The Champions Trophy returns on Wednesday with all four quarter final fixtures taking place on the same day.
The competition burst into life in the second round/last 16 prior to half term as the competition’s usual drama unfolded, not least with Oakham knocking out one of the favourites, Clifton College, and Uppingham scoring a late penalty for a dramatic victory at last year’s semi finalists, Hurstpierpoint College.
The competition had started off a little slowly, the 32 team tournament had just twenty entrants, which meant that twelve sides received byes and there were therefore just four first round games.
Rugby School, Clifton College, Hampton, and RGS Guildford won those opening round games and two of those sides have now made it to this final eight, Hampton and Rugby, both with home ties.
The second round naturally then saw those twelve sides with byes enter for the first time, including reigning champions Wellington College, who won away at Kingswood. Also in action for the first time were the side they beat in last year’s final, Epsom College, who also progressed thanks to a 31-12 victory over Bristol Grammar.
Dulwich College, the 2017 champions, played their first game of the campaign and beat St John’s Leatherhead, while the side they beat in that final two years ago, Blundell’s, also made it through with a win at St Paul’s in a game that was the first of the competition for both.
Quarter Final Fixtures and Predictions:
Blundell’s v Epsom College (Wednesday, 2.30pm)
These two sides seem somehow to be inextricably linked in this competition. In every edition of the tournament, bar last year, they have met. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 Epsom College took the spoils, in the 2017 Blundell’s proved the winners in that one. Blundell’s went on to reach the final that year, while in 2015 it was a semi final, sending Epsom to the final. Neither won those finals and again last year Epsom fell at the last, yet the tale of these two sides feels like the tale of this competition, such has been the regularity with which they have met. Incredibly though this is the first time that the two have been drawn with Blundell’s as hosts, and that long away trip could have an impact.
Of course all that history means nothing come Wednesday, it will all be about this year and these two groups of players. Both are looking good though Epsom in particular are looking outstanding, unbeaten so far this year. However last round Blundell’s victory came over the side that has arguably caused Epsom the most problems, St Paul’s (15-6).
Prediction: Epsom College
Hampton v Uppingham (Wednesday, 2.15pm)
This game really encapsulates what is so special about the Champions Trophy as two sides that would not normally play each other face off in a massive knockout clash, indeed to the best of our knowledge these two have never met in a fifteen-a-side game. They are both in fantastic form, too. Each side has lost just once this season, Hampton missing out against a Cranleigh side that appears to be one of the very best in the country, while Uppingham lost narrowly at the death to Stamford. Hampton are one of the few sides to play twice so far in this competition, beating former champions Tonbridge 24-15 in round 1 before a tremendous performance at Berkhamsted in Round 2 for a 38-0 victory. The Champions Trophy is all about drama though and Uppingham certainly had a huge spoonful of that in Round 2, twice coming from behind against Hurstpierpoint College, including a penalty at the death for a 20-19 victory.
Rugby v Oakham (Wednesday, 2.45pm)
This looks a fascinating game of rugby, Rugby School are one of the favourites for the tournament. For six games in a row prior to half term they utterly dominated everyone they came up against, including a 40-17 victory over this same Oakham side on the opening day of the season. However in their last game Rugby fell to a surprise defeat to Bromsgrove, while Oakham have already slain one side of whom a huge amount was expected in this competition, Clifton College. With those recent results playing a factor, Oakham must see a sniff of a chance of changing around their fortunes from that opening game. On the other hand Rugby’s determination is almost certainly going to be right at its very peak and if they get going there is little that anyone can do to stop them. What it all adds up to is a game that ought to be fascinating, Rugby are favourites, no doubt, they are one of the favourites for the entire competition, but Oakham have reasons for hope, and that’s all you need.
Wellington College v Dulwich College (Wednesday, 2.30pm)
The two most recent Champions Trophy winners go head to head, holders Wellington College hosting 2017 champions Dulwich College. Like Rugby v Oakham, these two sides actually met on the opening day of the season too, where Wellington College won 31-0. Since then Wellington College have been utterly superb, unbeaten through the first half of term and then signing it off by winning the prestigious St Joseph’s Festival at their first appearance in over a decade. Dulwich have been on a generally upward curve since that Wellington College game though, the St Joseph’s Festival may have been a tricky weekend for them but in the regular season since that Wellington game only Berkhamsted have got the better of them. The pressure will be on the hosts though, no side has ever won the Champions Trophy more than once, and to win both the St Joseph’s Festival and Champions Trophy in one term would be extraordinary. Given their form so far though, you would say that Wellington College have every chance, however Dulwich will certainly back themselves particularly given some of their performances last half term.
Prediction: Wellington College
Champions Trophy Quarter Final Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Blundell’s v Epsom College (Wednesday 2.30pm)
Hampton v Uppingham (Wednesday 2.15pm)
Rugby v Oakham (Wednesday 2.45pm)
Wellington College v Dulwich College (Wednesday 2.30pm)
Champions Trophy Round 2:
Rugby 45-0 RGS Guildford
St Paul’s 6-15 Blundell’s
Oakham 25-19 Clifton College
Berkhamsted 0-38 Hampton
Hurstpierpoint College 19-20 Uppingham
Kingswood 26-56 Wellington College
Epsom College 31-12 Bristol Grammar
Dulwich College 24-13 St John’s, Leatherhead
Champions Trophy Round 1:
Bedford 7-66 Rugby
Clifton College 24-18 Monmouth
Hampton 24-15 Tonbridge
RGS Guildford 17-3 Bryanston
St Paul’s v BYE
Oakham v BYE
Berkhamsted v BYE
Hurstpierpoint College v BYE
Bristol GS v BYE
Kingswood v BYE
Blundell’s v BYE
St John’s, Leatherhead v BYE
Epsom College v BYE
Dulwich College v BYE
Uppingham v BYE
Wellington College v BYE