Arguably the biggest weekend on the schools rugby calendar takes place, the St Joseph’s Festival.
Sixteen teams from around the country head to Ipswich’s St Joseph’s College for this brilliant annual Festival of rugby. The fifteen-a-side games are shortened to just ten minutes each way in order for the competition to take place within the England Rugby Schools playing time guidelines, and it makes for fantastic rugby, with every single point a crucial one. In this tournament, more than any other, the choice between going for points or for the try is a tough one.
As ever, the field looks fiercely competitive. Last year’s Champions, Millfield, return, they are in Group 3 with last year’s Plate champions, Brighton College, along with RGS Newcastle and Gordon’s. Millfield and Brighton College will likely be battling this one out, Millfield have been struggling for form but were back to their best against Sedbergh in midweek, despite losing. Brighton are in fine form though – that game will be a huge one in the final shake up.
The top two teams in each group qualify for Sunday’s two Trophy groups, with the bottom two going into the two plate groups. The winners of each Trophy group on Sunday then meet in the final, with the winners of each Plate group meeting in the Plate group.
The hosts, St Joseph’s College, are in Group 1 and will likely be favourites, however Hampton will put up a very good fight. They have gone somewhat under the radar this year, yet have been in superb form all year and will quietly fancy their chances. Solihull too could provide some trouble, while Eastern Barbarians U18 are something of an unknown quantity. They are a composite side from local clubs, cobbled together after a couple of late drop outs. What they do do though is give a chance for good players from smaller schools to mix it in this elite schools environment – they will certainly be up for it.
Group 2 is the group that will have all eyes on it. Cranleigh are probably the favourites, they are one of the form sides in the country despite losing to Tonbridge last week and could well have a real crack at winning the entire tournament.
They will be challenged though, QEGS Wakefield are seriously strong this year, with a two groups of former U15 NatWest Cup finalists in the side and a strong record this year too. The group also has RGS High Wycombe traditionally one of the strongest sides around, and finalists in 2013. They are looking pretty decent again this year too, and always get their game in place for St Jo’s. Finally, the group also includes John Fisher, previous winners of the tournament, and again a side who are always strong, and who always raise their game even higher for this competition.
The final group, Group 4, is another that looks nigh on impossible to predict. Dulwich College will be most people’s favourites, they won it in 2011, and rightly so. However they will be seriously challenged by the others.
Denstone College are a hugely impressive side and could be real dark horses in this competition, while Merchiston Castle, from Scotland, are always a strong side and would dearly love to build on last year’s performance where they were one of the star attractions of the competition. St Peter’s Gloucester will likely be the side to find this group toughest but they too have great history, they are former Schools Cup winners.
All of which only goes to show just why this competition is so popular, it is an immensely competitive competition, and with short games and a fast turnaround it always makes things incredibly unpredictable and even more exciting.
Add to the mix just how much the Festival means to St Joseph’s, a lot would be a huge understatement, and you have one of the great events on the calendar. There will be thousands of St Joseph’s supporters, and plenty from other schools, throughout the weekend, and if the hosts get to the final – prepare for one of the great schools rugby spectacles.
2015 St Joseph’s Festival Groups
|Group 2||Group 3||Group 4|
St Joseph’s College
|John Fisher||Millfield||Dulwich College|
|Eastern BaaBaas U18||QEGS Wakefield||RGS Newcastle|
St Peter’s, Gloucester
|Hampton||RGS High Wycombe||Brighton College|
|Saturday 17th October – Schedule|
|Time||Pitch One||Pitch Two|
|09.00||St Joseph’s v Eastern BaaBaas U18||Hampton v Solihull|
|09.40||John Fisher v QEGS||Cranleigh v RGS High Wycombe|
|10.20||Millfield v Gordon’s||RGS Newcastle v Brighton College|
|11.00||Dulwich College v St Peter’s||Merchiston v Denstone|
|11.40||St Joseph’s v Solihull||Eastern BaaBaas U18 v Hampton|
|12.20||John Fisher v Cranleigh||QEGS v RGS High Wycombe|
|13.00||Millfield v RGS Newcastle||Gordon’s v Brighton College|
|13.40||Dulwich College v Merchiston||St Peter’s v Denstone|
|14.20||St Joseph’s v Hampton||Eastern BaaBaas U18 v Solihull|
|15.00||RGS High Wycombe v John Fisher||QEGS v Cranleigh|
|15.40||Brighton College v Millfield||RGS Newcastle v Gordon’s|
|16.20||Denstone v Dulwich College||St Peter’s v Merchiston|
|2015 St Joseph’s Festival Day 2 Group Structure|
|Group A||Group B||Group W||Group X|
|Winner Group 1||Winner Group 3||3rd Group 1||3rd Group 3|
|Winner Group 2||Winner Group 4||3rd Group 2||3rd Group 4|
|R Up Group 3||R Up Group 1||4th Group 3||4th Group 1|
|R Up Group 4||R Up Group 2||4th Group 4||4th Group 2|
|Sunday 18th October – Schedule|
|Time||Pitch One||Pitch Two|
|08.30||W 1 v 4||W 2 v 3|
|09.05||A 1 v 4||A 2 v 3|
|09.40||X 1 v 4||X 2 v 3|
|10.15||B 1 v 4||B 2 v 3|
|10.50||W 1 v 3||W 2 v 4|
|11.25||A 1 v 3||A 2 v 4|
|12.00||X 1 v 3||X 2 v 4|
|12.35||B 1 v 3||B 2 v 4|
|13.10||W 1 v 2||W 3 v 4|
|13.45||A 1 v 2||A 3 v 4|
|14.20||X 1 v 2||X 3 v 4|
|14.55||B 1 v 2||B 3 v 4|