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Weekend School Rugby Preview

Following a midweek packed with exciting action both in the NatWest Cup and outside it, there is a packed weekend fixture list too.

The challenge for many who were in midweek action will be to get back to the right mindset. For sides like John Fisher or Woodhouse Grove who believed they could go far in the Cup but found themselves knocked out, it is important that they recover fast.

Competition Fixtures:

As ever we begin our weekend preview with our four featured Daily Mail Trophy Competition fixtures, which all look incredibly competitive this week.

Tonbridge v St Paul’s

Both of these teams enjoyed strong wins last weekend, with Tonbridge beating an in form Harrow side and St Paul’s scoring forty against Merchant Taylor’s.

With both also enjoying excellent seasons overall it is hard to separate them, however Tonbridge do look as though they just have the edge, having not lost since Epsom College on the opening day they have been a pretty fearsome side.

They will also be trying desperately to crank up their performances over the next few weeks to make sure that they are in flying form ahead of their spectacular close to the term with fixtures against Dulwich and then Wellington.

St Paul’s will be pretty confident though, and they too are aiming for a good result to build momentum ahead of fixtures against Eton and Wellington.

Prediction – Tonbridge

Monmouth v Bromsgrove

Monmouth have only lost once this season and have beaten some excellent sides, including a very much in form Cheltenham College side.

Bromsgrove have also been going well though, though if there were one word you might use about their season it would be close, their matches have all been incredibly tight. Last week was the perfect example, a 3-0 win over Kirkham Grammar was followed by a 10-10 draw against Stowe.

That their games have been tight is irrelevant, those fine margins have given them victories over Clifton, Solihull, and Warwick, sides that have caused teams problems across the country and have drawn plenty of praise from us.

That ability to win games against top opposition makes Bromsgrove the narrow favourites here, however Monmouth are on a similar level and could easily take this one.

Prediction – Bromsgrove

Whitgift v Dulwich College

What a clash this is, no side has lifted the U18 Schools Cup besides these two since 2009, with first Whitgift and then Dulwich securing back to back titles.

While this is not a Cup clash that little bit of recent history does demonstrate just how big a game this is.

Indeed the Cup this week has provided even more weight for this fixture; up until a week ago Whitgift had been highly rated but had faltered against the better sides, leaving Dulwich as favourites for this one. However in the Cup in midweek they beat John Fisher 29-6, dispelling any notion that they were perhaps not the side people thought.

Dulwich also faltered against the best early in the season, losing to Wellington and KCS Wimbledon in successive weeks. However since then they have gone on a brilliant unbeaten run, bar a loss to St Joseph’s in the semi final of their Festival, with Sam Howard working his magic on his side as they engineered victory over the likes of Bedford, Brighton, and John Fisher.

It all leaves this game looking like being an absolute classic, and a nightmare to call. Will that midweek win give Whitgift the impetus to go out and perform against another top side, or will the intensity and emotion of Wednesday have left them with too little in the tank?

They should have the energy, with plenty of their 6th form recruits able to come back into the team after Wednesday, however Dulwich are preparing for a tough set of fixtures in the next few weeks, and a NatWest Cup tie. Recent history has shown us that when Dulwich have a tricky run few sides are as good as them at getting a momentum boosting win to send out a signal of their intent.

Whitgift are the ones playing off the back of a win like that though right now and coupled with home advantage that may, just, give them the edge. Having seen them in midweek though, the Dulwich coaching team will be sure to have plan up their sleeve.

Even a draw is not that unlikely.

Prediction – Whitgift, by a whisker.

Bedford v Radley

Both of these teams have been incredibly difficult to predict this season, each has produced some brilliant victories and stunning level of performance but both have also lost games that they seem sure to be the favourites in.

Measuring them up against each other is therefore no easy task. Radley’s last outing was a home defeat to Marlborough, while Bedford secured a 22-22 draw away at Warwick.

Each has players capable of lighting up any school game, as indeed they have done, but it will be the collective effort that makes the difference tomorrow.

Radley play a very tactically astute game, while Bedford like to use their dyanamic back row to do as much running as possible so the key will probably be around whether Radley can keep Bedford in areas where they feel unable to use those powerful runners.

Not that Bedford cannot kick their way out of trouble though, with Paddy McDuell at ten they can certainly do that.

With home advantage Bedford probably should just be edging this one but it will certainly be mighty close, these are two sides that are capable of excellence at any moment.

Prediction – Bedford, just.

Cup Action:

There is still some NatWest Cup action this weekend, as RGS Worcester play Old Swinford Hospital.

Both have been a touch on the inconsistent side this year but having won the Modus Cup against King’s Worcester, RGS have shown that they have an excellent big game mentality, probably just making them favourites for what will be a very big game.

Prediction – RGS Worcester

Key Fixtures:

Wellington v Epsom

This match will have the eyes of the school rugby world on it, Wellington and Epsom are among the very best around.

Epsom are unbeaten this season and have looked fantastic, however a 20-20 draw with Brighton, who have been a touch patchy, last weekend has just dampened expectations.

Wellington have been one of the most talked about sides in the country, such has been the level of their play. Defeat to Hampton last weekend had some questioning them but they bounced back with aplomb to beat the brilliant Sedbergh 1st XV in midweek and will be bouncing off the walls in anticipation of this one.

Prediction – Wellington College

GSAL v Woodhouse Grove

Woodhouse Grove’s unbelievable unbeaten run was finally, and surprisingly, brought to a halt in midweek by Merchant Taylor’s. With that in mind a fixture against one of the strongest sides in the region, Grammar School at Leeds, would not have been top of the Woodhouse Grove list.

GSAL have been brilliant at times, and will be relishing the chance to prove themselves as against one of the best, hoping that they can capitalise on what must be a downbeat Woodhouse camp.

However Woodhouse Grove are an excellent side and excellent sides tend to bounce back from setbacks with aplomb, so they will still be favourites for this.

Prediction – Woodhouse Grove

Round and About:

RGS High Wycombe travel down to Bryanston looking to improse themselves on yet another big rugby scalp. In recent weeks RGS have started fulfilling the expectation that many had of them at the start of the year and they will want to continue that.

Millfield are looking to end a spectacular week that has seen both Llandovery and Filton beaten with a victory over Blundell’s, who will be desperate to recover after they were knocked out of the Cup in midweek.

Sedbergh will look to bounce back from that loss to Wellington in the brilliant midweek fixture when they travel to Kirkham Grammar, Kirkham lost 3-0 to Bromsgrove last week and will want to prove their quality against one of the best teams on the circuit.

Predictions – RGS High Wycombe, Millfield, and Sedbergh.

Selected School Fixtures (Prediction in bold):

Tonbridge v St Paul’s (Competition Fixture)

Monmouth v Bromsgrove (Competition Fixture)

Whitgift v Dulwich (Competition Fixture)

Bedford v Radley (Competition Fixture)

GSAL v Woodhouse Grove

Wellington College v Epsom College

RGS Worcester v Old Swinford Hospital (NatWest Cup)

Kirkham Grammar v Sedbergh

Blundell’s v Millfield

Bryanston v RGS High Wycombe

King’s Worcester v Bristol Grammar School

Downside v Prior Park

Caterham v Sevenoaks

King’s Canterbury v Haileybury

Stonyhurst v Ampleforth

Northampton School for Boys v Warwick

Durham v Yarm

Barnard Castle v QEGS Wakefield

Hampton v Campion

Bradford Grammar School v Mount St Mary’s

KCS Wimbledon v RGS Guildford

Seaford v Worth

John Fisher v Judd

St Peter’s York v RGS Newcastle

Hurstpierpoint v Cranleigh

Abingdon v Cheltenham College

Lord Wandsworth College v Shiplake College

KES Birmingham v Solihull

Oakham v Oundle

Canford v Sherborne

Stamford v Worksop

Colston’s v Kingswood

Stowe v Uppingham

Adams Grammar School v King’s Macclesfield

Malvern College v Ellesmere College

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