament form is fantastic too, beating Dame Allan’s and Durham to reach the Regional semi finals, where a tasty tie against Barnard Castle awaits. Reproducing last year’s heroics won’t be easy, it never is here, but they have the players to do it and rightly are being considered among the top sides. They will have a target on their back, but you sense they don’t mind that.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2018, Plate Runners Up 2013


Last Year – Champions


Eltham College


Form this Year – P7, W1, L6


Eltham College arrive as back to back Plate runners up, but that is a record still to be proud of, such is the competition at the Festival. Life this year has been tricky, seven defeats from eight, but with Sam Howard no longer at the helm there would always be the odd tough game, such is his record in school rugby. They arrive at the Festival after a big positive step, having beaten Colfe’s 49-12 to head into the regional semi finals in the Schools Plate. This is a tough group but one they should relish, teams could take points off each other here and couple of good results could see them go well.


Tournament Record – Plate Runners Up 2018, 2017, 1989, 1987


Last Year – Plate Runners Up


St Joseph’s College


Form this Year – P6, W2, L4


Form is pretty irrelevant when it comes to St Joseph’s College and their Festival. This tournament means everything to them and it is the real focus of their school season. The players, the school, the crowds are all emotionally right at their peak for this and it produces some special performances and a very special atmosphere. For what it’s worth, St Joseph’s have raised the level of their fixture list this year, including Dulwich College and Tonbridge, they may have lost those two games but it should have them ready for that level of play. Either way, if you are in attendance make sure you are outside and watching for at least one of their games, it is an occasion that is quite unique across schools rugby.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 2013, 2010, & 1995, Cup Runners Up 2014, Plate Winners 2003, Plate Runners Up 2016, 2005, & 1993


Last Year – Cup Groups, 3rd in Group


RGS High Wycombe


Form this Year – P5, W4, L1


RGS have been sensational this year, winning in some real dogfights and taking two seriously noteworthy scalps in the process – Millfield and Brighton College. With both of those being such high level Festival sides, that tells you all you need to know about RGS. In a tight game they are superb, and the shortened nature of the Festival format means that all games tend to be pretty tight. Nobody is going to fancy facing them. The only side to beat them so far this season are Hampton, but with four wins surrounding that including those two big names, RGS are going to arrive absolutely bursting with confidence on Saturday morning.


Tournament Record – Cup Winners 1999, Cup Runners Up 2015, 2013, & 1998, Plate Winners 2012, 2010, 1997, 1988, &1987


Last Year – Plate Groups, 2nd in Group


Who do we think will reach the Cup groups? RGS Newcastle and RGS High Wycombe

Who will make the Cup from Group 4? (Choose 2)

View Results

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