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Schools Rugby Weekend Previews & Predictions – Best weekend of the season looms

This weekend could be arguably the most competitive weekend of the school season so far. Just selecting which of the hugely competitive fixtures to preview was a challenge.

 

One of the big themes this week seems to be local derbies, with Abingdon v Radley, John Fisher v Whitgift, and Judd v Skinners’ among the many fiercly competitive local derbies taking place.

 

5 Key Fixtures

 

Abingdon v Radley College

The Abingdon derby has been a highly competitive fixture in recent years, these two schools for just around the corner from one another have been playing some superb rugby.

Abingdon are probably just favourites, with home advantage and a slightly better record this season. As Radley showed against Sedbergh in the Champions Trophy though, they are highly capable of producing outstanding performances.

Both have already had their other derby of the season, against St Edward’s Oxford. Both won, but Abingdon’s victory was more commanding, suggesting perhaps a slight advantage. Of course in a derby game, who knows what could happen.

Prediction – Abingdon

 

Durham v Sedbergh 

At the start of the season perhaps few would have predicted that this would be a top of the table clash in the Daily Mail Trophy, but that is what it is and it makes this a huge game.

These two sit first and second in the table, with Durham leapfrogging Sedbergh to top spot last weekend. Both are undefeated and have put in some startling performances. Durham put eighty points past Hymers last week, and nearly seventy past Dame Allan’s a couple of weeks ago.

Sedbergh have been similarly impressive though, putting over fifty past Wilmslow and Radley, and beating RGS Newcastle 70-14. It is that result, which suggests the direction of this game though, for Durham only beat RGS by a point. Nevertheless, expect this to be a well-fought contest.

Prediction – Sedbergh

 

John Fisher v Whitgift

The traditional Croydon derby, though with the rise of Trinity this has truly become a three-way contest. However this is the historical derby between the two most successful sides in the area, two of the most successful in the country.

It is always a well attended event, with passionate support for both sides, and is usually a good contest and an even game.

Fisher have the better record this season, having only lost once, to Trinity. Whitgift meanwhile have lost twice but their fixture list has been much more challenging, with defeats coming to Wellington College and Sedbergh, two of the very best in the country.

Both have beaten good teams, Whitgift beat Warwick last week and Fisher have beaten RGS High Wycombe and Brighton College. All of which suggests a very close game.

Prediction – Whitgift, by a whisker.

 

Millfield v Bromsgrove

 

A huge contest, between to of the most successful sides of last season. Millfield are the Champions Trophy and St Joseph’s Festival holders, Bromsgrove are the NatWest Cup champions, making this a massive contest.

History suggests though that Millfield should be favourites for this, however Bromsgrove won the reverse fixture last year and are on fire this. Millfield meanwhile took rather a strong beating last weekend to Wellington College.

How this game goes could well depend on how Millfield react to that. Bromsgrove’s form is consistent, but Millfield will be looking to react positively to last week’s defeat, and a wounded Millfield side is a dangerous animal.

This contest really could go either way. If it were in Bromsgrove then at the moment one would probably predict them to win. At Millfield, it is a very tough call indeed.

Prediction – Too close to call. Home advantage sides with Millfield.

 

Stonyhurst College v RGS Lancaster

Two dark horses of the season. Both have been putting in some great performances and securing some excellent results. Whilst neither has a completely unblemished record, both are impressing onlookers with every match they play.

Bradford Grammar School and QEGS Wakefield have been tearing up trees in the area, but these sides have drawn against them when playing them, suggesting that they too are at that level.

The loser will have a bit of recovering to do, this game is important for continuing to assert their presence on the circuit. But what seems certain is that this is going to be a brilliantly fought contest.

Prediction – Stonyhurst College

 

Those five are all huge fixtures, but the lists of enormous fixtures just keeps on going and going this weekend, as the following five previews show.

 

5 Previews

 

Brighton College v Trinity

Two schools who have been performing well and have been inspired by having Rugby World Cup teams training at their schools. Brighton played host to Japan during the period that included that famous victory over South Africa, while Trinity have been hosting France, whose fly half, Freddie Michalak, has been doing some kicking coaching whilst at the school.

On the field it has been a decent start for both. Brighton have beaten Hurstpierpoint, Sussex U18, and most impressively, St John’s Leatherhead. Defeats have come to Dulwich and John Fisher, but their form has been very good.

Trinity meanwhile are unbeaten, though their fixture list has been a little easier than Brighton College’s. A draw against Campion is their only blip, but the result that stands out in the context of this victory is their victory over John Fisher, which suggests that Trinity may perhaps just have the edge.

Prediction – Trinity, just.

 

Clifton College v Marlborough College 

This is a real schools rugby classic between two old schools who have been playing each other for years.

Clifton are unbeaten this season and had a very good win against Sir Thomas Rich’s last weekend. A draw against Bishop Wordsworth’s at the start of the season was their biggest wobble but since then it has been plain sailing bar a real battling win against Rugby that saw them snatch a one point win.

Marlborough have struggled a bit more, picking up a couple of defeats. However anyone that saw their spirited, if ultimately unsuccessful, comeback against Sherborne in the Champions Trophy will know that this is a side that is packed full of character and will not lie down.

Prediction – Clifton College

 

RGS Newcastle v Ampleforth College

 

Ampleforth appear to be back after a few seasons in the dark. They have lost to Sedbergh and St Peter’s York, but both have been in outstanding form of late. Their other two games though have been huge victories, putting fifty points of Grammar School at Leeds and Ashville.

RGS Newcastle had a tough start to the season, losing to Durham, Barnard Castle, and Sedbergh in their first three games, indeed they conceded seventy to Sedbergh. However since then they have beaten Grammar School at Leeds and Dame Allan’s and seem to be back in form.

That said, it looks as though Ampleforth will be favourites here, but do not expect this to be one way traffic, it should be a tight game.

Prediction – Ampleforth College

 

Stowe v Epsom College

After defeat to Oundle last weekend, Stowe will be keen to bounce back and prove that they are the strong side that most believe they are. If they could have picked a side to face though, it probably would not have been Epsom College, widely regarded as one of the strongest around.

Epsom have lost just once, to the outstanding Cranleigh, and their victories include the likes of Tonbridge and Eton, two very good sides.

It will be a tough as for Stowe, but theirs is a tricky ground to play at. Always well supported, and always with a very good side, nobody is assured of victory at Stowe. That said, Epsom must be favourites.

Prediction – Epsom College

 

Tonbridge v Cranleigh

Almost always an excellent fixture between two good sides, this is usually a very good contest.

It should be a good contest again this year, however Craneligh appear to have elevated themselves beyond very good into the excellent category, with that win over Epsom, as described above, a real sign of just how good they are.

Tonbridge are a good side too but have lost more fixtures than they would have liked, including that Champions Trophy game to St John’s Leatherhead. However at home and with the vocal supporters behind them they are going to give Cranleigh a real battle.

The question is, will it be enough to stop the 2015 Cranleigh machine?

Prediction – Cranleigh

 

There are still a number of massive fixtures to talk about though, including the derby between Judd and Skinners’, which this year has a new trophy for the winner, the Chairman’s Cup. Skinners are probably favourites but in a derby game it is never quite that simple. It will be well worth getting along to if you are around.

Bedford v Dulwich has always been a good fixture and should be again, while the in form Blundell’s host Bryanston for what should be a cracking game, would anyone bet against Blundell’s right now though?

Cheltenham College v St Edward’s Oxford has the real of a schools rugby classic about it, so too Sherborne v Wellington College, where the meeting of those two magnificent backlines should be absolutely fascinating.

RGS High Wycombe v Warwick gives off the impression that it could be a massive fixture, these have been two of the top sides in the NatWest Cup recently and should produce a great game of rugby.

Harrow v St Paul’s is a real classic but Harrow ought to be too strong, Stamford v Uppingham too, two local rivals but it is hard to see Uppingham break Stamford’s ongoing four year unbeaten home record.

It ought to be just a superb weekend of schools rugby – the best of the season, on paper.

 

If you have any photos, videos, or reports from the weekend’s games, please send them in to writers@fifteenrugby.com – the more you send us, the more we can feature your school!

 

Schools Rugby Fixtures (Predictions in bold):

 

5 Key Fixtures

 

Abingdon v Radley College

Durham v Sedbergh

John Fisher v Whitgift

Millfield v Bromsgrove

Stonyhurst College v RGS Lancaster

 

5 Previews

 

Brighton College v Trinity

Clifton College v Marlborough College

RGS Newcastle v Ampleforth College

Stowe v Epsom College

Tonbridge v Cranleigh

 

Other Key Fixtures

 

Bedford v Dulwich College

Bedford Modern v Berkhamsted

Bishop Vesey’s GS v KES Stratford

Bishop Wordsworth’s v Kingswood

Blundell’s v Bryanston

Bristol GS v King’s College Taunton

Campion v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

Cheltenham College v St Edward’s Oxford

City of London Freemens v Christ’s Hospital (NatWest Cup)

Cranbrook v Eastbourne College

Dame Allan’s v Yarm

Dartford GS v New Hall

Dean Close v Bloxham

Denstone College v Kirkham GS

Feslted v Eltham College

Grammar School at Leeds v St Ambrose College

Gresham’s v Wymondham College (NatWest Cup)

Hampton v St Benedict’s

Harrow v St Paul’s

Hereford Cathedral School v Christ College

Hurstpierpoint College v Worth

Hymers College v Barnard Castle

Judd v Skinners’

KES Bath v Malvern College

King’s Canterbury v Reed’s

Langley v Norwich (NatWest Cup)

Leicester GS v John Cleveland

Lord Wandsworth College v Reigate GS

Loughborough GS v King’s Worcester

Magdalen College v Portsmouth Grammar School

Monkton Combe v Prior Park College

Mount St Mary’s College v Ashville College

Nottingham HS v KES Birmingham

Oratory v Canford

Princethorpe College v Bablake

QEGS Wakefield v Crossley Heath

Reading Blue Coat v Churcher’s College

RGS Colchester v Bishops Stortford HS

RGS High Wycombe v Warwick

Rugby v Haileybury

Sandbach v Ellesmere College

Seaford College v Glyn

Sevenoaks v Mill Hill

Sherborne v Wellington College

Shiplake College v Pangbourne College

Sir Thomas Rich’s v Monmouth

Solihull v St Peter’s, Gloucester

Stamford v Uppingham

St Anslem’s College v Manchester GS

St Columba’s College v St Albans

St George’s College, Weybridge v Wimbledon College

Stockport GS v Cheadle Hulme

Trent College v Worksop College

Wilmslow HS v Wirral GS

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