Tuesday saw the bulk of the 2018 Champions Trophy first round matches take place before a stunning finish to the opening round on Thursday.
The round actually kicked off last week with newcomers Hampton earning their place in the last 16 thanks to a brilliant 57-10 victory over St Albans.
Nine sides were given byes into the last 16 directly, which meant that Tuesday’s five fixtures were the vast majority of this opening round, with only Monmouth v Bryanston on Thursday in arguably the game of the round.
One of the major stories of the round was that the 2016 champions, Tonbridge, were knocked out by RGS Guildford, who reached the last 16 in 2017. By all accounts it was a thrilling game, tight at half time before a brilliant second half from RGS Guildford took them to a famous 33-22 away victory.
Oakham have usually competed at the latter stages of this competition, and they gave themselves every chance of doing so again on Tuesday with a 36-19 victory at home to Stowe to send them firing into the second round.
Berkhamsted meanwhile looked majestic against Haileybury, streaking away to a strong half time lead with their fly half, Barton, looking like a star in the making. Haileybury brought things back in the second half to give the score a more even looking final tally of 39-12, but Berkhamsted look as though they could be a real threat this year.
So too Bristol Grammar, who were firing on all cylinders for an excellent 33-10 victory over Eton College. Inspired by England training at the school, BGS looked excellent as they stepped up in the kind of fixture that without this competition might not have been on the cards.
Finally on the south coast another new entrant, Hurstpierpoint College, make it through to the last 16 at their first attempt as they performed excellently at Eastbourne College for a 24-7 victory, a win very much in keeping with their flying start to the season.
By the close of play on Thursday, that gave us Berkhamsted, Bristol Grammar, Hampton, Hurstpierpoint College, Oakham, and RGS Guildford who had all qualified for the last 16 by right.
On Thursday there was the small matter of that final game of the round, Monmouth v Bryanston, and what a game it turned out to be. Leading going into the last play the hosts, Monmouth, were stunned by the former school of the likes of Charlie Ewels and Ollie Devoto as Bryanston crossed the line to claim a dramatic try in the corner for a 24-23 victory. A finish so typical of this great tournament that seems time and time ago to produce drama of the highest order.
Things will undoubtedly get even tougher in the last 16 though as some serious heavyweights enter the fray. Reigning champions Dulwich College are awaiting, as are the side they beat in the final, Blundell’s, so too 2015 champions Bedford and the side they beat there, Epsom College, along with 2014 finalists, Grammar School at Leeds. Kingswood, St Paul’s, and St John’s Leatherhead are rewarded for good performances in the past with a bye too, while another huge heavyweight lies in wait, assuming a 1st XV is fielded, in the form of Wellington College.
The Champions Trophy is always spectacularly competitive and dramatic, and after this brilliant opening round, it looks as though it is only going to get better!
Images via Peter Crawshaw & Berkhamsted School
2018 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