A brilliant weekend of schools rugby at Allianz Park saw the U18 and U15 NatWest Schools Cup and Vase finalists decided.
The eight teams that will grace Twickenhamâ€™s turf on Wednesday 25th March are now confirmed following the U18 semi finals on Saturday and the U15 semi finals on Sunday.
There were undoubtedly two major headlines from the weekend. The first was that Dulwich College, with an extraordinary 50-14 victory of Wilmslow High School, are in their 4th U18 Cup final in a row and have a chance of collecting an astonishing 4th title in a row.
The second, and even more extraordinary, headline was that the U15 Cup final will be contested between QEGS Wakefield and Warwick for the third consecutive time, a Schools Cup record. Warwick could also equal or even better the record number of consecutive titles at U15 level. RGS Wycombe won twice in a row in the mid nineties before a share of the title in the third year with, coincidentally, QEGS. Warwick have beaten QEGS in the last two finals so a third win would give them the outright record.
Warwick sealed their final spot with a superb 33-20 victory over an excellent Brighton College side, while QEGS, unbeaten this season, went up against another unbeaten side in Wirral Grammar School in their semi final but crusied to an impressive 29-5 victory.
In the U15 Vase Oakham return to Twickenham after a foru eyar absence after beating Bishop Wordsworthâ€™s 47-27, Tyrese Johnson-Fisher scoring four stupendous tries. Their opponents are Sherborne, who saw off RGS Newcastle 38-15.
Back in the U18s Dulwichâ€™s victory over Wilmslow was a truly extraordinary affair, reminiscent of their final win over Warwick last year.
Their opponents in this yearâ€™s final will be Bromsgrove, who beat Oundle 27-18 in what was probably the contest of the weekend. Certainly it was the most heavily contested and was a bruising physical encounter between two truly excellent school teams.
In the Vase Seevic College scored an impressive six tries to dismantle Stockport Grammar School 45-23, their final opponents will be Churcherâ€™s College, who beat KES Aston 23-10.
Before the attention completely turns to the finals though, it is worth another comment on the extraordinary feats of Dulwich College, Warwick, and QEGS Wakefield.
For all three this has truly become a triumph of coaching as much as playing. To win one Cup at U15 level, and possibly two at U18 level, can be put down to a large degree to a superb crop of playing talent. To be in your fourth consecutive U18 final or your third consecutive U15 final speaks volumes of the coaching that each side is receiving.
Dulwich College produced a masterclass in their semi final, they did not try anything to flashy, they simply pinned Wilmslow into their own 22, forcing them to play, and then seized upon any mistakes and grinding out some scores of their own before cutting loose in the second half with some dazzling efforts.
Their sequence is incredible. The posts Colstonsâ€™ rule changes, limiting the number of imports allowed in a match squad after they won 6 in a row in the 90s, had led most to assume that this type of run of success was going to be impossible in the future. Yet Dulwich, a school that does not really do much by the way of importing, are chasing a fourth consecutive title. The enormity of that achievement is hard to put into words.
As is Warwickâ€™s achievement of a potential third title in a row. Unlike at U18 level, U15 teams are 100% new every year, there are no lower 6th players carrying their experience into the next year. Therefore to reach three finals in a row, let alone chasing three titles is incredible, the current crop were not even at the school when Warwick claimed their first title.
Amongst the achievement of those two though, the achievement of QEGS Wakefield must not be forgotten. Their effort in reaching a third final in a row is just about as impressive as Warwickâ€™s, a bounce of the ball here and there and it could be them that we are talking about as potential triple champions.
They are perhaps the most unfortunate Cup side of all time. This will be their eighth final, yet they only have one title to show for it, that share of the spoils over a decade ago with RGS High Wycombe.
They will be cursing their luck at this extraordinary sequence that once again sees Warwick as their opponents, but what better motivation could there be.
For al three though, Dulwich, Warwick, and QEGS, hats off to their players and particularly their coaching teams â€“ whoever wins on the 25th, the achievement of these three will go down in NatWest Schools Cup history.
NatWest Schools Cup Finals:
U18 NatWest Cup Final
Bromsgrove v Dulwich College
U18 NatWest Vase Final
Seevic College v Churcherâ€™s College
U15 NatWest Cup Final
QEGS Wakefield v Warwick
U15 NatWest Vase Final
Sherborne v Oakham
NatWest Schools Cup Semi Final Results (click on the results to see reports for each game):
Photos from all eight semi finals can be seen on our Facebook Page â€“ www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby