Weekend Preview – Woodhouse out to seal the Trophy

As we move into the final couple of fixtures of this most unpredictable of school terms there is plenty of excitement building as the Daily Mail Trophy begins to reach its conclusion.

As ever though, we begin our weekend preview with our four featured Daily Mail Trophy games from our weekly competition.

This week only one side, Tonbridge, from those four games feature in the top 10 in the Trophy, however with the likes of Dulwich and Cheltenham also in our competition, there is certainly no little quality.

Competition Preview:

Uppingham v Oakham

The Rutland derby is one of the most keenly fought derbies in the country, with both sides able to boast of plenty of high profile rugby alumni and outstanding rugby histories.

Last year Oakham just edged this game 9-8, completing a three-in-a-row winning streak in a fixture that they have dominated in recent years. However this year Uppingham will be full of confidence having had a far more successful season than last year, plus the bonus of home advantage.

Both will also be determined to make a statement after each was knocked out of the NatWest Cup this week. Uppingham lost narrowly to Stamford, a performance that they will ultimately take a lot of heart from though as Stamford are unbeaten at home for two years so to run them so close speaks volumes for Uppingham’s ability.

Oakham meanwhile were stunned by The Perse, losing 34-14 and they will need to recover sharply if they are to avoid a shock from Uppingham.

Perhaps the most telling recent result for both these sides though is their fixtures against Oundle. Two weeks ago Oakham beat their local rivals 17-5, while Uppingham lost to the same side 13-17 the week before.

Those results suggest that Oakham hold the upper hand here, though it must be remembered that the Oundle-Uppingham rivalry is every bit as big as the Oakham-Uppingham rivalry. Therefore the Oundle v Uppingham result comes with all of the same unusual circumstances that tomorrow’s Rutland derby will.

In all though, Oakham’s form across the season suggests that they will just be the favourites here, though they will certainly be facing a hostile Uppingham atmosphere. It should be one of the best games of the year.

Prediction – Oakham, just.

Marlborough College v Stowe

Both Marlborough and Stowe will come into this fixture high on confidence after enjoying impressive midweek wins in the NatWest Cup.

Stowe beat St Peter’s Gloucester, while Marlborough beat Portsmouth Grammar School.

Choosing a winner here is a difficult task, both sides are loaded with talent but have been maddeningly inconsistent at times, winning some outstanding game but then losing others when it seems that they should have been overwhelming favourites.

Both appear to be at the peak of the form right now though, Marlborough’s surprise loss to Eton a couple of weeks ago notwithstanding, and it ought to lead to a fantastic game of schoolboy rugby.

Home advantage may just play into Marlborough’s hands here, however Stowe are no slouches on the road. In fact eight of their ten victories this season have come away from their majestic grounds.

Like the game above, this one ought to be a true classic and there should be some excellent rugby on show.

Prediction – Marlborough, by a whisker.

Tonbridge v Dulwich College

Tonbridge have had a fantastic season to date, losing just once, to the excellent Epsom College on the opening day of the season.

It has all been highly impressive but it is with these final two fixtures, against Dulwich and Wellington, that the success or otherwise of their season will be judged. With the possible exception of Epsom, these will be their toughest to fixtures of the year.

Dulwich had a sluggish start to the season, beating weak sides but struggling against the best. However victories against Brighton and Bedford ahead of half term seemed to be the trigger for what has been an outstanding campaign since then.

They might have lost to Whitgift a couple of weeks ago but that aside they have been brilliant, seeing off the likes of Hampton and John Fisher, and showing some real menace in the NatWest Cup.

Indeed such is Dulwich’s cup pedigree that it seems almost as though with each stage of the competition passing, their focus and determination just increases a notch. In some ways it seems similar to the way that Sir Alex Ferguson used to talk about his championship winning sides and how when the intensity of the season started to increase so did the quality of his sides play.

It promises to be another great game of rugby and Tonbridge have been outstanding this year, however there is a momentum behind Dulwich at the moment that suggests that they might nick this one.

Prediction – Dulwich

Bromsgrove v Cheltenham College

Bromsgrove have had an interesting season, at times they have looked like one of the very best, particularly by beating quality sides like Warwick, Solihull, and Clifton, however there have been some games when you really expect them to assert themselves but they just do not quite run away as expected, such as last weeks victory over Colston’s.

That said, they have only lost to Denstone, Oakham, and Monmouth this season, and against Denstone and Monmouht they only lost by a point. They are definitely not a side to take lightly.

Cheltenham have been slight dark horses, they lost their opening games of the season and it almost seemed that those two defeats kept them under the radar somewhat. Despite that though they have gone on to have a pretty successful season, beating the likes of Radley and Marlborough. Since half term though things have been a little quiet, aside from the Veterrimi IV on the 2nd November they have only played once, a strong win against Abingdon.

That makes this fixture a very interesting one indeed, it ought to be very close but there is a sense that perhaps Cheltenham’s lack of games might just leave them a little short of match practice against a Bromsgrove side that requires an excellent performance to beat them.

Prediction – Bromsgrove, just.

Key Daily Mail Trophy Games

It looks likely that Woodhouse Grove will win the inaugural Daily Mail Trophy. They can do so this weekend if they manage a bonus point victory over Kirkham Grammar School. They are certainly favourites against Kirkahm, though a bonus point is a tough ask, having said that few would have predicted a bonus point against Durham last week but that was exactly what this excellent Woodhouse Grove side got.

The chasing pack all require slip up of fairly dramatic proportions from Woodhouse Grove in order to steal the title away. Epsom Monmouth, St Benedict’s and Solihull could all technically take the title but it would require such an unpredictable end of season from the sides above them that it can be virtually written off.

The three sides with a slightly more realistic chance are Sedbergh, Millfield, and Wellington. Making Millfield v Sedbergh on Wednesday afternoon doubly interesting if Woodhouse Grove were to slip up tomorrow.

That is the issue though, even these sides require Woodhouse Grove to slip up. Millfield and Wellington can only win if Woodhouse fail to win again this season, while Sedbergh can afford for Woodhouse Grove to win one game – provided it is not with a bonus point and that Sedbergh win both of theirs with a bonus point.

All four of the main protagonists look favourites for the win this weekend though. Woodhouse are favourites against a plucky Kirkham side but must look out as Kirkham are more than capable of spoiling the Woodhouse challenge if they get a chance.

Sedbergh meet Barnard Castle in a schoolboy classic. Barnard Castle beat Bradford Grammar in midweek to progress in the cup and will be full of confidence but Sedbergh have been outstanding this season and ought to be confident of victory.

Millfield host Monmouth and will be expecting to do well after a magnificent performance in midweek saw them just lose out to Grey’s of South Africa by two points. With Sedbergh coming in midweek this is one of the most talked about rugby periods at the famous sporting school.

Wellington play St Paul’s, who have been particularly difficult to beat this year, and with Tonbridge and King’s Paramatta to come this season, Wellington know that it is vital to build on victory over Cranleigh after defeats to Hampton and Epsom derailed them slightly.

Predictions – Woodhouse Grove, Sedbergh, Millfield, and Wellington. Woodhouse to wrap up the Trophy.

Selected School Fixtures – 30th November (Predictions in bold):

Marlborough College v Stowe (XV Competition Fixture)

Bromsgrove v Cheltenham College (XV Competition Fixture)

Tonbridge v Dulwich College (XV Competition Fixture)

Uppingham v Oakham (XV Competition Fixture)

Kirkham Grammar v Woodhouse Grove (Key Daily Mail Trophy)

Sedbergh v Barnard Castle (Key Daily Mail Trophy)

Millfield v Monmouth (Key Daily Mail Trophy)

Wellington v St Paul’s (Key Daily Mail Trophy)

Abingdon v St Edward’s Oxford

Clifton College v Sherborne

Durham v St Peter’s York

Harrow v Radley

John Fisher v Eton

London Oratory v KCS Wimbledon

Oundle v Haileybury

RGS High Wycombe v St Benedict’s

RGS Newcastle v Bradford GS

Rugby v Bedford

Solihull v Trent

St John’s Leatherhead v Epsom College

Wilmslow High v Ellesmere

Yarm v Pocklington

King’s Worcester v Bishop Vesey’s

Whitgift v Langley Park

Bedford Modern v Nottingham High

Stamford v St Albans

King’s Macclesfield v Stonyhurst

Taunton v Blundell’s

Campion v Judd

Mount St Mary’s v Ampleforth

Worth v Pangbourne

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