Novemberâ€™s Team of the Month selection has been one of the toughest since Fifteen Rugby began.
On our original long-list there were seventeen teams, showing just what a brilliant and competitive month it was been. There have been a lot of fixtures between sides generally considered to be among the best in the country, meaning that some superb teams have dropped games along the way.
November has seen the conclusion of the inaugural Schools Champions Trophy, the business end of the NatWest Cup has begun, while several top Daily Mail Trophy fixtures have taken place too.
The selection is of course purely an opinion, given the quality this month there will be a variety of different opinions as the Team of the Month suggestions we have received on Twitter show.
We narrowed down our original long-list to a five team shortlist, but before looking at those five teams and revealing the winner, it is worth mentioning those who just missed out.
Stamford will perhaps have the greatest reason to be disappointed at having missed out on the 5 team shortlist. They have one six out of six this month, including scoring over 70 points at the weekend. Only a slightly easier fixture list in November compared with earlier months kept them off, but they will be back in the mix come Team of the Term time.
Hymers College will be similarly aggrieved, they have won 11 in a row including five from five in November, like Stamford only a slightly weaker fixture list than those on the shortlist keeps them out of the top 5.
Similarly both Sherborne and Oundle have won all of their games this month, Sherborne with 6 form 6 including wins against Bryanston, Canford, and Clifton, while Oundle won five from five, and defeated local rivals Uppingham and Oundle.
Hampton have recovered brilliantly fro their injury woes before half term, winning 6 of their 7 matches in an incredibly busy month, including a brilliant 15-7 victory over Dulwich College. Their only defeat came to Wellington College, undoubtedly one of the top teams in the country, and by just two points.
Stowe have had a good month, their only defeat came to Bromsgrove, who also came close to the shortlist having also only lost once all month, and that was to Monmouth who have had a sensational unbeaten month.
Bloxham are unbeaten this month, and have only lost once all season, their highlight was a 17-10 victory over Bedford Modern in the NatWest Cup. RGS High Wycombe have also been in great Cup form and are unbeaten in November, including an excellent 12-9 victory over Whitgift, who have beaten Sedbergh and Dulwich this season.
Wellington College are also unlucky not to make the shortlist, they have won four out of five this month including a dominant victory over Epsom College. Had they beaten Sedbergh they might have been in that top 5, but they just missed out in a topsy-turvy game that brings us neatly into the shortlist.
Team of the Month Shortlist
Sedbergh â€“ It has been a slightly odd month for Sedbergh,they lost just their second game for the season, and first at home, to Kirkham Grammar School. However in mitigation they were recovering from a physically and emotionally exhausting midweek game against Wellington College, and it is that midweek game that sees Sedbergh on the shortlist. It was billed as a battle of the titans and so it proved as a late Johnny McPhillips penalty secured a thrilling 37-34 victory for Sedbergh. They also beat Warwick and Barnard Castle among others this month, not a bad haul at all.
Kingswood â€“ Kingswood might not have garnered a lot of column inches this month but a quick look at their record tells you everything you need to know. They have won four games from four this month, scoring an incredible 191 points across those four games and conceding just 14 points, quite incredible. The most remarkable of all was a brilliant 87-8 victory over Dean Close on Saturday, with just one game to play, an unbeaten season is on the horizon for Kingswood.
Kirkham Grammar School â€“ Kirkham are also on course for an unbeaten season, and have had a simply awesome month. Their highlight points from their four wins in four games was a 61-5 victory over Mount St Maryâ€™s, however the game that put them firmly in the mix for the Team of the Month award was of course their 22-12 defeat of Sedbergh, a brilliant result that confirmed Kirkham as one of the best teams in the country this year, an opinion that was already bubbling after they defeated Tonbridge last month.
Millfield â€“ Millfield collected their second trophy of the term in November when they beat Grammar School at Leeds 31-24 at Allianz Park in the inaugural Champions Trophy final. They were the dominant team in the tournament, and their five wins from six November run included a dominant semi final victory over Oakham. The month did end in disappointment on Saturday though, losing 10-8 away at Monmouth having had to rotate players following that brilliant win a few days earlier.
Monmouth â€“ Monmouth were already in the hunt for the Team of the Month award before that victory over Millfield on the final weekend of the month as described above, but that victory added even more credence to their challenge for the award. They also beat the outstanding Bromsgrove 13-10 earlier in the month, one of four victories in their 100% month. Indeed it is almost a 100% season, they have lost just once, in a friendly against Crawshays Welsh.
November Team of the Month
Choosing between the five is no easy task, it is clear how high a standard and intensity of rugby that these sides have been playing at simply by how vulnerable they have proved to be on Saturdayâ€™s following midweek exploits â€“ schools rugby has moved a long way since the days of Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday games.
Monmouth School are the Fifteen Rugby School Team of the Month for November.
It was a close run thing but victories over both Millfield and Bromsgrove, both tight gritty affairs, were enough to see Monmouth just clinch the prize. Kirkham came very close, their victory over Sedbergh was tremendous but Monmouth had two such impressive wins this month.
Of course Millfield are unlucky to miss out having won a trophy for the second month in a row. Kingswoodâ€™s record was by far the best but their fixture list did not quite have the same challenges as the other four on the shortlist, while as a one off result, Sedberghâ€™s 37-34 win over Wellington really stood out.
Ultimately though Monmouthâ€™s month has just been incredibly successful, they have won all of their games and beaten two of the best teams in the country within that. Their NatWest Cup fixture on Wednesday against Stowe ought to be a true schools rugby classic.
One thing is for sure, when the end of the term comes, all five of these sides will be in the mix for that award, as will a number of sides on the longer list.
What a month it has been!
Congratulations to Monmouth!
Do you agree with our November School Team of the Month? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV
We also want you to vote for your Team of the Month in our Fans Vote â€“ just follow this link: Fans Team of the Month Vote.
Image Credit: Des Pugh
For more information about Monmouth, seeÂ monmouthschool.org