This week sees the U15 NatWest Competitions take centre stage following the excitement of the U18 semi finals in the first week of March.
By the end of Thursday the U15 NatWest Plate and Bowl finalists will all be known, while on Saturday the Cup and Vase finalists will be confirmed, following the completion of all four semi finals at Allianz Park.
The finals of the Cup and Vase will be played at Twickenham Stadium on Wednesday 29th March, while the finals of the Plate and Bowl will both take place at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium the day before, Tuesday 28th.
Two of last year’s semi finalists return to the fray this year, Wellington College and Warwick. They played each other last year, with Wellington winning 7-3, ending a three year stretch in the finals from Warwick.
Wellington College eventually lost to Sedbergh in the final though, so they will be desperate for another shot this year with a new group of players and will hope to bring home the Trophy, for the first time since winning both the U18 and U15 titles back in 2008.
Whitgift, who last won the U15 title in 2003, stand in their way. They reached the quarter finals last year and will pose a strong threat to Wellington following a very impressive year at U15 level.
Warwick, meanwhile, will be desperate to get back to Twickenham and to join their U18s, who reached the final after beating Felsted in the U18 semi final. Back to back titles in 2013 and 2014 were a highlights for Warwick, but if they were to become the only side other than Wellington to secure U18 and U15 titles in the same year it would be a huge achievement.
Standing in their way at Allianz Park are Ivybridge Community College. Interestingly the two sides met at the same time last year in the HSBC Rosslyn Park National School 7s U14 Cup final. Ivybridge won that game, so might well fancy themselves to have a good go in this one, they have certainly be touted as a side to keep an eye on.
No matter what happens though, it looks as though we have two brilliant semi finals in store.
Wellington College v Whitgift – Saturday 18th March, Allianz Park
Warwick v Ivybridge Community College – Saturday 19th March, Allianz Park
St Paul’s are the first side in any of the U15 competitions to have secured their place in a final after they beat St Albans 24-17 in their semi final last Thursday.
It means that St Paul’s are also the first ever U15 NatWest Plate finalists, and will head to Sixways Stadium on Tuesday 28th February for the final.
Joining them will be either Sir Thomas Rich’s or Seaford College, two school playing some great rugby at all age groups and with really strong rugby programs in recent years. Indeed last year Sir Thomas Rich’s reached the Vase final, which only goes to show how impressive this run is, effectively they are a tier up on last year, and aiming for another final.
They meet on Thursday 16th March at Sir Thomas Rich’s for what promises to be a fascinating battle.
St Paul’s 24-17 St Albans – Thursday 9th March
Sir Thomas Rich’s v Seaford College – Thursday 16th March
The U15 Vase semi finals both take place at Allianz Park on Saturday 18th March, like the Cup semi finals.
Dr Challoner’s Grammar School won the Vase last year, beating Sir Thomas Rich’s. To do so for a second year running would be a truly remarkable achievement, as indeed is just being in this semi final. Standing in their way are Welland Park Academy, who will be determined to give everything to reach their first ever final.
The other semi final sees Thomas Hardye meet Bridgewater High School, the side that Dr Challoner’s beat last year to reach the final. They will doubtless be determined to go one further than last year and to get that coveted day out at Twickenham, but Thomas Hardye will be no pushovers, having consistently pulled out some big performances.
Dr Challoner’s GS v Welland Park Academy – Saturday 18th March
Thomas Hardye v Bridgewater HS – Saturday 18th March
The two Bowl semi finals take place in midweek this week, with King’s Priory hosting Pocklington on Wednesday 15th March (2.30pm kick off) and Dorothy Stringer welcoming Beth’s Grammar on Thursday 16th (2pm kick off).
Last year Dorothy Stringer reached the round of last 32, but this year they have stormed into the semi finals, Beth’s, meanwhile reached the quarter finals in 2011, so for them this is also a high water mark.
King’s Priory, meanwhile, have not got a lot of history in the competition, but do have good pedigree in schools rugby, having brought through former England fly half, Toby Flood. Pocklington also have some well known alumni, including Sale Sharks hooker, Rob Webber. Last year’s side reached Round 5 of the Cup, but a run to the final of the Vase would be a huge achievement, as it would for all four sides.
Dorothy Stringer v Beth GS – Thursday 16th March
King’s Priory v Pocklington – Wednesday 15th March
Tuesday 28th March – Sixways Stadium, Worcester
U18 Plate (Reigate Grammar School v Solihull), U18 Bowl, U15 Plate, U15 Bowl
Wednesday 29th March – Twickenham, London
U18 Cup, U18 Vase, U15 Cup, U15 Vase