For just about every school, this weekend marks the final fixture of a fantastic term of rugby.
There have been hundreds of genuinely outstanding games of rugby this year as across the board schools have adopted a real ‘have a go’ policy, making the game not only fun for those playing, but also those watching. There was been some truly spectacular pieces of play, right across the spectrum.
This last weekend remains vital though, for some sides it is the chance to complete the dream unbeaten season, for others a chance to make sure the season finishes as a positive one, and for others an opportunity simply to end the season on a high.
School rugby might be the best rugby many playing this weekend will ever play, for some it may even be the last rugby they ever play, for all it is the last time they will play with this group of people. So most of all, enjoy it and savour every second.
Berkhamsted v Haileybury
Haileybury won a third county cup title in a row on Wednesday evening, but they are so much more than a county cup side these days, they are one of the strongest schools on the circuit. They have lost just twice all season, and only by a cumulative total of six points. Beating Berkhamsted would complete a remarkable season, but it will be far from easy, Berkhamsted have some outstanding results of their own, not least a draw with Felsted, one of the two sides to have beaten Haileybury, so expect a tough game.
Bishop Wordsworth’s v Whitgift – Schools Cup quarter final
This fixture has been hastily re-arranged from January to this Saturday at 13.30, and what a game it promises to be. The other three semi finalists are known, QEGS Wakefield, Northampton School for Boys, and reigning champions Warwick, so these two know the sort of opposition that victory would bring. Whitgift are one of the best in the country, but injuries are troubling them slightly at the moment. Bishop Wordsworth’s reached last year’s final, but they were struggling at the start of the season, however in the last few weeks they have found that form that took them to Twickenham last year, not least with a thumping win over Dean Close in the last round. This has the potential to be the best of the lot in terms of quarter finals, and quite possibly the best game of the weekend.
Prediction: Bishop Wordsworth’s
Cheltenham College v Blundell’s
What a game this is! Cheltenham College are unbeaten and a win on Saturday would secure an unbeaten season and guarantee a very high finish in the Daily Mail Trophy. In Blundell’s they face a seriously good opponent though, one of the best they have faced all year, if not the best. However, how tired are Blundell’s after losing a thrilling Champions Trophy final on Wednesday? Perhaps more importantly, can they use that disappointment as fuel to go again even better, or will it leave a hangover? The answer to those two questions could be key. What is for certain is that this is two of the best sides in the country going head to head, it could be an epic.
Prediction: Cheltenham College
Clifton College v Canford
Another mighty game between two top teams. Clifton College definitely arrive in better form, having won their last two, while Canford have lost theirs, but over the season Canford have the better record. Canford suffered a big defeat in the Cup to Warwick in midweek though, how they respond to that might be the key here. If both are at their best then this has the potential to be a spectacular game for both sides to end their season with, it could go either way, which always make for a superb occasion.
Dean Close v Kingswood
In some ways this game is a little bit of a shame. Up until a few weeks ago there was a real feeling that this game could be a spectacular unbeaten season play-off. As it turns out, that is not to be, but the mere fact that it was on the cards shows you what a fantastic game of rugby this promises to be. We are talking about two superb teams, Dean Close reached the last 16 of the Schools Cup, Kingswood the semi finals of the Champions Trophy, and both have been flying high in the Daily Mail Trophy. All the signs point to an absolute cracker, and if you are in the area then this is a game that is not to be missed.
Prediction: Dean Close
Dulwich College v Hampton
Dulwich College were spectacular in attack on Wednesday as they won the Champions Trophy in an absolute thriller against Blundell’s. In doing so they became the first side ever to have won both the Champions Trophy and the U18 Schools Cup, it truly was a magnificent achievement. One of their big rivals during those Cup winning years was Hampton, so it is fitting that Hampton are their first opponents after this triumph. On paper, Dulwich are the favourites, but after such a draining game, and most likely post-game celebrations, will they be able to get up to that level again on Saturday? Either way, it should be a superb and excitable atmosphere, and Hampton will provide just as much entertainment themselves.
Prediction: Dulwich College
Marlborough College v Cranleigh
Perhaps somewhat quietly, Cranleigh have been one of the best and most consistent teams in the country this year. It really should not be a surprise, they are the 2016 and 2017 HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s champions and were the 2016 St Joseph’s Festival champions. A win at Marlborough College would give them another huge accolade to go alongside those trophies, and unbeaten season. They truly have been magnificent. It will not be easy against Marlborough though. Marlborough had a tough old start to the season but over the last few weeks they have shown some real form and will want to end on a real high, and taking the scalp of a side like Cranleigh really would be just that.
QEGS Wakefield v Sedbergh
Two of the most famous and prestigious rugby names not just on their circuit and in the region, but in the entire country. On Wednesday sealed the Daily Mail Trophy title after backing up their bonus point win over Wellington College with a huge bonus point win over Millfield. They truly are an astonishing side. On Tuesday though, QEGS showed their own quality with a Cup win over King’s Macclesfield, sending them through to the semi finals for the second year in a row. That sets us up for a spectacular clash on Saturday. A win for Sedbergh would put the icing on the cake of this wonderful season, as it would complete the perfect unbeaten season. For QEGS it would be their biggest scalp of the season, what better way to prepare for a huge semi final.
St Michael’s College (Dublin) v Wellington College
What an awesome fixture this is, one of the very best in Ireland hosting one of the very best in England. The only shame is Wellington’s spectacular injury list, which might deny us the ultimate spectacle we were hoping for. Either way, this is a huge occasion, and hopefully paves the way for more games between England’s elite and the best in Ireland, where schoolboy rugby right now is being played at an unbelievably high level. These top level clashes build excitement, friendships, and ambition, and Saturday should be no different, it has the potential to be a classic.
Prediction: St Michael’s College
Warwick v Bromsgrove – Cancelled
Around the Grounds
There are plenty of massive games elsewhere too, in the North East there is a big derby between two of the most famous sides in school rugby, Barnard Castle and RGS Newcastle. The two always enjoy a good contest, so expect another on Saturday.
Staying in Yorkshire, St Peter’s York look to finish off yet another cracking season on Saturday when they head to Pocklington. The York men have been one of the top sides in the region and the country over the last few years. Ampleforth College, for a long time one of the biggest names in school rugby, make the trip down to a good Worksop College side for what promises to be another excellent game.
There is some great rugby in the midlands too, not least in Oxford, where Abingdon host Bedford, with both sides looking to do some great work to end their season’s in style, while local rivals Radley College are also hosting, as they welcome Oundle, to town.
Oakham have won five on the spin, and have a chance to make it six on Saturday when they welcome Stowe to Doncaster Close. A win for the hosts would send them into Christmas feeling hugely positive about a season that was tough at first but has become excellent over the last month.
The side that Oakham beat on Wednesday, King’s Parramatta, travel to Queen Ethelburga’s on Saturday. The Australians were good value in a narrow defeat in midweek, so Queen Ethelburga’s will need to be at their absolute best to stop them on Saturday.
In the South east there is a massive clash as Epsom College make the short trip to St John’s Leatherhead. It is the last game of the season for both schools, and a win would really give a positive glow to the year. St John’s have had a good season, reaching the Champions Trophy semi finals being a particular high point, but there will be a few games they would have liked to have won that they didn’t, a win on Saturday would be massive. For Epsom it has been a tough one, though the tough nature of their fixture lists slightly skews the stats, they are much better than results suggest, and they will be keen to prove that on Saturday.
Of course all over the country there are some fantastic games, and for every side this weekend is a special one. It would be superb to be able to feature every single game, for whether a big school or small, successful or not, each season is huge for everyone involved.
With that in mind, do please send in your reports from the weekend’s games or if you are feeling particularly energetic you could send in a season summary, we would love to be able to feature as many schools as possible after such a brilliant term of rugby!
There is a huge game in Yorkshire on Friday night as two great rivals go head to head, Bradford Grammar School at Woodhouse Grove. Woodhouse Grove probably arrive as favourites based on results this season so far, but in a derby like this anything can happen and form goes out of the window.
In London there is another exciting derby, with Mill Hill and UCS going head to head in what promises to be a cracking game of rugby.
Kirkham Grammar School are also in action on Friday, their second game of the week, as the host the South African tourists Rhino Rugby.
As always, if you have any videos, photos, or reports from the weekend’s rugby, please feel free to send them in via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby), Instagram (@fifteenrugbyxv), or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures – Saturday 9th December (predictions in bold):
Berkhamsted v Haileybury (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bishop Wordsworth’s v Whitgift (Schools Cup QF)
Cheltenham College v Blundell’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Clifton College v Canford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dean Close v Kingswood (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dulwich College v Hampton (Daily Mail Trophy)
Marlborough College v Cranleigh (Daily Mail Trophy)
QEGS Wakefield v Sedbergh (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Michael’s College (Dublin) v Wellington College
Warwick v Bromsgrove (Daily Mail Trophy) – Cancelled
Around the Grounds
Abingdon v Bedford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Abraham Darby v Wrekin College
Barnard Castle v RGS Newcastle (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bishop’s Stortford HS v Watford GS
Brentwood v Dartford GS
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v Gravesend GS
City of London Freemen’s v Colfe’s
Clayesmore v Monkton Combe
Cobham International v Worth
Colston’s v Pate’s GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Cooper’s Coborn v St Dunstan’s College
Dauntsey’s v Lord Wandsworth College
Downside v Wycliffe College
Eastbourne College v Caterham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Fettes College v Dollar Academy
Giggleswick v King’s Macclesfield
Gresham’s v Langley
Hurstpierpoint College v Whitgift 2nd XV
Kelvinside Academy v Edinburgh RHS
KES Southampton v Seaford College
KES Stratford v Princethorpe College
King’s Worcester v Trent College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Lawrence Sheriff v Ratcliffe College
Liverpool College v St Anselm’s
Llandovery College v Plymouth College
London Oratory v Gunnersbury
Merchant Taylors’ v St Albans (Daily Mail Trophy)
Merichiston Castle v Glenalmond College
Monmouth v Solihull (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oakham v Stowe (Daily Mail Trophy)
Pocklington v St Peter’s, York (Daily Mail Trophy)
Prior Park College v KES Bath
Portsmouth GS v Wimbledon College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Queen Ethelburga’s v King’s Parramatta (Australia)
Radley College v Oundle (Daily Mail Trophy)
Reading Blue Coat v Magdalen College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Reed’s v KCS Wimbledon (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS Guildford v Skinners’ (Daily Mail Trophy)
Royal Hospital School v Framlingham College
Rugby v Malvern College
Shiplake College v Churcher’s College
Sir Joseph Williamson’s v Langley Park
Sir Thomas Rich’s v The Crypt
St Ambrose College v Cheadle Hulme
St Columba’s College v Latymer Upper
St John’s Leatherhead v Epsom College (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Joseph’s College v Culford
St Paul’s v Emanuel (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sutton Valence v King’s Canterbury
Taunton v King’s Bruton
Tiffin v St Benedict’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Trinity v St George’s College, Weybridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wallington CGS v Ravens Wood
Wells Cathedral v Queen’s College, Taunton
West Buckland v Mount Kelly
Woodbridge v King’s Ely
Worksop College v Ampleforth College
Yarm v Hymers College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bradford GS v Woodhouse Grove (Daily Mail Trophy)
Kirkham GS v Rhino Rugby (S.A.)
Mill Hill v UCS