After an extraordinarily good first month of the 2014/15 Schools Rugby season, choosing a Team of the Month is a thankless task, that said looking back at the month is certainly a pleasure.
Schools from all for of the recognised regions have performed well. Some have surprised us, others have done exactly as expected. What has always been consistent though is the quality of rugby, and the staggering number of results that have to be double and triple checked each week, such is their brilliance.
The new Schools Champions Trophy has been a roaring success so far, while the Daily Mail Trophy has again provided some truly outstanding fixtures. Just look at the fixtures that have bookended the month; Whitgift v Sedbergh in the Daily Mail Trophy on the opening weekend, and Millfield v Tonbridge in the Champions Trophy on the last day of the month, brilliant.
To choosing a school that should be crowned Team of the Month then. As ever, the criteria are varied. Wins are not the only measure, quality of opposition, quality of performance, situation, and much more all come into it â€“ and there have been plenty to choose from.
In the Daily Mail Trophy a staggering 23 teams remain unbeaten, though among those schools some have lost outside of that competition.
Sitting at the top of that pile are Grammar School at Leeds, Millfield, Abingdon, and Epsom College, three of whom (GSAL, Millfield, and Epsom) are also in the quarter finals of the Champions Trophy.
Kirkham Grammar School sit behind them, they have won three from three and have scored over fifty points a game. Impressive work to say the least. Wellington College have had a good month, beating RGS High Wycombe, Whitgift, and Marlborough College, and drawing with Dulwich College, who are also unbeaten.
Stamford have won four from four, all of which have been at home, seeing them extend that extraordinary unbeaten home run to well over three years now. The test for them will be when they hit the road. Stowe too have been impressive, their only hiccup coming away at Stamford, as the record above shows â€“ hardly a shameful result.
In the north Kingâ€™s Macclesfield have impressed, notching half centuries on a couple of occasions. Hymers College have won five from five, while Stonyhurst have impressed us. RGS Newcastle also look a strong side.
Sedbergh got over the disappointment of losing to Whitgift quickly, beating their next four opponents including two of the top sides in Scotland, Merchiston Castle and George Watsonâ€™s.
Others have looked impressive too, just to roll a few off the tongue, Eton College, Tonbridge, Bedford Modern, Bedford, and Kingâ€™s Worcester have all caught our attention, among others.
For us though our choice came down to those three sides mentioned at the top of the article, Epsom College, Grammar School at Leeds, and Millfield. All three a shining light in two different competitions, all three are unbeaten, and all three have utterly blown away sides, and dealt with a stern test here and there.
Grammar School at Leeds have played the most games, they have won six from six. Their toughest outing came yesterday when they beat Bedford 13-10 in the Champions Trophy after a long trip down the A1. They have also beaten RGS Newcastle, and RGS Lancaster, and absolutely breezed past Durham, St Peterâ€™s York, and Ampleforth.
Millfield produced possibly the shock of the month when they beat RGS High Wycombe 67-7. Not that they won but because of the sheer margin of victory; it was supposed to be relatively close. They have also heavily beaten Bryanston, beaten Warwick 31-12, and yesterday they beat Tonbridge in arguably the game of the season, winning 16-14 in the Champions Trophy.
Epsom College have won five from five, going past forty points three times including in victory against Blundellâ€™s, 40-7, in yesterdayâ€™s Champions Trophy encounter. Their lowest points tally came in a 28-7 victory over Cranleigh, while Tonbridge have been their closest challengers, keeping Epsom within sight but ultimately losing 34-23.
Who to pick as the ultimate side for this month then? Millfield probably have the most extraordinary one off result of the lot, that victory over RGS High Wycombe, Grammar School at Leeds have probably been under the most pressure to prove themselves, yesterdayâ€™s game v Bedford, yet did so and with it will have earned respect in the South that is sometimes too hard earned. Epsom are possibly the most consistent, churning out victory after victory in almost exactly the same manner every week.
The reality is that any could take the crown, and perhaps that all three should. However the rules are the rules and we must choose one.
It is then with great pleasure that we make Epsom College the Fifteen Rugby Team of the Month of September 2014.
In the end, it came down to Tonbridge. Both Millfield and Epsom have played them, and while yesterdayâ€™s Millfield v Tonbridge game was one of the great school rugby matches, Epsom did find it easier against them, managing to score 34 points against a defence that is very mean.
Millfield will rightly be gutted to miss out, you sense they will be back to fight again another month, and it is difficult to believe that a showdown with Epsom in the Champions Trophy is not coming soon.
Likewise Grammar School at Leeds, they have been brilliant and have been under pressure, knowing that they have a good side and that they must therefore produce. As with Millfield v Epsom College, it is surely more likely than not that GSAL will meet one, if not both, of their two challengers this month in the Champions Trophy, and you sense that they too will be fighting for this crown most months.
What a month it has been for so many, and for these three especially, but congratulations to Epsom College, our September Team of the Month â€“ and a brilliant team at that.
Team of the Month: Epsom College
Runners-up: Millfield & Grammar School at Leeds
Epsom Stats: P 5 W 5 L0 F 196 A 54
Do you agree with our Team of the Month, is there anyone else that should have been in the hunt? Let us know via @FifteenRugbyXV or through the comment box below.