January was an outstanding month for School Rugby, it included the culmination of the fifteen-a-side season for many, as well as the continuation of this seasonâ€™s incredibly competitive NatWest Cup.
Given that a week of the month was included in the Christmas holidays, and therefore had no fixtures, it has been an incredibly busy both, with some sides managing to squeeze in four or five fixtures.
Not only was the quantity of fixtures impressive, the quality of some of the games was outstanding, not to mention the passion shown at times.
Indeed January included not just the most dramatic game of school rugby that this writer has ever seen, but quite possibly the most dramatic game of rugby at any level.
The game was Stamford v Warwick in the last 16 of the NatWest Cup, and with less than five minutes left the sides were level, which meant that having scored more tries, Warwick would progress. However, in dramatic fashion, Stamford marched their way from inside their own half to camp on the Warwick try line. Having plugged away for what seemed an age they eventually scored to lead the game, and with less than a minute remaining, seal it.
Unbelievably though, with that final minute of play, Warwick managed to regain possession through a penalty, knock it into the corner wit seconds to go, and set up a driving maul. The move worked brilliantly and they drove over to score, levelling the game, and therefore winning it, with the very last play of the game. It was as inspirational and uplifting as it was heart-breaking at the same time, a truly wonderful finish.
However, selecting the Team of the Month is not about finding one game to be particularly entertaining, it is about which side has impressed, entertaining, achieved, or surprised.
In our opinion, there are the sides that stand out this month, Hampton School, Millfield School, and RGS High Wycombe. Many other have impressed at times, such as QEGS Wakefield, however in a rain hit month, these have been the teams that have grabbed our attention.
Hampton have played five times, winning four, and drawing once. They have beaten Whitgift and Campion in the NatWest Cup to set up a quarter final against RGS High Wycombe, and their only failure to win came against John Fisher, when they drew 19-19 just days after that energy sapping victory over Whitgift.
They have also beaten St Benedictâ€™s, who have been a thorn in many sides this season, as well as Portsmouth Grammar School, a quite outstanding month. It is not just that Hampton have been winning though, they have been winning while being forced to play away from their natural free flowing game, because of the weather. It has been highly impressive.
Millfield have also played five, and like Hampton they have won four, though they did lose one. However that loss came against an AASE College in the shape of Truro College, so the fact that Millfield lost by just 13-10 is actually a superb achievement.
Millfield have also beaten two outstanding Welsh schools in Coleg Morgannwg and Cowbridge Comprehensive, as well as the representative side Welsh Academicals, making it five wins from five against their friends from across the Severn.
There was also a dominant win over Sir Thomas Richâ€™s to throw into the mix, a result made all the more impressive by fact that half of the Millfield team was absent due to U18 Premiership commitments, whilst a couple of key players were also injured.
RGS High Wycombe have played just two games in January, after the weather forced cancellations against QEGS Wakefield, Solihull, and Tiffin. However in those two game they have demonstrated just why they have been so highly rated all season, and why they have been in the mix for Team of the Month every month.
Their first game of the month cam against Judd, where a huge 42-3 victory was made even more impressive by the fact that many of their big names were taken off at the break to give potential members of next yearâ€™s 1stÂ XV a taste of that famous hooped shirt.
Their second game of the month was their crowning glory though, and outstanding 15-5 victory in the NatWest Cup last 16 over Bicton College. Bicton are a former AASE League side and are still a part of the Exeter Chiefs Academy, which tells you everything that you need to know about their quality, particularly when you look at the number of Exeter Chiefs involved for England U20s tonight, and for the Saxons last week.
To have beaten them was a real achievement, and shows just how good RGS High Wycombe are, their game against Hampton in the NatWest Cup next week is going to be one of the all time Cup classics.
Choosing which one of the three to give it to is a challenge, and the reality is that choosing between them is a worthless exercise, each is a fantastic side, and each has been excellent.
However choose between them we must.
It is therefore with great pleasure that we announce thatÂ Hampton SchoolÂ are Fifteen Rugbyâ€™s Team of the Month for January.
They have played some outstanding schools this month and have seen that tricky schedule through, without suffering a defeat. Not only that, but two of those games were incredibly difficult and high pressure Cup matches, where with the added pressure of being one of the favourites, and with a young side, Hampton have looked exceptional.
RGS High Wycombe are incredibly unlucky to miss out once again. The reality is that they deserve a Team of the Month award at some point, and it is bizarre that they have not yet got one, however having played just two games this month compared to the five from the other two main contenders it would have been an unfair award this time around.
Millfield too can consider themselves very unlucky. Their achievement in beating the traditionally strong Welsh Colleges is very impressive. However given the nature of Hamptonâ€™s victories, with the Cup pressure that was on top of them at the time, we just felt that their achievement edged it this month.
Congratulations again to Hampton School, our January Team of the Month, they have proved to be not just an exceptional team but a team capable of adapting their game to the conditions, pitch, and opposition that they face â€“ the sign of a truly outstanding side.
Fifteen Rugby January 2014 Team of the Month â€“ Hampton School
Do you agree with our choice? Let us know via the comment box below, or throughÂ @FifteenRugbyXVÂ !