Rather than announce a Team of the Month award for December, a month that only included two weekends of limited fixtures, the December award serves as our School Team of the Term award.
It was a quite brilliant term of school rugby, beginning on the opening day with those series of stunning results â€“ including most dramatically RGS High Wycombe winning away at Wellington College and Warwick grabbing a draw at home against Millfield â€“ and ending with that succession of stunning cup results and Woodhouse Grove winning the inaugural Daily Mail Trophy with an unbeaten record.
There were a number of unbeaten sides this year but the two that really stood out were Epsom College and Stonyhurst, while Woodhouse Grove went unbeaten too bar a slip up in the NatWest Cup against Merchant Taylorâ€™s.
Those three sides all made our shortlist given their outstanding results all term, and five other schools joined them on our list:
Sedbergh, for an outstanding term that included just one defeat, to Wellington (though they also lost in half term to Millfield on tour but avenged that in the final game of the term); Millfield, who were outstanding all term, a term which included victories over AASE colleges and top Welsh school sides as well as many of the best in England; Campion, who punched well above their weight this term, beating Hampton and thrillingly knocking out St Josephâ€™s College in the NatWest Cup; St Josephâ€™s College also made the list though after winning their own St Josephâ€™s Festival in one of the most memorable occasions of the term; Stamford rounded off the eight team shortlist after extending their incredible unbeaten home record to three years, they also only lost once on the road to leave their end of term record looking very healthy indeed.
The likes of Wellington College, The Perse, RGS High Wycombe, Durham, Warwick, and Solihull were also considered but we felt that those eight shortlisted side were the standouts of the term. Tonbridge also came close until two defeats in the final two weeks of term cast them somewhat adrift of the pack.
For five of the eight there is no further chance to add more fifteen-a-side silverware to their trophy cabinets this season, though there will be a lot of eyes on them during the 7s season, however for Stonyhurst, Campion, and Stamford there is the opportunity to claim the NatWest Cup, as all three remain in that competition as it moves towards the quarter finals.
Despite that, none quite manages to take our Team of the Term crown â€“ that award, we finally decided, was to be taken by one of Epsom College, Woodhouse Grove, or St Josephâ€™s College.
Epsom Collegeâ€™s term was as close to perfect as it is possible to be, they went unbeaten throughout and the only result that stopped their record short of absolute perfection was a 20-20 draw with Brighton College.
Their list of conquered opponents only serves to make their season sound even more impressive, the likes of Tonbridge, Wellington, Dulwich, and Cranleigh were all seen off as they strode to third place in the final standings of the Daily Mail Trophy.
St Josephâ€™s College, as we said above, provided possibly the occasion of the season with their victory at their own Festival in October. They went into the tournament knowing that they had an outstanding squad and a real opportunity to win, but they also had the pressure that comes with that.
However in front of hundreds of fans they managed to cope with that pressure majestically, beating RGS High Wycombe in a tense and thrilling final, sparking celebrations that were as much an explosion of relief from the pressure as anything else, it was like the cork from your New Yearâ€™s Eve champagne being blasted from the bottle.
Woodhouse Grove won the inaugural Daily Mail Trophy with a week to spare and ended up going unbeaten through the whole competition, winning 12 from 12 with an average winning score of 34-8. Accusations went around that they might not have had the toughest fixture list around were rife but the comeback was rightly that it does not matter who you play, you still have to beat them, and given that their conquered opponents included the likes of Durham, Kingâ€™s Macclesfield, Kirkham Grammar, and Grammar School at Leeds, among others, those accusations seemed rather wide of the mark anyway.
It was against Durham that Woodhouse Grove really showed their class though. Durham are regarded as one of the top schools in the country and were seen by many as the potential banana skin for Woodhouse that might allow others to sneak in and take the title. However Woodhouse Grove turned in one of the best performances of the season to win 41-17, a result that enabled them to wrap up the title the following week against Kirkham Grammar.
Team of the Term
Selecting a Team of the Term from that trio felt like a near impossible task, however after much debate and thought, the Fifteen Rugby Team of the Term is Woodhouse Grove.
Any of the three would have been worthy winners, each had huge reasons why they should be and all had the smallest of faults against them, however we felt that Woodhouse Grove just deserved the top spot.
To win the Daily Mail Trophy requires extraordinary consistency, something that Epsom also displayed to finish third, but this year it also required an outstanding try scoring record to collect the necessary bonus points. Woodhouse Grove did this better than anyone.
They hinted at their potential for this season with their brilliant run to the Rosslyn Park 7s final last year and they delivered on that potential with aplomb.
Epsom and St Josephâ€™s will rightly claim that they too could have had this award, Epsom would argue that they finished unbeaten this season in all competitions against some of the absolute superstars of the school game, while St Josephâ€™s will point to the fact that they too won a tournament and lost only one game all term, and it came a round later in the NatWest Cup than Woodhouse Groveâ€™s.
However Woodhouse Grove are the worthy winners, our Team of the Term for the Michaelmas Term 2013.
Do you agree with our decision? Let us know via the comment box below or via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV)
Remember that you can also vote for your own Team of the Term, the result of which will be announced at the start of next week: Team of the Term Vote