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Opening weekend produces spectacular results

If anyone was suffering any doubts as to the excitement and competitiveness of schoolboy rugby then this weekend ought to have cast all such doubts aside.

As the results steadily came through on Saturday it very quickly became clear that the 7th September 2013 was a very special day of schoolboy rugby. Almost every result coming in was a shock, either because the victor was unexpected, or because the margin of victory was so vast.

What was immediately an obvious trend though was the difficulty that comes with the loss of a supremely talented U6th over the summer. Wellington College, Oundle, Millfield and Brighton College each had several truly outstanding players at the top of their schools last year, the sort of groups of players that can make a side one of their schools all time greats, it is no coincidence that not a single one of those four sides registered a victory this weekend.

That is not to say that their current sides are not excellent, far from it, merely that the loss of such talent in any side, school or not, takes time to recover from – even if the new 1st XV is every bit as talented.

Probably the most eye catching of the results to come in was the 10-8 victory for RGS High Wycombe at Wellington College. Of all of the most noteworthy results it was actually the least shocking, this is an RGS High Wycombe side that has had excitement building around it all summer, indeed you might say that the excitement has been building for four years, since the current U6th won the U15 Daily Mail Cup.

No, what made it eye catching was not that it was a surprise but that it confirmed the summer long expectation that RGS are the coming force this year and must be considered among the top handful of schools. Wellington may have lost some top players this summer, and Bret Herron may be out injured, but they are still unquestionably a top class side.

If RGS High Wycombe’s ascent to conquerors of the 2012/13 upper echelons was unexpected, Warwick’s ascent to a similar level was more so. Warwick exceeded all expectations, including their own, to reach the semi finals of the Daily Mail Cup last year. Whilst many of us had predicted that they were likely to be a vastly improved side for last year’s experience, and with the benefit of a talented L6th group joining the 1st XV, few could have predicted that they would have kicked off the 2013/14 season with a 17-17 draw against Millfield.

Millfield were and are undoubtedly still trying to come to terms with having to play without the likes of Barron, Haines, Ellis, Tait and Davies in their pack, but then few schools would not. While it may take them a few games to adapt to life without those outstanding players, they should not be written off – in captain Callum Sheedy and full back Tom Whiteley they have two of the outstanding backs in the country, and just because the superstars of last year’s pack may have left, this is still an incredibly talented side let us not forget, this is a Millfield 1st XV and they have outstanding players at their disposal.

If eye catching was the theme of the weekend’s results though, how about Bedford’s 50-10 win over Oundle? Bedford had been expected to win this one but not by forty points.

Both sides had lost key members of their 2012/13 1st XV’s but if the Bedford School highlights reel is anything to go by then Bedford were admirable in their decision to continue with the same tactics as last season, where their use of the full width of the pitch was a key feature, despite the loss of some of their stars.

Another that raised a few eyebrows for the margin of victory was Cranleigh’s 34-10 away win against Brighton College. Cranleigh are a top side, with Charlie Piper a particular star, but few could have envisaged them put quite so many points past a Brighton side who were so dominant under the leadership of the then England U18 captain, James Chisholm, last year.

While the early weeks of the season might not be the best time to judge relative standings of schools over the course of the season, one fixture that did provide school rugby fans with an early glimpse at a potential dark horse for the upper positions on the schoolboy rugby ladder was Stowe v Stamford.

Stowe were expected to win this following a strong season last year and then the best possible start to this with a dominant display to win the Tyndealde Schools Festival.

However Stamford too were very good last year, indeed they were unbeaten at home, and yet they had somehow been passed over on this one. A dominant 31-12 victory has ensured that such an oversight will be unlikely to happen again this season.

Other performances that were particularly worth taking note of were King’s Macclesfield’s 42-12 victory versus QEGS Wakefield and St Paul’s School’s 44-7 victory over Haileybury. Both King’s Macclesfield and St Paul’s were top performers last season and with displays like that on the opening weekend, there is every reason to believe that they will be so again this year.

Of course while the first weekend of the season has produced some sterling performances and eye-catching results, the temptation to judge each side to early must be resisted. It will take a few weeks yet before the true order of things on the 2013/14 schoolboy rugby scene begins to emerge.

Other Fifteen Rugby Featured Schools Results:

Durham 23-19 Barnard Castle

Rugby 27-14 Cheltenham College

Blundell’s 6-21 Sherborne

Ampleforth College 36-22 Bradford Grammar School

Kikrham Grammar School 7-0 Ellesmere College

Yarm 17-17 Hymers College

Bromsgrove 17-18 Denstone

Magdalen College 60-0 Malvern College

Oakham 11-8 Loughborough Grammar School

Old Swinford Hospital 17-22 Solihull

St Edward’s Oxford 15-10 Bloxham

Campion 27-12 George Osborn

Dulwich College 60-0 Langley Park

Hampton 24-3 St John’s Leatherhead

John Fisher 30-5 Hurstpierpoint

King’s Canterbury 13-8 Caterham

Reed’s 13-3 Glynn

Christ’s Hospital 32-19 Sevenoaks

Epsom College 15-14 Tonbridge

Pate’s Grammar School 13-25 Clifton College

Prior Park 14-13 Colston’s

Marlborough College 16-10 Monmouth

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