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Champions Trophy Semi Finals Preview – Monumental day of rugby ahead

The semi finals of the second ever Schools Champions Trophy take place this Wednesday.

 

Epsom College host Blundell’s at 14.45, while Sedbergh host Bedford fifteen minutes earlier with the RFU cameras live streaming the game.

 

The winners of each will head to Saracens’ Allianz Park for the final on Wednesday 25th November, where they will take to the field on the same day as the AASE final, brining schools and AASE rugby closer than ever before.

 

Before anyone can turn their attention to that though, there are two monumental semi finals ahead of us to be decided.

 

Epsom College v Blundell’s – Wednesday, 14.45

 

This game is set to be fascinating, both sides lost on the weekend, Epsom College to Brighton College, and Blundell’s to Clifton College, having been 14-0 up. That will worry Blundell’s, not the loss, but the surrendering of a winning position.

 

What will fill them with confidence is their form over the course of the season, and in particular in this run to the semi finals. Theirs has arguably been the toughest route of all four semi finalists.

 

They have had to beat a good Canford side, one of last year’s best sides, Monmouth, and schools rugby legends, Barnard Castle.

 

Epsom College by contrast began with a walkover and had a 52-12 win in their quarter final over Haileybury, but in between they faced an excellent Eton College side and beat them fairly commandingly, 24-7.

 

Epsom are considered to be one of the very best in the country, and in the likes of captain and scrum half Niall Saunders, they have some truly outstanding talent, however given Blundell’s form, the same has to start to be said of them.

 

Epsom are also looking to make a point, they felt aggrieved last year when they, as one of the tournament favourites, travelled to Oakham with an injury ravaged side and got turned over. They want to avenge that by bringing home the trophy this year.

 

Expect this one to be fiercely contested and highly physical, Epsom will be favourites heading into this but Blundell’s are not to be underestimated and with a place at Allianz Park at stake, they are going to throw everything at this.

 

Route to the Semi Finals:

 

Epsom College

 

Round 1 – w/o v Eastbourne College

Round 2 – 24-7 v Eton College

Quarter Final – 52-12 v Haileybury

 

Blundell’s

 

Round 1 – 19-11 v Canford

Round 2 – 31-7 v Monmouth

Quarter Final – 26-7 v Barnard Castle

 

Sedbergh v Bedford – Wednesday, 14.30 – LIVE STREAM

 

These are unequivocally two of the best teams in the country. Not only are they in the semi finals of the Champions Trophy, they also sit first (Sedbergh) and third (Bedford) in the Daily Mail Trophy table, both without a defeat to their name so far this season.

 

The winner will therefore fancy themselves as the favourites at Allianz Park in a fortnight, but there can be no thinking ahead to that. This is going to be the biggest game of the season to date, in any competition. The one worry is the weather, which forced Sedbergh to call off Saturday’s game v RGS Lancaster, and shows no signs of letting up ahead of this one.

 

With the RFU cameras live streaming this one though, it seems likely that one way or another it will probably go ahead. And what a treat we have in store when it does.

 

Sedbergh have been scoring points for fun all season, with their England U18 fly half and inspiration, Ali Crossdale, causing mayhem, along with his flying winger Jonny Keh. Their route to the semis has been a long one, indeed this is their first home game of the campaign after away trips to Bradford Grammar, 32-20, Radley, 56-31, and last year’s Champions Millfield, where they won a gritty game 19-15.

 

Bedford’s, by contrast, has been far simpler. Two early walkovers meant their first proper game in the tournament came in the quarter finals. If that makes you think that perhaps they have had it easy though, think again. They faced Sherborne in that game, a side who had beaten Wellington College (who sit between these two in the Daily Mail Trophy table), and are among the very best around.

 

Bedford blitzed them though, securing a 26-5 victory in torrid weather conditions, which only serve to make the result all the more impressive. In the dry you could perhaps add another ten points or so.

 

Sedbergh’s free scoring will certainly worry Bedford, and that, coupled with home advantage, may make them favourites is the eyes of some. However Bedford have a potent attacking game of their own, the same as they always have, using their back row out wide to stretch the game, and they will have noted that despite Sedbergh scoring well, they are also conceding a lot of points and have been caught under real pressure when the opposition pack begins to dominate the breakdown.

 

All of which makes this just a fascinating battle between two of the best teams around, and two of the best attacks you will see – the question is, can they show that attacking prowess if the weather refuses to allow it? If you can’t be there, be sure to watch the live stream it will be worth it.

 

Route to the Semi Finals:

 

Sedbergh

 

Round 1 – 32-20 v Bradford Grammar School

Round 2 – 56-31 v Radley College

Quarter Finals – 19-15 v Millfield

 

Bedford

 

Round 1 – w/o v Farringdon CC

Round 2 – w/o v Cheltenham College

Quarter Finals – 26-5 v Sherborne

 

Given what we have already seen in this tournament’s short history, we can be fairly certain that at least one of these games is set to be a classic. This competition specialises in close and intense games of rugby and these both look likely to be so.

 

The great beauty of it is that teams get to play sides from outside of their usual circuits, and with the semi finals containing a team from each of the four regions, North (Sedbergh), Midlands (Bedford), South East (Epsom College), and South West (Blundell’s), that is certainly the case here.

 

Wednesday is set to be an epic day of schoolboy rugby.

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