The opening weekend of the 2018/19 Schools Rugby season certainly lived up to expectations as we saw some thrilling games of rugby and some wonderfully exciting play right across the country.
The spectacular offloading and free-thinking style of rugby that had perpetuated pre-season was in plenty of evidence in this first weekend of the regular season, and looks as though it is here to stay!
In general it looks like being a very competitive season, based on the weekend, with a lot of schools all in very close proximity to each other from a performance point of view – setting us up for a season to remember.
Our ten ‘Focus On’ fixtures certainly provided plenty of entertainment. Not least Whitgift v Sedbergh, starting at midday it was one of the early ones from our featured list and it certainly kicked things off in style.
There was little to choose between the two sides, perhaps unsurprisingly given what is expected of both this year, and with just seconds left on the clock they were level at 24-24. However in the final play of the game Sedbergh’s Cooke went crashing over to give his side the lead, with fly half and captain Tom Curtis landing the extras for a sensational and dramatic opening day 31-24 victory away from home for last year’s dominant school side.
That many have been an early kick off, but even early was one of the great occasions of every season, the RGS Newcastle v Durham derby held at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park. The game was played with a real positive spirit, with RGS Newcastle taking home the spoils after an excellent performance 29-10, leaving them looking ahead at challenges to come with great positivity.
One of the other massive derbies was the Rutland derby between Oakham and Uppingham. Oakham hosted having won the last 9 in a row and they made that 10 with a 19-12 victory. It was a well contested game though, with both sides showing plenty of quality and Uppingham showing that they will be a tough side to beat this year.
St George’s College Weybridge and Reed’s also met for their derby, however the game was used as a competitive training game, it was broken into quarters with no scores recorded. However after both had brilliant seasons last year, this will have proved a useful session as they look to keep on that strong sense of achievement form last year.
There was another big derby game to kick things off in the West Midlands as the two most recent Schools Cup winners went head to head, Warwick and Bromsgrove. Both sides played some very exciting and adventurous rugby, but it was the home side and the reigning Schools Cup champions, Warwick, who claimed the spoils and get their season off to the perfect start.
Not quite so perfect as Millfield though, who were in sensational form against Canford on their famous Jubilee pitch, winning 60-3 in a game that saw a few law tweaks and other innovations to ease into the season. Indeed across the block there were plenty of tweaks, including a graduated return to contact for some of the junior sides who had not had the benefit of pre-season fixtures. Millfield look as though they are in rude health for the 2018/19 season.
St Peter’s York and Woodhouse Grove both enjoyed highly impressive campaigns last time out, and both look strong again this year as they opened their season with an exciting Yorkshire derby. St Peter’s took the spoils last year, but this time it was Woodhouse Grove that came away the happier of the two, securing a 32-15 victory.
One game that had plenty of buzzing anticipation ahead of it was the Cranleigh v Brighton College fixture. These two have built up a real rivalry recently so to kick off the season with this game was an awesome way to start. Cranleigh took the spoils last year, but it was Brighton who secured the win this time. They played some spectacular rugby for a 15-7 victory that their performance perhaps deserved even better from. As one observer put it: “Pep Guardiola needs to come and watch (Brighton College) to see what pace and creativity in sport looks like. The offloads, instant tap penalties, offloads from the floor, and the fronting up in every department were amazing to watch.”
Two of last year’s strongest sides were Wellington College and Champions Trophy winners Dulwich College. This is always a superb fixture to kick off the new season, and so it proved once again with two outstanding sides going head to head in brilliant fashion. Dulwich took an early lead but Wellington found back and in a glorious ten second-half minutes they sealed the game with a hugely intense period of play. Dulwich scored late on though, a beauty that they fully deserved to leave the final score at 27-14 to Wellington. You can see our report form that game here: Wellington College off to a winning start at Dulwich.
Finally to a game that is always special, the first game of the school season at the home of rugby, Rugby School. As has been the case for a couple of years now, King’s Macclesfield were the visitors, chasing a first win on the famous Close field. However the guests could not break their duck as Rugby put in a tremendous performance for a 32-8 victory, kicking off their season in style.
Around the Grounds
There was plenty of exciting rugby going on across the rest of the school grounds on Saturday too, not least Cheltenham College picking up where they left of last year, unbeaten after beating Malvern College 20-0.
Harrow also continued last year’s excellent form, beating a good Berkhamsted side 27-17. KES Bath won a big derby in the South West as they played some excellent rugby to see off hosts Kingswodd 24-13.
The Leys had a great start to the season under new man in charge Simon Thomas, on of the masterminds behind Dulwich College’s success over the last six or seven years, they put on a show ahead of their Old Boys game, winning 59-0 against Bedford Modern.
One of the entertaining parts of these early season games is trying to work out which sides will be challenging right at the top end this year. Early evidence suggests that Epsom College might after they were highly impressive in a 58-12 victory over St Paul’s.
There was good news for Colston’s too, who welcomed Abingdon and QEH for a triangular, beating both schools without conceding a point to get themselves off to an ideal start.
Early season wins for Bradford Grammar and Barnard Castle were a sign of good things to come from them, while Eltham College took a very impressive 42-16 win at home to Judd. Campion’s impressed in 2017/18 and look in great nick again this year, beating St Benedict’s 16-9.
Caterham enjoyed a 33-0 win over KCS Wimbledon with tries from Jude Williams, Fin Lock, and man of the match Tyler Norwood. Sometimes though sport is simply a distraction from reality, and the brace from Wes Poku was just that. The young man recently lost his father but showed tremendous courage and determination simply to play. His performance and efforts left teammates deeply proud as was new head of rugby Wade Kelly, a strength of courage and play that doubtless would have made his late father proud too.
Nobody could fail to have been impressed by Denstone College last year, who slipped somewhat under the radar despite a superb season. They showed that they are again a side to watch out for as they beat Schools Vase champions Langley 45-21 at Leicester Tigers’ training ground, Oval Park. Dean Close were another that impressed last year and have continued that, beating Dean Close 43-12.
New Hall looked good in their opener, beating The Perse 38-0, while Soihull condemned King’s Worcester to a second defeat of the week with an impressive 41-3 victory. Haileybury meanwhile started well at Royal Hospital School, winning 22-3. You can see a report from that game here: Haileybury open with a win in Suffolk.
Marlborough College v Stowe always looked like being a key early season fixture and for Marlborough it turned into the perfect way to start as they showed their growing confidence and quality with a 39-14 victory. Clifton College were another side impressing, they were good last year and look set for another good season after they kicked off with a 39-7 win at Monmouth.
Norwich School could be work keeping an eye on this season, they certainly impressed on Saturday when securing a tight 24-22 win over Felsted, a side who have been strong for a fair few years. There was an even tighter game in the North West as St Ambrose and Wilmslow High School thrilled spectators as they could not be separated, ending a 21-21 draw.
Seaford College were on fire, beating Gordon’s 68-9, while Bishop Vesey’s were in point scoring form away to Trent College, Churcher’s College meanwhile impressed with a superb 43-7 win at Worth.
Among the games expected to be a really tough challenge was Sir Thomas Rich’s v Bristol Grammar, a tough on to call and so it proved as Tommies claimed a tight home victory, 24-17.
One of the most impressive results of the weekend, at least historically speaking, was Hurstpierpoint College’s victory at Tonbridge. Hurstpierpoint caught a few people by surprise last year by taking a massive scalp early on in the form of Brighton College and they have done so again this year with an opening day victory over Tonbridge. Keep an eye on them over the next few weeks.
There was just the one game on Friday but it was a big one as Kirkham Grammar School, one of the strongest sides in England over the last few years, travelled to Oswestry RFC to take on Llandovery College, historically one of the very best in Wales. The English side were in spectacular form, looking mighty once again for a 59-7 victory to add to their pre-season tournament win last weekend.
You can see a gallery of photos from the weekend’s action here: Schools Rugby Opening Weekend Photos.
A reminder that we welcome any photos, videos, and reports from your school’s games – the more the merrier! You can send them in to us via any of the methods below:
Schools Rugby Results – Saturday 8th September:
Cranleigh 7-15 Brighton College
Dulwich College 14-27 Wellington College
Millfield 60-3 Canford
Oakham 19-12 Uppingham
RGS Newcastle 29-10 Durham (Kingston Park)
Rugby 32-8 King’s Macclesfield
St George’s College, Weybridge v Reed’s (No score recorded)
St Peter’s York 15-32 Woodhouse Grove
Warwick 29-10 Bromsgrove
Whitgift 24-31 Sedbergh
Ampleforth College 7-10 Bradford GS
Bancroft’s 19-24 Brentwood
Barnard Castle 48-5 Dame Allan’s
Bell Baxter 7-41 Dundee HS
Bishop’s Stortford HS 26-5 St Albans
Campion 16-9 St Benedict’s
Caterham 33-0 KCS Wimbledon
Cheltenham College 20-0 Malvern College
City of London Freemen’s 27-7 Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Colfe’s 37-5 St Dunstan’s
Colston’s/Abingdon/QEH Triangular – Colston’s 2/2, 17-0 Abingdon, 33-0 QEH
Coopers’ Coborn 0-55 RGS Colchester
Crypt 22-7 Pate’s GS
Dean Close 43-12 RGS Worcester
Denstone College 45-21 Langley (Oval Park)
Dollar Academy 7-52 Merchiston Castle
Eastbourne College 32-17 King’s Canterbury
Edinburgh Academy 10-21 Strathallan
Eltham College 42-16 Judd
Epsom College 58-12 St Paul’s
Fettes College 41-22 Glenalmond College
George Watson’s College 37-5 Stewart’s Melville
Glasgow Academy 0-31 St Aloysius’ College
Gresham’s 28-3 Framlingham College
Halliford 56-10 KES Southampton
Harrow 27-17 Berkhamsted
Hymers College 47-8 Yarm
Ipswich 31-20 Wisbech GS
Kent College 5-19 Ashford
King’s Worcester 3-41 Solihull
Kingswood 13-24 KES Bath
Langley Park 5-33 Skinners’
Leicester GS 31-19 Wellingborough
The Leys 59-0 Bedford Modern
Liverpool College 27-0 Oswestry
London Oratory 18-36 Emanuel
Lord Wandsworth College 0-50 Reading Blue Coat
Magdalen College 26-17 Bloxham
Manchester GS 12-34 Grammar School at Leeds
Marlborough College 39-14 Stowe
Monkton Combe 56-14 Clayesmore
Monmouth 7-39 Clifton College
Newcastle-Under-Lyme 15-10 Rydal Penrhos
New Hall 38-0 The Perse
Northampton SfB 38-0 Loughborough GS
Norwich 24-22 Felsted
Pocklington 27-6 Ashville College
QES Barnet 9-29 Mill Hill
Ravens Wood 34-0 Trinity 2nd XV
RGS Guildford 29-21 Portsmouth GS
Richard Hale 55-15 Watford GS
Robert Gordon’s College 35-15 Loretto
Royal Hospital School 3-22 Haileybury
Seaford College 68-9 Gordon’s
Sevenoaks 19-21 Bishop’s Stortford College
Sherborne 11-22 Bishop Wordsworth
Sir Thomas Rich’s 24-17 Bristol GS
Stamford 26-7 Nottingham HS
St Ambrose College 21-21 Wilmslow HS
St Columba’s College 14-34 Haberdashers
St John’s Leatherhead 34-7 Wimbledon College
St Lawrence College 14-26 Sutton Valence
Stonyhurst College 5-26 Mount St Mary’s College
Tiffin 6-8 Reigate GS
Tonbridge 13-22 Hurstpierpoint College
Trent College 5-79 Bishop Vesey’s GS
Wallington CGS 7-28 St Olave’s GS
Warminster 26-10 Milton Abbey
Windsor Boys 19-34 Shiplake College
Worth 7-43 Churcher’s College
Wycliffe College 38-0 Wells Cathedral
Llandovery College 7-59 Kirkham Grammar School (Friendly)
Still to Come:
Bedford v Oundle v Eton College
Dauntsey’s v King’s Bruton
KES Birmingham v Wrekin College
Kelvinside Academy v Glasgow HS
King’s College Taunton v Queen’s College Taunton v Taunton School
Old Swinford Hospital v Ellesmere College