It was great to have schools rugby back after what has seemed a long half term break, and it certainly lived up to the expectations built up over the first half of term.
The competitiveness on show was just outstanding, with so many games coming down to just a handful of points. What was most pleasing of all though was the quality of the rugby that sides continue to strive to play, despite the weather being distinctly more wintry than when most sides last took to the field.
As ever though, we tasked ourselves with narrowing all of those impressive performances down to just 5 stand out teams for our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend. A task that seems to get harder with each passing week!
Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend
Aylesbury Grammar School
Aylesbury Grammar have been having a great season, only Reading Blue Coat had beaten them prior to half term. However Northampton School for Boys were always going to be a massive test for them, NSB had taken on some massive schools such as Kirkham Grammar School, and had beaten the likes of Bedford, they were battle hardened and a huge test. Aylesbury Grammar dug deep though, oh so deep, scoring in the dying moments to secure a 19-15 victory and a deserved place in this week’s Top 5.
Barnard Castle were the favourites for victory over Ampleforth College on Saturday, they have looked in good shape all year while Ampleforth have not quite lived up to their outstanding rugby history as yet. However nobody could have predicted the sort of victory that we saw as Barnard Castle put in an outstanding attacking display to secure a scarcely believable 74-28 victory – kicking off their second half of the season in stunning style.
Bizarrely, Saturday’s game against Reigate Grammar School was St Benedict’s first home game of the season. They had been ticking along well, winning four games and losing three, but a season never quite feels underway until you have performed at your own patch. It turns out it was worth the wait though, St Benedict’s were favourites against a Reigate side that have not been at their best this year, but even so they put in a delightful performance to secure a brilliant 52-0 victory. A fine way to kick things off on their home patch.
Stowe and St Edward’s Oxford met on Saturday both still in search of a first win, a state that neither of these schools with such proud rugby histories is used to being in. It made Saturday huge, one of them would finally get the monkey off their back. With both in the same situation though you just knew that it was going to be tight and sense and that to win it would require digging very very deep. That was exactly how it panned out, Stowe took it 13-10 and had to work for every last second of the game. A fantastic win though, and one that you hope will send them into the rest of the season full of confidence.
This game between Tonbridge and Harrow was never about the result. It was played in memory of Tonbridge’s 2016 Champions Trophy winning full back, Suanu Saro-Wiva, who sadly passed away recently. It turned out to be a wonderful tribute, a minute’s silence was held and Tonbridge announced that they would be retiring the number 15 jersey in his honour. In such scenarios the rugby really is just an escape, nothing more, but what a fitting escape and tribute it proved to be as a sensational game of rugby unfolded. It was exciting, it was close, and it was tense, and through it all Tonbridge dug as deep as you can go as they paid tribute to their friend, winning 25-24 against all the odds. A wonderful end to a sad day.
Due to the half term break and a alack of rugby RGS Newcastle missed out on appearing in our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend, but their sensational victory at the St Joseph’s Festival deserves a mention. All weekend they were outstanding, playing a direct style of rugby that few sides come across too much at school level. They emerged unbeaten from a real pool of death on day 1, that also included former champions Brighton College and Hampton, as well as a strong St Peter’s York side. On Day 2 they beat Merchiston Castle, Denstone College, and Hurstpierpoint College before heading into the final against the pre-tournament favourites, Millfield. However over the course of the weekend, RGS’ performances had by than made them favourites and the spirit and passion that had taken them to the final continued against the excellent Millfield as they secured a 17-9 victory. You can read our full report here: RGS Newcastle win maiden St Joseph’s Festival title.