The Daily Mail Trophy reached a dramatic conclusion on Saturday with four sides in action, all with a chance of sealing the title.
Cranleigh, Wellington College, Epsom College, and Clifton College were all in action and each could win the title, Cranleigh were the only side with their destiny in their own hands though, knowing that a bonus point win would secure the title. Sedbergh had played all of their games but could also claim the title if the other four slipped up.
In the end the tension was high, all four doing all that they could, but ultimately it was Cranleigh that sealed the title with their 48-20 victory over Canford. It secured them the title, their first ever Daily Mail Trophy title, they are just the fourth ever side to win it, too. Woodhouse Grove won the inaugural back in 2013, before three in a row from Wellington College in 2014, 2015, and 2016, following an adjustment to the scoring method to reward playing stronger opponents. Sedbergh then won back to back titles in 2017 and 2018, and now Cranleigh have broken into the club to claim this 2019 title.
It could not have been tighter, Wellington College came from behind to get a bonus point 28-22 victory at Tonbridge that left the two tied at the top on 6.60 points. However, as was known heading into the final weekend, that was good enough for Cranleigh, who had an unbeaten record and had reached their total in fewer games.
Epsom College’s 26-8 victory at St John’s Leatherhead actually took them to within touching distance of the title, had Cranleigh and Wellington not managed to secure bonus points, that would have been enough to hand Epsom the title.
It was all immensely tight, to the point that this was the only result in which Cranleigh could secure the title assuming the other contenders won. Had all failed to secure a bonus point, Wellington would have won it.
Perhaps that was what was most impressive about the Cranleigh’s effort in the end. Under the pressure of knowing that realistically they had to seal a four try victory, they did just that, and against a side that has been outstanding all year, one of the strongest around – indeed Cranleigh are the only side to defeat them in this competition.
In sealing the title with an unbeaten season too they complete a truly remarkable season, and follow the pattern set by Sedbergh in the previous two years of doubling both the title and an unbeaten season, the most anyone can ask of a school team.
The competition still has a little way to run, there are seven fixtures left, although only two are likely to have an impact on next year’s opposition bonus point statuses. On Tuesday Skinners’ and St Albans meet, the winner will have a top 50 finish and therefore be a 0.2 opposition bonus ranked side next year, the loser a 50-75th finish and therefore a 0.1 opposition bonus ranking.
Wednesday sees King’s Macclesfield take on Lymm High School and Old Swinford Hospital face King’s Worcester, however neither should affect next year’s opposition bonus standings. Oakham v St Peter’s York might though, defeat for St Peter’s would see them slip out of the Top 25.
Saturday sees the final three games of the campaign take place, Manchester Grammar hosting St Ambrose College, Northampton School for Boys hosting St Joseph’s College, and Sir Thomas Rich’s hosting St Peter’s York.
Ultimately though this Daily Mail Trophy competition will be remembered for a pulsating last couple of weeks, Sedbergh’s victory over Wellington College at Broadstreet opening up the competition before Millfield’s win over Sedbergh blasting the competition wide open and creating a final weekend with five teams all having an opportunity to win it.
It was Cranleigh that seized on that opportunity, securing a fantastic victory to cap a wonderful season and a brilliant few years that have also seen them seal to Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s titles. For this group though it is all about this season’s work, and when they reflect they will look back on this unbeaten season and perhaps it will be that fact that will stick with them the most – the unbeaten season is the ultimate in school rugby, the maximum any side can possibly do and always a magnificent achievement.
For the chasing pack it will be gutting having had it all come down to that final weekend, Wellington College particularly. Never before has the title come down to such a fine margin. Ultimately though all will reflect that it ended in a positive way – on that final weekend, instead of a side making an error, all the contenders did everything in their power, which meant that this excellent Cranleigh side clinched the silverware.
It has never been so tense!
Daily Mail Trophy – Final Top 10
|Pos||School||P||W||L||Points||Oppo BPs||Merit Points|
Skinners’ v St Albans
King’s Macclesfield v Lymm HS
Oakham v St Peter’s, York
Old Swinford Hospital v King’s Worcester
Manchester GS v St Ambrose College
Northampton School for Boys v St Joseph’s College
Sir Thomas Rich’s v St Peter’s, Gloucester