The time has come for us to announce our School Team of the Month for October, a month cut short by half term but with no shortage of quality play.
After previewing the award earlier in the week we have received some animated responses, with several teams pushing their cause for a place at the top of the pile for the month.
Hampton and RGS Newcastle received plenty of support having been left off our original shortlist, while Stoweâ€™s return to form gathered some momentum.
For us though there were five standout schools in October; Epsom College, Sedbergh, St Josephâ€™s College, Wellington College, and Woodhouse Grove.
Epsom College continued their unbeaten season through October, leaving them with a half term record of played 6 won 6. Their three victories in October were over RGS Guildford, Eastbourne College, and Eton College, averaging 41 points a game.
Sedbergh ran riot in October, beating three powerhouses in the form of Kingâ€™s Macclesfield, Durham, and Whitgift to extend their unbeaten run into half term. During half term they met Millfield in Abu Dhabi, where they lost 26-0 to end the month on a slightly sour note. However as everyone knows a tour game, particularly in that climate, creates very different situation to the rest of the term.
St Josephâ€™s actually played very little rugby in October, a NatWest Cup tie victory and a win over the Bedford Academy were there only two full-length fixtures. However they did host the 27th Annual St Josephâ€™s Festival where they produced some absolutely outstanding rugby to win one of the toughest tournaments in school rugby. With an outstanding field of opposition and the enormous weight of expectation on them given the talent in their side, it was a truly brilliant achievement.
Wellington continued their sterling start to the season with four wins out four in October. Adding the prestigious scalps of Harrow, Eton, Bryanston, and Sherborne to their already impressive list of vanquished opponents.
Woodhouse Grove have maintained their spectacular form from September in to October, winning four out of four including a tense game against the excellent Kingâ€™s Macclesfield to maintain their unbeaten record and leave them sitting at the top of the Daily Mail Trophy table as a result of their spectacularly high points scoring.
Narrowing that list from five to one is no easy task, in any given month each could easily have won the award such has been the mix of good results, good play, and tough opposition from each side.
On that basis, in our view, the choice was narrowed to either St Josephâ€™s College or Wellington College.
Woodhouse Grove, Epsom College, and Sedbergh might all have been deserving of the award in any other month, however the strength of opposition that Wellington and St Josephâ€™s faced makes their performances over the past month particularly special.
For us though St Josephâ€™s achievement in winning their own tournament for just the third time in 27 years was particularly special.
As such, St Josephâ€™s College are the October School Team of the Month. To win the St Josephâ€™s Festival is one of the toughest assignments in schoolboy rugby. To win, and to do so without a single defeat, beating the likes of RGS High Wycombe, Dulwich, John Fisher, and Brighton College shows just how impressive an achievement it was.
That St Josephâ€™s also wrapped up the player of the tournament award and the try of the tournament only served to underline how impressive their display was over that two day period.
The award is not simply because they won it though, nor indeed who they had to beat to do so, but also because of the manner of their play. St Josephâ€™s played exciting and expansive rugby whenever possible but also showed the ability to adapt when the rain came down and to play a territorial game.
Wellington will rightly be aggrieved to have missed out on becoming the first ever winners of our monthly award in consecutive months, the quality of their play and they manner in which they have beaten some of the most impressive schools in the country has been breathtaking at times. However when you add in the pressure that St Josephâ€™s were under, both by putting it on themselves and through the expectation of their enormous support, their achievement just becomes even more impressive.
Likewise Sedbergh can feel aggrieved, they have played some majestic stuff at times, proving that they are most definitely among the elite this year. That defeat to the impressive Millfield just blotted their copybook a little though. The repeat fixture on the 4th December will be a belter though.
Woodhouse Grove and Epsom have also been brilliant, their positions in the Daily Mail Trophy table say it all really, it was probably just that neither has really taken on any of the absolute best schools around yet that just discounted them in relation to St Josephâ€™s. As with Wellington and Sedbergh though, in another month they could easily have won.
Congratulations go to St Josephâ€™s College though, they are deserved winners of the award, not just for their Festival win but also that tremendous result against Bedford Academy. To perform under the weight of emotion that was so palpable at the Festival was truly impressive and their rugby was spellbinding.
October Team of the Month â€“ St Josephâ€™s College