The 2014 Schools 7s season carried on where 2013 left off, as an example of the high quality, fast pace, and fantastically exciting rugby that can be produced at this level.
Last year our School 7s Team of the Season became a two-horse race between Wellington College and Sedbergh, with Wellington dominating the South and Sedbergh dominating the North.
When Rosslyn Park came along they were in separate competitions, Wellington in the Festival and Sedbergh in the Open. Both won their respective competitions to set up an absolute classic â€˜Schools Finalâ€™ at Twickenham Stadium during the London 7s.
Wellington College won that game in superb style to claim our inaugural School 7s Teams of the Season crown.
This season things were slightly different. Sedbergh and Wellington both still picked up a few tournament wins but there was a far greater spread than last year. Brighton College picked up plenty of votes in our Fans Vote for the 2014 Team of the Season, and picked up a tournament victory at Hampton.
Elsewhere Tonbridge, Woodhouse Grove, and Whitgift, amongst others were all looking in good form ahead of Rosslyn Park too, with a few tournament victories and outstanding players between them.
However one side was out on their own when it came to winning trophies, Millfield. As Rosslyn Park loomed, Millfield had won every tournament they had entered, including the prestigious Surrey 7s.
They were doing so playing an outstanding brand of 7s that began straight from the kick off. It seemed to be more commonplace from Millfield to win their own kick off than lose it, and given how often they were scoring, that meant that the opposition could go almost entire halves of rugby without a touch.
They were combining intense and choking defence with skilful and artful attack, yet could blast their way through too if necessary. If there were a phrase to summarise it all in one, it would be â€œpatient relentlessnessâ€.
It had all made them the early favourites for Rosslyn Park and indeed for this award, however there was still the challenge of fulfilling their promise and actually winning Rosslyn Park, having been knocked out at the first hurdle last year.
This year they pulled it off, and in some style. The competition had been revamped, with many of the Festivalâ€™s big hitters* moving over to the Open competition, giving it greater depth than ever before, however nothing could deter Millfield.
They breezed through their group before beating last yearâ€™s champions Sedbergh in the elimination round. That was followed by quarter final group victories over Sherborne and their closest rivals for the title, Wellington College.
Their semi final performance was arguably the most impressive performance, a 50-0 victory over Brighton College, who had impressed many all season and came third in our Fans Vote for 7s Team of the Season.
It would all have meant nothing to them without victory in the final though. It looked as though it was likely to be a showdown with Wellington College, however the rapidly improving John Fisher beat them in the semi final to set up an interesting clash.
They put themselves about brilliantly though, and came as close as anyone to halting the Millfield juggernaught.
However Millfield were too strong, and sealed their fifth tournament from five, and soon made it six from six at the Sedbergh 10s, and with it effectively sealed their fate as our 7s Team of the Season.
There was still one game to go though in this glorious 7s season, the final showdown at Twickenham. With many of the Festival teams moving to the Open at Rosslyn Park, the format changed from last yearâ€™s game. This year the Twickenham showdown was a repeat of the Rosslyn Park Open final, Millfield v John Fisher.
Both sides had absences due to injury and international representation (a real sign of their quality) but it was John Fisher who were the victors in this game, putting in a startlingly good display to catch Millfield cold and run away with victory.
That result put the cat among pigeons when it came to the Team of the Season, was John Fisherâ€™s rapid improvement enough to elevate them to top spot, was performing on that stage better than five tournament victories?
Our readers thought it was impressive but not quite enough, with John Fisher coming in second in our Fans Vote, and we were in total agreement.
As a one off performance it was sensational and their performances had been outstanding, however nothing could take away from the truly extraordinary performances of Millfield this season.
Five tournaments out of five, plus the Sedbergh 10s is truly brilliant. When you look at the teams they beat in the knockout rounds of Rosslyn Park it only adds to that feeling. Sedbergh, Sherborne, Wellington College, Brighton College, and John Fisher are all serious heavyweights of schoolboy rugby, yet Millfield went through relatively untroubled. Indeed at times they simply breezed through.
Congratulations then to Millfield, one of the greatest school 7s sides this writer has ever had the pleasure to watch, they are the 2014 Fifteen Rugby 7s Team of the Season.
You, our readers, also agreed, with Millfield taking over 60% of the vote in our Fans Vote, making them the 2014 Fifteen Rugby Readers 7s Team of the Season as well.
They achieved 62.9% of the vote, with John Fisher reaching second place with 20.4%, and Brighton College coming in third with 11.1%, with other schools making up the remaining 5.6%.
It was a truly exceptional 7s season, with an absolutely outstanding 7-a-side team leading the way. Letâ€™s hope for more of the same next year!
2014 Fifteen Rugby 7s Team of the Season â€“ Millfield.
2014 Fifteen Rugby Readers 7s Team of the Season â€“ Millfield.
Last month we announced our â€˜All Stars school fifteen-a-side squadâ€™, which took the form of a 38 man Lions squad. At the end of this month we be doing the same for 7s season, where we will be announcing a 12-man School 7-a-side Squad.
We would love to hear your suggestions about which players should make the squad, and you can do so via this link: Â
By Angus Savage
* Rosslyn Park this year made the decision that all â€˜establishedâ€™ rugby schools would play in the Open competition. Previously 1 term rugby school played the Festival and 2 term rugby schools played the Open. However there has been some debate as to who qualifies as â€˜establishedâ€™.