Epsom College secured their prestigious Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s on Wednesday afternoon.
In doing so they defeated the reigning champions, Cranleigh, 26-15, with a fantastic performance in the final.
Epsom had the perfect start, scoring in the very first minute of the match to give them a 5-0 lead. The momentum that created was irresistible and they quickly added to that tally for a 12-0 lead.
They had looked strong all day, beating topping a reduced group ahead of St George’s College and Hayes before beating Brighton College 19-10 in the last 16, the side they beat a couple of weeks ago in the final of the Hiscox Reigate Charity 7s.
Following that was a 21-7 victory over St Paul’s Catholic College before a thrilling semi final defeat of Dulwich College, 21-14. Dulwich had beaten Millfield, who had looked scintillating at times, but Epsom College were a bridge too far.
On the back of those performances then a 12-0 lead in the final should have come as now surprise, but Cranleigh had also been sensational all day. Attacking their title defence with real verve to come top of their pool, scoring 100 points in three games to head St Joseph’s, Emanuel, and Isleworth & Syon before wins over Rugby and Henley College in the first two knockout rounds.
A side of this quality then should never be written off, they were the reigning champions and finalists in last year’s HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s remember, and they showed all of the qualities needed in those runs to strike back, narrowing the first half gap to 12-5.
Often though, titles are won at all levels of the game by scoring at key times in the game, Epsom had already done that with that first minute strike and they did so again with one of the tries of the day right on the stroke of half time.
It was a killer blow for Cranleigh, who must have been tiring, surely, after an exhausting 17-14 win over Harrow in the semi final, where on the final whistle both sides could barely move from the field, such was their exhaustion.
They are made of stern stuff though and they came rampaging back in the second half, pressure forcing Epsom to concede a yellow card and then a try to close the game down to 19-10.
Still down to six though, Epsom responded, turning over a kick return to race away from a 26-10 lead. It was a superb mix first of tactical play to run down the clock, then of defensive pressure and technique to force the turnover, and then of attacking flair to break the line and race away to score.
There was time for Cranleigh to secure one more try, but right at the final whistle all it did was reduce the deficit to 26-15, leaving Epsom College as the deserved champions after a superb tournament and an outstanding display in the final.
With the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s and the Hiscox Reigate Charity 7s both on the mantelpiece Epsom must surely now be by far and away the favourites in the Vase tournament at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s.
However Cranleigh, with Epsom controversially playing the Vase rather than the Cup, must surely also be feeling confident heading into Rosslyn Park, they have proven once again to be one of the very best 7s sides in the country. Is a fourth final in a row a possibility?
Over in the Surrey Plate tournament, for the top 8 Surrey affiliated schools that did not reach the Cup knockouts, RGS Guildford claimed the title.
They finished second to Millfield in their group before recording a tight quarter final win over Caterham and a strong 47-7 victory over Emanuel in the semi final. They were on cracking form again in the final, beating Wimbledon College 36-5 to claim the Plate, won last year by St John’s.
Of course one of the great traditions of the Surrey 7s is that it is one of the great barometers of form ahead of Rosslyn Park and to that end there will certainly be no shortage of teams from the Surrey 7s in the hunt at Rosslyn Park.
From an AASE Colleges standpoint both Henley College and St Paul’s Catholic College looked strong, so too Beechen Cliff who only missed out on qualification on points difference.
Millfield looked frightening in attack at times, while Brighton College have Epsom as good a run for their money as anyone. Harrow too were outstanding, their semi final against Cranleigh was one of the great contests but equally impressive was their quarter final against Kirkham Grammar School, Kirkham looked excellent all day but Harrow secured a tidy 22-5 victory in that one.
Many others are worthy of mention, not least Dulwich College who thrilled throughout, particularly in their quarter final win over Millfield. Without doubt they are one of the most exciting to watch. Cranleigh, of course, were also fantastic and are certainly going to be one of the main contenders at Rosslyn Park.
Final word though must go to Epsom College who were brilliant and relentless all day. In winning two of the biggest competitions on the circuit, the Surrey 7s and Reigate 7s, the have unquestionably positioned themselves as one of the best teams in the entire country. Their play at times was simply sensational and the patience they showed was a lesson for all. In the final though it was all about scoring in those ‘championship minutes’ in topping and tailing the first half with tries they struck blows that it was almost impossible for Cranleigh to recover from. The only shame is that we will not get to see them go head to head with the best from other regions at Rosslyn Park.
Once again though, a sensational tournament at the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s and a brilliant, brilliant, winning team, Epsom College.
Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s Results:
Champions – Epsom College
Plate – RGS Guildford
Edwin Doran Surrey Senior Schools 7s:
Epsom College 26-15 Cranleigh
Cranleigh 17-14 Harrow
Epsom College 21-14 Dulwich College
Cranleigh 28-19 Henley College
Harrow 22-5 Kirkham Grammar
Millfield 14-22 Dulwich College
Epsom College 21-7 St Paul’s Catholic College
Cranleigh 24-14 Rugby
St John’s Leatherhead 14-26 Henley College
Wellington College 19-34 Harrow
Whitgift 14-26 Kirkham Grammar
Millfield 38-14 UCS
John Fisher 0-31 Dulwich College
Epsom College 19-10 Brighton College
St Paul’s Catholic College 38-26 Hartpury College
RGS Guildford 36-5 Wimbledon College
Hampton 21-24 Wimbledon College
Emanuel 7-47 RGS Guildford
Hampton 33-7 Trinity
Wimbledon College 21-12 St George’s College
George Abbot 12-27 Emanuel
RGS Guildford 22-19 Caterham
Final Group Standings (*Best 3 runners up):
|Pos||Group A||Group B||Group C|
|1||Cranleigh||St John’s Leatherhead||Henley College|
|2||St Joseph’s College||Oaklands College||Beechen Cliff|
|4||Isleworth & Syon||N/A||Eastbourne College|
|Pos||Group D||Group E||Group F|
|3||Wallington CGS||KCS Wimbledon||St Benedict’s|
|4||Harris City Academy||Victoria College||Orleans Park|
|Pos||Group G||Group H||Group I|
|1||Kirkham Grammar||Millfield||John Fisher|
|2||Hampton||RGS Guildford||Marlborough College|
|4||Weston College||Royal Alexandra||London Oratory|
|Pos||Group J||Group K||Group L|
|1||Dulwich College||Epsom College||Brighton College|
|2||Hurstpierpoint College||St George’s College||Eton College|
|1||St Paul’s CC|
|4||St Olave’s Grammar|