Schools Rugby Weekend Preview & Predictions – Huge games after Half Term break

The first full weekend of schools rugby following the half term break takes place this weekend, and there are some fascinating fixtures ahead.

 

The top sides from the first half of term are all in action and looking to back that up to secure a successful season, come December, while for those who struggled a bit, this half term offers them the chance to turn a difficult season into a good one.

 

5 Key Fixtures

 

Abingdon v Sherborne

 

A very interesting fixture, both sides were highly impressive before half term. Abingdon lost just twice, to Berkhamsted and the outstanding Kirkham Grammar School, while Sherborne only lost to Bedford, and have beaten Wellington College.

 

Sherborne are surely one of the best around, but an injury crisis just before half term left them a little short, so much will depend on how they have recovered from that.

 

If they have, they should be slight favourites, particularly with the extra match practice after playing in the Oldest Four competition. Anywhere below their best though and Abindgon will seize the opportunity, for they are a top class side too.

 

Prediction – Sherborne

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Rugby v Cheltenham College

 

The oldest fixture in schoolboy rugby, and what an apt fixture to follow last weekend’s Oldest Four competition, which unfortunately Rugby have opted not to play in recently.

 

Cheltenham finished bottom of the table in that competition last weekend, and have endured a tricky season results wise. However they have been competitive in every game, have good players and coaches, and are very much in the hunt for this fixture.

 

Rugby are probably favourites, they enjoyed a strong finish to last half term after a slow start, and look like a side that will continue that into this half.

 

Whatever the result though, this game is always a special occasion, and an historic schools rugby fixture.

 

Prediction – Rugby

 

Warwick v Bedford

 

This ought to be a fascinating fixture. Warwick ought to be outstanding this year, they are made up of two sets of U15 NatWest Cup winners, yet they have lost more fixtures than they would have thought they should so far.

 

Nevertheless, they have beaten Dulwich and Stowe, two top teams, and are without doubt a very good side. However, so too are Bedford. They are in the Champions Trophy semi finals, and were unbeaten in the last half of term, playing some truly brilliant rugby in the process.

 

That suggests that they ought to be favourites, but if their minds are already on Wednesday’s semi final against Sedbergh then they could be vulnerable to Warwick, who will be going flat out to insure an outstanding second half of term, and perhaps some momentum in the NatWest Cup.

 

Prediction – Bedford

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Wellington College v Hampton

 

This is going to be a monumental game of rugby. Wellington College, at their best, are perhaps the very best team in the country. Certainly, in terms of individual talent, there are few who can match them. They won five from seven before half term, but it will be the two defeats that sting, surprising losses to Dulwich and Sherborne. It just leaves the sense that there is more to come from them.

 

Hampton meanwhile are absolutely flying, they went unbeaten before half term, a run that culminated in winning the prestigious St Joseph’s Festival for the first time in their history. That triumph undoubtedly places them among the best few sides around, all of which makes Saturday’s encounter fascinating.

 

Who are the favourites? It’s tough to call. Perhaps home advantage gives Wellington the edge, but only just. This is perhaps the game of the weekend.

 

Prediction – Wellington College, just.

 

Whitgift v RGS High Wycombe

 

Whitgift’ only defeats so far this season have come against Sedbergh and Wellington College, which tells you that this is a very good team indeed.

 

RGS High Wycombe, by contrast, have had a fair few defeats so far this term. However theirs have also always been against top schools, and they found their form in a big way at the St Joseph’s Festival, at which they always seem to excel, where they went all the way to the final, where they became the only side to score against Hampton all tournament.

 

Picking a winner is no easy task, long term form suggest Whitgift ought to be the favourites, but after that St Joseph’s run, plus having won in midweek, perhaps the momentum is with RGS High Wycombe slightly.

 

Prediction – RGS High Wycombe, just.

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All five fixtures look hugely exciting, and the likely competitiveness of each just serves to show how many sides are competing right at the top end of the school game this year, more than over the last couple of years it would certainly seem.

 

There is plenty of other excitement around too, as our next five previews show.

 

5 Previews

 

Epsom College v Brighton College

 

Brighton College have looked in good nick all season, inspired in many ways by having hosted Japan for their stunning victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. Brighton’s form carried through to the St Joseph’s Festival, where they performed well despite being handy tricky draws on both days.

 

On Saturday though, they come up against one of the form sides in the country in Epsom College. Epsom have tasted defeat just twice this season, and are avenging last year’s early (ish) knockout in the Champions Trophy in style, they are into the semi finals and host Blundell’s on Wednesday.

 

Nevertheless there is a chance for Brighton College, perhaps Epsom will have one eye on that semi final. It seems unlikely that they will though, Epsom are a classy outfit with some top class players.

 

Prediction – Epsom College

 

Eton College v Trinity

 

Eton’s hugely successful Colts side are now part of the 1st XV, and while young, they have already proven to be very competitive at this level. Trinity will be a big test though, they are a very good side themselves, and are another who got a great boost from having a World Cup team based at their school, in their case France.

 

Trinity also posses England U18 and Harlequins Academy winger Gabriel Ibitoye, among others, who will certainly threaten the Eton line.

 

Only Brighton College have beaten Trinity this term, but Eton will be their toughest challenge since that game, and while Eton have lost more often, including to the outstanding duo of Wellington College and Epsom College, the strength of their fixture list ought to help nudge them into the favourites position here.

 

Prediction – Eton College

 

Harrow v Tonbridge

 

Harrow have lost just once all season, to the quietly brilliant St Paul’s. Their form has been formidable, and with top class players in their ranks such as Callum Sirker, and the youngest of the Ford clan, Jacob, at fly half.

 

Tonbridge too have quality, Ben Earl at number 8 in particular, their season has been more mixed than Harrow’s though, with a pretty even win/loss record. Nevertheless, they have beaten Cranleigh, who are without doubt one of the top handful of teams in the country.

 

That result should alert Harrow to the fact that this is a top Tonbridge outfit and that they can cause real damage. Harrow remain favourites though, their record and form has been excellent, while home field advantage tips things slightly more their way. Make no mistake though, this is a monstrous clash.

 

Prediction – Harrow

 

Monmouth v Stowe

 

Monmouth have not quite hit last year’s heights, but they have still looked a mighty fine side at times this season. They welcome Stowe though having lost three of their last four games and badly in need of some momentum.

 

Stowe are not a side you want to face in that scenario, as ever they are a dogged and tough side, and while defeats have come against Bromsgrove, Oundle, and Warwick (not many will beat those sides), victories against the likes of RGS High Wycombe and Epsom College highlight their quality.

 

Monmouth won this one last year in a real scrap in the NatWest Cup, so Stowe will want to make amends. This really has the feel of being a vital, and immensely competitive fixture.

 

Prediction – Stowe

 

Oakham v Stamford

 

A big local derby this one. Oakham struggled for consistency of results prior to half term, however having seen them in action they are certainly capable of turning that around. Having seen their new Head Coach’s former charges, Hampton, win the St Joseph’s Festival, they should be filled with confidence that they too could start producing some special results.

 

Stamford are a tricky side to start that run against though. Having got over their early season jitters and injury crises, they are back up to strength and in fine form, having won their last three in a row leading up to the half term break.
They will be favourites on Saturday, but on Doncaster Close, Oakham will be raring to go and will fancy their chances of claiming a scalp.

 

Prediction – Stamford

 

There is plenty of quality rugby elsewhere on Saturday too, Dulwich College v John Fisher, Oundle v Uppingham, Barnard Castle v St Peter’s York, and Radley College v Marlborough College to name just a few.

 

There is also an interesting cross border clash between Welsh side Llandovery College and Somerset’s Millfield. Both sides have a stack of internationals among their alumni, and their fixtures always tend to produce plenty of excitement, keep an eye on this one.

 

It is set to be a top weekend of rugby all around – it’s good to be back!

 

Don’t forget to let us know your results, and if you have any photos, videos, or reports from the weekend’s games then please get in touch via writers@fifteenrugby.com

 

Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):

 

5 Key Fixtures:

 

Abingdon v Sherborne

Rugby v Cheltenham College

Warwick v Bedford

Wellington College v Hampton

Whitgift v RGS High Wycombe

 

5 Previews:

 

Epsom College v Brighton College

Eton College v Trinity

Harrow v Tonbridge

Monmouth v Stowe

Oakham v Stamford

 

Other Keys Games:

 

AKS Arnold v Rydal Penrhos

Ampleforth College v Hymers College

Barnard Castle v St Peter’s York

Bishop’s Stortford College v Bedford Modern

Bishop’s Stortford HS v Campion

Bishop Vesey’s GS v Adams GS
Bloxham v St Edward’s, Oxford

Blundell’s v Clifton College

Bradford GS v Pocklington

Bristol GS v QEH

Bryanston v Bishop Wordsworth’s

Canford v King’s College, Taunton

Cranbrook v Skinners’

Cranleigh v RGS Guildford

Dauntsey’s v Prior Park College

Dean Close v Taunton

Denstone College v Malvern College

Dulwich College v John Fisher

Ellesmere College v Solihull

Eltham College v RGS Colchester

Framlingham College v Norwich

Gresham’s v Royal Hospital School

Haileybury v St John’s Leatherhead

Hereford Cathedral School v King’s Worcester

Judd v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS (NatWest Cup)

KCS Wimbledon v St Paul’s

KES Birmingham v Old Swinford Hospital

KES Stratford v RGS Worcester

King’s Bruton v Downside

King’s Canterbury v Eastbourne College

Kirkham GS v Manchester GS

Llandovery College v Millfield

Lord Wandsworth College v Caterham

Magdalen College v King Edward’s, Southampton

Merchant Taylors v Reading Blue Coat

Merchant Taylors, Crosby v Lymm HS

Mount St Mary’s College v Worksop College

New Hall v The Leys

Northampton SfB v Aylesbury GS

Nottingham HS v King’s Macclesfield

Oundle v Uppingham

Pate’s GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s

QEGS Wakefield v Loughborough GS

Radley College v Marlborough College

Reed’s v Seaford College

Reigate GS v Colfe’s

RGS Newcastle v Austin Friars

Sedbergh v RGS Lancaster

Shiplake College v UCS

St Benedict’s v The Oratory

St Joseph’s College v Wymondham College

Stockport GS v Audenshaw

Tiffin v St George’s College, Weybridge

Trent College v King’s Grantham

Wilmslow HS v Queen Ethelburga’s

Wirral GS v St Ambrose College

Yarm v Woodhouse Grove

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