Selecting the School Team of the Year is no easy task, there are a lot of variables to consider â€“ it is not like the Aviva Premiership for instance, where everyone plays each other so you can judge relative performance very easily.
In school rugby that simply does not happen, even winning tournaments is not necessarily the best indicator as they do not all include everyone, and are not necessarily all measured the same way.
Of course you do not necessarily have to win things to be the Team of the Year, first of all not every school enters any competitions anyway, but second, if you punch far enough above your weight then that surely deserves reward too.
There were plenty of schools to choose from but we whittled it down to ten, which we then published for our â€˜Fans Team of the Seasonâ€™ vote, this results of which can be seen here, Fans Team of the Season.
That list was:
Dulwich CollegeÂ â€“ Dulwich won their third NatWest Schools Cup in a row, they did so in some style as well, beating Warwick 53-5 in the final. Almost equally impressive was a defensively brilliant 7-3 victory over RGS High Wycombe in the semi final. Only one other side in history has ever gone â€˜back to back to backâ€™.
Epsom CollegeÂ â€“ Epsom College went the entire season unbeaten, with a record of played ten, won nine, lost one. Not only that but they were playing on one of the toughest circuits in the country, their conquered opponents included Wellington College, Dulwich College, Tonbridge, Harrow, and Cranleigh.
CampionÂ â€“ These lists are not just about who the best sides are, sometimes there is room for sides who have punched above their weight and gone beyond expectations. Campion certainly did that. They beat Hampton School and followed that up with a NatWest Cup victory over St Josephâ€™s College, who were one of the favourites. Hampton eventually got their own back by knocking them out in Round 6 but the impression had already been made for many. The Perse also deserve much credit this season.
MillfieldÂ â€“ Millfieldâ€™s record of played 18, Won 14, Drawn 1, Lost 3 is pretty impressive but when you read the story of who defeated them and, more important, who they beat, it looks outstanding. Defeats only came to New Zealand touring side Palmerston North, AASE side Truro College, and Sedbergh. Notable victories came over RGS High Wycombe, Sedbergh,and Whitgift, Welsh Colleges Coleg Sir Gar, Coleg Morgannwg, Cowbridge Comprehensive and Llandovery College, and AASE side, Filton College.
RGS High WycombeÂ â€“ RGS managed to be the eternal bridesmaids of the 2013/14 season but cropping up at the death of tournament after tournament suggests a fair old dollop of quality. They reached the final of the St Josephâ€™s Festival and came within a whisker of winning it, only defensive masterclass of epic proportions prevented them from reaching the NatWest Cup final, and their victory reel through the season included the scalps of sides such as Wellington, Hampton, and Whitgift.
SedberghÂ â€“ Sedbergh lost just twice all season, once Wellington College on a chilly evening at Broadstreet RFC and once against Millfield on tour in Abu Dhabi, a defeat they reversed on the 4thÂ December. Victories also came against the likes of Durham, Whitgift, and Llandovery College as Sedbegh once again proved what a force they are.
StamfordÂ â€“ Stamford lost just two games this season, and just missed out on a semi final place in the NatWest Cup when a draw against eventual finalists Warwick saw them miss out as the home side. The key though is that none of their defeats came at home, making this an incredible third season in a row that the midlands side has gone without defeat on their own turf. Sensational.
St Josephâ€™s CollegeÂ â€“ St Josephâ€™s won their very own St Josephâ€™s Festival back in October in what was surely the most passionate display of rugby from any side in the entire year. They did it the hard way too, beating Dulwich College in what was effectively a semi final before beating the very strong RGS High Wycombe 1stÂ XV in the final.
Wellington CollegeÂ â€“ Wellington only lost to RGS High Wycombe, Hampton, and Epsom College all season. Bizarrely all were at home, but perhaps most telling about this Wellingtonâ€™s side quality and determination is that each game was lost by just two points. Victories over Dulwich, Whitgift, Tonbridge, and Sedbergh showed just how good they are, and a victory over Australian side Kingâ€™s Pararmatta was an impressive way to end the year.
Woodhouse GroveÂ â€“ Woodhouse Grove won the inaugural Daily Mail Trophy in style, winning every single game that they played in the competition and they ended up with a whopping +405 points different from just twelve games. They also only lost one fifteen-a-side game all season outside of the Trophy, a great achievement.
Warwick School were not included in that shortlist of ten but as we debated the Team of the Season they kept cropping up â€“ unsurprisingly given that they reached the NatWest Cup final, and enjoyed some truly outstanding results throughout the season, therefore we included them in our own thinking.
Choosing between each of the sides was a thankless task really â€“ how can you judge the relative achievements of each 1stÂ XV when each has achieved such outstanding feats.
Nevertheless, a decision had to be made.
Our decision was thatÂ Dulwich College are the Fifteen Rugby School Team of the Season.
It is, incredibly, the third year in a row that Dulwich have received the award, though this year was by far the closest.
They endured a tough time of things before Christmas, losing to many of the other sides on the shortlist, while plenty of other schools have enjoyed unbeaten, or near unbeaten, seasons.
Ultimately, the incredible achievement of winning a third NatWest Schools Cup title in a row was just too much to ignore. It is a truly staggering achievement, and to cap it all off by putting over fifty points on a very good Warwick side in the final was outstanding.
It is such an incredible achievement because it requires at least two yeargroups of outstanding players. Two titles can be one off the back of one special yeargroup but to win a third requires more.
What also clinched it for Dulwich though was that word team. They genuinely were a team, they were never going to be all conquering like last year, this year they had to pull together and really work for their rewards (not that they did not work before) â€“ with that incredible defensive performance against RGS High Wycombe in the semi final being real proof of that.
Detractors will say that the Schools Cup is maybe not the achievement it is made out to be given the absence of some major schools. There is some truth in that, however the only real answer to that can be that if schools are unhappy about it then they should just enter. Dulwich College did three years ago and look what has happened since.
Congratulations then to Dulwich College, our Team of the Season. Congratulations too though to everyone else on the shortlist â€“ it was a very tough decision to make and there were sides with incredibly strong arguments for the title, as many are sure to say now.
Congratulations really must go to every school the length and breadth of the country though. It has been an outstanding season with some brilliant rugby on show â€“ even in sometimes torrid conditions â€“ and it has been a joy to watch.
More of the same next year!
Dulwich College â€“ Fifteen Rugby School Team of the Season
Our School 7s Team of the Season will be released in late June, as will our â€˜All Starâ€™ 7s squad.