The final day of the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s always provides one of the most special tournaments of the week, the Prep Schools tournament.
Sixty schools took part this year, split into ten groups of six. As in recent times, there was no knockout element or tournament winner, just the round robin group stages.
Nonetheless, certain sides stand out, not least the six sides that came through the tournament with five wins from five.
The Downs Malvern were one of those, in Group B, heading up Thomas’s Clapham, Epsom College, Merchiston Castle, Dollar Academy, and Worth. The Oratory Prep were another, playing some sensational stuff to come out on top over St Paul’s, Stonyhurst St Mary’s, Moulsford Prep, Cathedral School Llandaff, and The Pilgrims.
Summer Fields in Group E had a fine day, five from five over St John’s Northwood, King’s Hall, KCS Wimbledon, Sedbergh Prep, and Ibstock Place. So too Aldwickbury in Group G, who had Feltonfleet, Danes Hill, Wetherby Prep, Prestfelde Prep, and Newland House for company.
Cranmore in Group H were fantastic, St John’s-on-the-Hill Dean Close, Rokeby, Cumnor House, Cundall Manor, and Lanesborough making for tough company but Cranmore came through with five from five. So too did Aldro, who had Clifton College Prep, Hoe Bridge, All Hallows, Middlesex Schools, and Ampleforth St Martin’s for company.
The were three other sides that went through the tournament without defeat. Dean Close and The Elms were both drawn in Group F and beat Beadesert Park, The Hall, Wycliffe College Prep, and Terra Nova respectively, while playing out an exciting draw against each other. Millfield Prep had a similar experience, winning four out of five before a draw against one of the traditional high-flyers of this tournament, Caldicott Prep.
In truth though the real magic of this Prep Schools tournament is not what happens on the field, though that is sublime and magical itself, a joy to watch, but in what happens off it.
The Prep Schools tournament happens on the same day as the U18 Cup knockout stage, the look of wonder and excitedness from these young faces as they watch the players right at the very top of the school game is a sight to behold. It is inspiration live and in the flesh.
Perhaps the greatest moment of this entire Prep Schools tournament came long after it had finished. It was seeing the Sedbergh Prep pupils watching their heroes in the U18s winning their second title in a row.
The inspiration these young players take from watching the likes of Tom Curtis and Will Haydon-Wood strut their stuff on the grandest school 7s stage of all is almost impossible to measure, but without question it has more of a direct impact that watching even their national side.
Schools rugby is real, it feels achievable. Each and every player in these sixty teams should be able to rightly see themselves in the shoes of those U18 players they were sharing the fields with on Friday. What they will come to realise in time is that many of those U18 players are not just their heroes now, they are set to be the stars their cheer on over their TV screens in the years to come as they work their own way through the age-groups. Tom Curtis, the Sedbergh skipper, plays for England U19 next weekend. Among the 720 or so players in action in this Prep School tournament lies another Curtis and many more like him.
Prep Schools Final Group Standings:
|Pos||Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D||Group E|
|1||Downsend||The Downs Malvern||Lord Wandsworth||Oratory Prep||Summer Fields|
|2||The Downs||Thomas’s Clapham||Shrewsbury House||St Paul’s||St John’s, Northwood|
|3||IAPS Kenya||Epsom College||Bedford Prep||Stonyhurst St Mary’s||King’s Hall|
|4||King’s House||Merchiston Castle||St John’s Beaumont||Moulsford Prep||KCS Wimbledon|
|5||Cheltenham College||Dollar Academy||Felsted||Llandaff Cathedral||Sedbergh Prep|
|6||Llandovery College||Worth||Aysgarth||The Pilgrims’||Ibstock Place|
|Pos||Group F||Group G||Group H||Group I||Group J|
|1||Dean Close Prep||Aldwickbury||Cranmore||Aldro||Millfield Prep|
|2||The Elms||Feltonfleet||St John’s-on-the-Hill||Clifton College Prep||St Olave’s, York|
|3||Beaudesert Park||Danes Hill||Rokeby||Hoe Bridge||Caldicott Prep|
|4||The Hall||Wetherby Prep||Cumnor House||All Hallows||Dulwich Prep|
|5||Wycliffe College Prep||Prestfelde Prep||Cundall Manor||Middlesex Schools||OBH|
|6||Terra Nova||Newland House||Lanesborough||Ampleforth St Martin’s||Holmewood House|