We were treated to yet another brilliant weekend of schools rugby at the end of week three of this 2019/20 school season.
There were some upsets, some astonishingly good performances, and a number of hugely competitive games that really lit up the weekend. All this despite some games being lost to hard pitches on a weekend already slightly reduced due to some independent schools having exeats.
It was also a weekend that saw a couple of very special occasions. On Friday night Brighton College and Cardinal Newman met in the Noah Rees Foundation Game, raising over £2000 to aid Noah’s recovery from life-altering injuries, while giving over 50 boys the opportunity to pull on the shirt. Then on Saturday Wellington College and Whitgift met in the Seb Adeniran-Olule Foundation Game, raising funds in memory of Seb, a former pupil of both schools who tragically died in 2016, to help in the foundation’s aim of transforming the lives of disadvantaged young people through rugby.
This week will also see another special occasion as on Tuesday evening Clifton College host Millfield in the Ryan Bresnahan Memorial game, helping raise funds to find a cure for Meningitis B, which took the life of former Clifton College pupil, Bresnahan.
You can find details about all foundations here:
Among the emotion and the special atmospheres, some brilliant rugby broke out too, as it did across the rest of the country. In keeping with the opening two weeks selecting five teams for our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend was no easy task but a few performances and achievements did particularly stand out.
Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend
Aylesbury Grammar School have started the season off well. Really well. Big wins over Sir William Borlase’s and St Columba’s College kicked things off, but on Saturday they went a step further as they beat St Edward’s Oxford in a really tense game 22-17. They have been building, in 2018/19 they only lost one game, but St Edward’s a big big name in schools rugby and a scalp that ought to mean a huge amount to Aylesbury Grammar. It puts them on the map in a big way, and given their start to the season it could be just the beginning.
On Saturday Cranleigh made it three wins from three this season, beating Hampton 24-14 and earning a place in our Top 5 along with it. First Tonbridge were beaten, then they showed all of their attacking genius against Bishop Wordsworth’s, before then beating what is a very good Hampton side on Saturday. Looking ahead through their fixtures for the season, we could be on the verge of another special season from Cranleigh. Reports are that they are playing hugely exciting rugby that is also bursting with pride and passion in the shirt, three traits that should stand them in very good stead.
We have thrown a lot of superlatives at Rugby so far this season, but at the moment they are more than earning. On the opening weekend they defeated Oakham 40-17, then they stormed into Bedford and took a stunning 66-7 victory. On Saturday they travelled to Stowe and topped the lot, winning by a staggering 70-14 margin. Sure, the opposition might not be hitting their heights of some teams of the past, but take the names Oakham, Bedford, and Stowe to any school in the country and they will say that looks like a decent fixture list. At the moment Rugby are just playing some staggering rugby, Thursday will be a big one for them, they meet Harrow, but on current form it is hard to see too many sides standing in their way. Sensational form.
On the weekend of the start of the Rugby World Cup we were treated to a moment from Stamford’s Kieran Callnan that could have been plucked from the 1995 or 2003 finals, or even Dan Carter in the last World Cup final. Having surrendered an 11-3 lead, Stamford trailed 13-11 in the dying seconds against a Bromsgrove side that has marked itself out as one of the strongest teams around in these opening three weeks. With the last touch of the game though, Callnan stepped up and launched over a 35 metre drop goal to seal the most dramatic of victories, and with it a place in this week’s Top 5. A stunning end to the game, and one that should have the group bursting with enthusiasm ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bedford.
We have already spoken of the occasion at Wellington College v Whitgift on Saturday, which also included a lunch and auction as part of the effort for Seb’s Foundation, and really both sides deserve mention for their part on a day that went so far beyond the rugby. On the field though there is no doubting that both sides were fully engaged and ready for this one. Wellington put in a brilliant performance, backing up strong victories over Dulwich College and Northampton School for Boys with another highly impressive performance to earn a 31-8 victory over the reigning Schools Cup champions. With Millfield coming up on Saturday they have another massive game around the corner, but right now Wellington are looking outstanding.
There were a number of other standout performances across the weekend, of course, not least Epsom College whose 44-5 defeat of Eton College was just further evidence of what a fantastic side they appear to be this season. Dulwich College meanwhile really impressive in a tight and thrilling contest at Harrow to earn a 27-24 victory, while the likes of Dean Close, Canford and Seaford College were in strong try-scoring form, so to St John’s Leatherhead.
Haileybury made it three victories from three on Saturday with a tight 14-5 victory over old rivals Oundle, a performance that very nearly took them in to the Top 5. Campion also remain unbeaten and looking very strong so far this year.
One of the surprises of the weekend was an exciting 26-21 victory for St Albans over Bloxham, who will now have plenty paying attention to their results, so too a 25-17 victory for Norwich over St Joseph’s College. Berkhamsted meanwhile continue to impress, as they did last year, while Shiplake College were also among many sides not mentioned to put in an excellent performance on Saturday.