The excitement was high ahead of the opening weekend of the school season and that anticipation was served well with a stunning opening round of games.
Already we have seen performances from some teams that suggest big things from a number of schools, tries were flying in and some that were doing the rounds on social media were quite simply sensational.
We wrote prior to the weekend of the high quality of play now seen from players regardless of the number on their back and that was more in evidence over the weekend than perhaps even last season, look at Denstone College’s highlights from their 52-3 victory over King’s Macclesfield, for instance, forwards running superb lines and showing excellent handling.
So we have definitely learned that this season should be even more exciting in terms of quality across the board and witnessing high skillsets, but we have also seen the first few signs of which sides might be making their way towards the top of the tree this year.
As ever we first look back at those ten featured fixtures from our preview and ten different but interesting fixtures they turned out to be. After their success in the St Joseph’s Festival last year, RGS Newcastle arrived into the season with plenty of expectation and boy did they deliver. Playing at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park, just a day after England were playing in the same city, they put on a brilliant show to beat their old rivals Durham by a highly impressive 45-19 margin, really setting things alight for the season to come.
We also talked Rugby School up a fair bit in the build up to this opening weekend and they certainly delivered too, beating Oakham 40-17 at the home of rugby to lay down a heavy marker for the season ahead.
Meanwhile in the south an equally firm marker was being laid down by Seaford College. They hosted a much fancied Hurstpierpoint College side on Saturday and secured a good 20-12 victory in a fiercely competitive game. With Hurstpierpoint still highly rated, the real takeaway from that game is that Seaford are also definitely going to be a side to keep an eye on this year.
Two sides that we knew were always going to be worth watching were Sedbergh and Whitgift. They met on Sunday lunchtime in probably the most anticipated fixture of the weekend, given that Sedbergh hold the Daily Mail Trophy, Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, and Sedbergh 10s titles and Whitgift added the prestigious pre-season Esher President’s Cup to last year’s Schools Cup title. So Whitgift arrived a known top quality outfit, but it was Sedbergh that took an impressive 27-7 victory, a victory that suggests that anyone who thought there could be any significant slip from last year’s great heights is very mistaken.
Over in Oxford we had the first Oxford derby of the season as St Edward’s hosted Abingdon. Abingdon enjoyed a strong tour to South America over the summer and that served them well as they impressed for a 15-0 victory, a result that will doubtless have them feeling excited about their defence as much as their attack.
There was a fantastic match in south west London as St Paul’s hosted Epsom College. It all went horribly wrong for St Paul’s in this fixture last season, while Epsom proved to be one of the best around, however this year things were much tighter and a fantastic game of rugby unfolded. Epsom took the win, 26-17, but both came out with plenty of credit.
Marlborough College continued where they left off last season, which was a Schools Cup semi final, as they travelled to Stowe and came home with an excellent 24-10 victory. Could another strong season be in the offing? There’s certainly no reason to suspect not.
The Warwick/Bromsgrove rivalry has been a brilliant one over the last few years and it really proved so again this weekend as Bromsgrove traveled to the men in blue and white. We predicted Warwick to come out on top, but it was Bromsgrove that came out with the bragging rights after and excellent 27-12 victory. Bromsgrove were in fine form, and though Jack Forsythe was missing for Warwick, both sides were well stocked. Warwick opened the scoring in the first few minutes with a driving maul in the corner from a penalty. Bromsgrove’s answered with scores from Lewis Harper and Cameron Ritchie, and there were three further Bromsgrove tries in the second half, through Jacob Harris, Nic Jacobson, and Lewis Harper. Warwick tightened things up in the dying minutes with a late score but the spoils deservedly went to Bromsgrove. Expect plenty more from these two later on in the season again!
Another side that really impressed on Saturday was the Champions Trophy holders, Wellington College, for whom thirteen of their starting fifteen started in their U15 Schools Cup triumph a couple of years ago. They hosted Dulwich College on Saturday and after a good showing at the President’s Cup they were favourites, however they went beyond even that prediction with a brilliant display for a dominant 31-0 victory that will have plenty of other sides sitting up and taking notice.
Plenty will be sitting up and taking notice of St Peter’s, York, too. They travelled to Woodhouse Grove and the two sides put on a top game, unsurprisingly given both sides’ outstanding form over the last couple of seasons. Away wins are never easy though but St Peter’s managed it, securing a 33-26 victory that will have them eyeing up the rest of the season with plenty of confidence.
Around the Grounds
The beauty of the opening couple of weekends is that just about every game ends up being noteworthy in some way, even if it is just simply helping to gauge where each team is sitting relative to one another. However this one was spectacular, there was so much going on all over the county.
John Fisher grabbed plenty of headlines after their first win at Eton College in a decade, 26-17, while Felsted proved their undoubted quality with a 24-8 victory over one of last year’s big climbers, Norwich.
Life for Barnard Castle under the stewardship of former England scrum half Lee Dickson, more on that later this week, got off to a great start as they secured a 53-0 win away at Dame Allan’s. Clifton College meanwhile looked every bit as good as last year with a 34-3 victory at Monmouth.
One of the most competitive games of the weekend had to be Berkhamsted v Harrow, a brilliant game of rugby that Harrow won by a score, 27-20, but that suggest that both have really promising seasons ahead. So too Brighton College v St John’s Leatherhead, Brighton were in good form for a 20-10 win but both played well and ought to be able to look forward to plenty of enjoyable action over the following months.
Millfield also look in a good place as they beat Canford 29-18 away from home for a strong start to the season, meanwhile in Bristol there was home excitement as Bristol Grammar beat Sir Thomas Rich’s 33-10, a result that looks like a very impressive one.
One of the games of the day was a real nailbiter between Judd and Eltham College, it could really have gone either way but it was Judd that edged it, securing a 27-26 victory on their home patch.
Cranleigh also got off to a cracking start with a 27-10 victory at Tonbridge, the two also trained together at a variety of age-groups, on of many exciting new ideas that a number of school implemented on the opening weekend. Another was a triangular with Prior Park College, Colston’s, and QEH, a triangular that Colston’s came out on top in, beating Prior Park 10-0 and QEH 5-0.
Reigate Grammar had a tough old year last year but were off to a flyer this year with a 49-7 win over Tiffin, meanwhile RGS High Wycombe, Dean Close, and Wisbech Grammar all won good contests.
In the north west St Ambrose got off to a flyer with a 32-0 win at Wilmslow High, traditionally a really tricky fixture, while Sandbach were also on flying form, though few were quite in the form of one side in the south east, Sutton Valence, who scored a staggering 74 points.
One of the real stories of the weekend was a quite brilliant 50-7 away win at Portsmouth Grammar for Eastbourne College, a result that must surely now have many a keen eye on them over the next few weeks – a firing Eastbourne side is always a good sign in schools rugby.
Oundle got off to the perfect start with a really impressive 24-0 victory over Bedford, while Sherborne are also looking formidable after the opening weekend’s play, they secured an truly excellent 29-3 victory over Bishop Wordsworth’s. Campion ought also to be delighted with their work on Saturday, a standout 29-0 win at St Benedict’s.
We spoke earlier of Denstone College’s start to the season, and it really was majestic, a brilliant 52-3 home win over King’s Macclesfield. Keep an eye out for Denstone this year for sure. Uppingham also kicked off well, a 21-3 win over The Leys, while local rivals Stamford were superb against Nottingham High, winning 55-0. Mill Hill were even more points-happy, running in an impressive 64. The Perse meanwhile kept things much closer in a real ding dong battle with New Hall, eventually emerging narrow 22-19 victors.
Cheltenham College have started off well, a 23-12 victory at a good Malvern College side, while Haileybury also kicked off well, 19-12 at their magnificent home ground against Royal Hospital School. The home side were on top throughout but a failure to take chances and the ferocity of RHS around the ruck area and their tackling meant RHS stayed in the fight. RHS were always a threat behind and scored a couple of well taken tries with some excellent offloading and support play. Tries from Christiaan Cavalli-Warby and Callum Mcgurk as well as two conversions from fly half Louis Aywlin gave the home team a 12-7 half time lead. The outstanding Harry Jinks scored for Haileybury from 9 to take the score to 19-7 and for a period it looked like Haileybury could run away with it. To RHS’ credit they dug in and almost snatched a draw in a tense ending.
In Scotland Merchiston Castle were in good form, so too the likes of Loretto, Glasgow Academy, and George Watson’s, who were flying along for a 53-13 victory over Dollar Academy.
Wimbledon College would have enjoyed their first outing, a 27-17 victory at Emanuel, though not as much as Sevenoaks who beat a Caterham side that really were excellent last year but a superb 43-20 margin.
Of course the action all kicked off on Friday night though and it was through one of the stars of the last few seasons, Kirkham Grammar School, that the touch paper was lit. They were sensational for a stunning 59-5 victory over Llandovery College, traditionally one of the best in Wales, suggesting a strong season is once again in the offing for Kirkham.
As we say every season and every week, please do get in touch with your stories, photos, videos, reports, and opinions from the weekend’s school rugby. It all makes a massive difference and allows us to feature your school and your team! You can get in touch via any of the below methods:
Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Focus On Fixtures:
RGS Newcastle 45-19 Durham
Rugby 40-17 Oakham
Seaford College 20-12 Hurstpierpoint College
Sedbergh 27-7 Whitgift (Sunday)
St Edward’s, Oxford 0-15 Abingdon
St Paul’s 17-26 Epsom College
Stowe 10-24 Marlborough College
Warwick 12-27 Bromsgrove
Wellington College 31-0 Dulwich College
Woodhouse Grove 26-33 St Peter’s, York
Ashford 17-5 Kent College
Berkhamsted 20-27 Harrow
Bishop Vesey’s GS 39-0 Trent College
Bloxham 26-15 Magdalen College
Bradford GS 33-18 Ampleforth College
Brighton College 20-10 St John’s Leatherhead
Bristol GS 33-10 Sir Thomas Rich’s
Canford 18-29 Millfield
Caterham 20-43 Sevenoaks
Cheadle Hulme 24-12 Altrincham GS
Christ’s Hospital 43-10 Robert Clack
City of London Freemen’s 13-3 Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Clayesmore 0-32 Monkton Combe
Clifton College 34-3 Monmouth
Coopers’ Coborn 19-21 RGS Colchester
Dame Allan’s 0-53 Barnard Castle
Dartford GS 10-5 Sir Joseph Williamson’s
Denstone College 52-3 King’s Macclesfield
Dollar Academy 13-53 George Watson’s
Edinburgh Academy 24-36 Stewart’s Melville
Emanuel 17-27 Wimbledon College
Eton College 17-26 John Fisher
Felsted 24-8 Norwich
Framlingham College 0-14 Gresham’s
Glasgow HS 60-12 Hutchesons’ GS
Glenalmond 10-7 Fettes College
Grammar School at Leeds 27-21 Manchester GS
Haileybury 19-12 Royal Hospital School
Judd 27-26 Eltham College
KCS Wimbledon 15-24 RGS Guildford
Kelvinside Academy 19-29 Glasgow Academy
KES Bath 10-25 Kingswood
KES Southampton 5-32 Halliford
King’s Canterbury 14-15 Duke of York’s RMS
King Henry VIII, Coventry 47-19 Princethorpe College
The Leys 3-21 Uppingham
Loretto 22-0 Robert Gordon’s College
Malvern College 12-23 Cheltenham College
Merchiston Castle 39-20 George Heriot’s
Mill Hill 64-7 QES Barnet
Milton Abbey 31-5 Warminster
Nottingham HS 0-55 Stamford
Oswestry 19-29 Liverpool College
Oundle 24-0 Bedford
Pate’s GS 10-36 The Crypt
The Perse 22-19 New Hall
Portsmouth GS 7-50 Eastbourne College
Prior Park College v Colston’s v QEH (Triangular) – Colston’s 5-0 QEH, Prior Park 0-10 Colston’s
Ratcliffe College 10-5 KES Birmingham
Reed’s 21-0 Gordon’s
Reigate GS 49-7 Tiffin
RGS High Wycombe 26-21 Reading Blue Coat
RGS Worcester 14-27 Dean Close
Rydal Penrhos 17-57 Newcastle-Under-Lyme
Sherborne 29-3 Bishop Wordsworth’s
Skinners’ 25-20 Langley Park
Solihull 34-16 King’s Worcester
St Albans 29-22 Bishop’s Stortford HS
St Benedict’s 0-29 Campion
St Dunstan’s 0-31 Colfe’s
St Joseph’s College 41-14 Bishop’s Stortford College
St Olave’s GS 36-7 Wallington CGS
Stockport GS 21-42 Sandbach
Sutton Valence 74-5 St Lawrence College
Tonbridge 10-27 Cranleigh
UCS 48-5 St George’s, Harpenden
Watford GS 52-0 Richard Hale
Wellingborough 15-24 Leicester GS
Wellington 20-12 Exeter
Wilmslow HS 0-32 St Ambrose College
Woodbridge 22-26 Wisbech GS
Yarm 3-33 Hymers College
Kirkham GS 59-5 Llandovery College