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Schools Rugby Weekend Preview & Predictions: A special weekend as many play their final games

This weekend is the final weekend of the school rugby season for many. The final schools rugby match ever for some players.

 

It is therefore a weekend to treasure, win, lose, or draw. Schools rugby is a precious thing as an institution, but more importantly as an experience. People never forget their school rugby days.

 

For most who step out on the field on Saturday, this is the pinnacle, it is as good as their rugby experiences will ever get.

 

Yes, there are some who will go on to bigger and better things in rugby, but their school days always remain special. Playing this level of rugby, with your best mates, is a very special experience – even the pros look back on it fondly.

 

Nevertheless, despite it being the final game for so many, and therefore so unique and special in so many ways, we preview and predict the weekend’s fixtures as usual, and what brilliant fixtures there are to look at this week.

 

5 Key Fixtures

 

Bedford v Stowe

This is always a classic schools fixture, and once again both sides are playing fantastic rugby.

Bedford are the Champions Trophy Champions, they are unbeaten, sit second in the Daily Mail Trophy table, and are surely favourites for out November Team of the Month award. A good win on Saturday could also sneak them the Daily MaiL Trophy title if Wellington College slip up against St Paul’s.

Standing in their way are Stowe, who are quietly going about their business this year, yet doing so brilliantly. They have only lost twice all year, broke into the Daily Mail Trophy top 10 for the first time last week, and will want to stay there, and they are quietly going about their business very nicely in the NatWest Cup, where they are into the fifth round.

This will be a titanic tussle, but the form that Bedford are in makes it hard to look past them against anyone. They are playing that well.

Prediction – Bedford

 

Cranleigh v Whitgift

Another huge gave of schools rugby. Cranleigh are one of the best performing teams in the country. Only Wellington College and Tonbridge have beaten them so far this season and they have played some cracking rugby along the way.

So too Whitgift though, who have only been beaten by Sedbergh, Wellington College, and Millfield.

Clearly then, these are two very good sides, who can only be beaten by the very best of teams, which makes Saturday’s game absolutely fascinating, somewhere one of them is going to have to give.

Home advantage probably gives Cranleigh the edge, as does perhaps a slightly tougher fixture list on average, though Whitgift’s is pretty serious too. Whitgift though are looking to bounce back after defeat to Millfield last weekend, perhaps they will have slightly more motivation?

Prediction – Cranleigh

 

Eton College v Tonbridge

This one is always something of a classic fixture. Both are usually good teams and that is no different this year.

Eton have been good, if unspectacular. Their young side has performed brilliantly at times but has slipped up probably more often than they would have anticipated, that is something that they will right next season one suspects though.

Tonbridge started slowly, ish, but on reflection it was really just the difficulty of their early fixture list that made it look like that. Since half term they have been truly brilliant, using their big and dominant forward pack perfectly in what have been some tough conditions.

We would expect that to continue on Saturday, their form and momentum seems irresistible at the moment.

Prediction – Tonbridge

 

St Paul’s v Wellington College

Another classic schoolboy tussle, and one that could prove to be vital. By our, admittedly dodgy, maths, if Wellington College win this one they will probably win the Daily Mail Trophy, though we do not believe there are any bonus points on offer as St Paul’s did not compete last year.

Leaving the mathematics to one side though, this promises to be a good game. St Paul’s have been in excellent form this season, only losing to Epsom College and Tonbridge, and at home they will fancy their chances of upsetting a Wellington College side that has at times appeared vulnerable, despite sitting at the top of the table.

Wellington have lost three times, to Sedbergh, Dulwich College, and Sherborne, but they have also had some crushing victories, there is a reason they are top of the table. They crushed Millfield and have beaten the likes of Hampton and Cranleigh. Not only that but they possess a side that is littered with international standard talent. They are capable of true rugby brilliance.

Prediction – Wellington College

 

St Peter’s York v Bradford Grammar School

This should be a cracking game of rugby. St Peter’s York have been in flying form this season, losing just three times, to Woodhouse Grove, QEGS Wakefield, and Barnard Castle. Their form since that Barnard Castle loss has been irresistible, they have won five in a row, and are into the last 16 of the NatWest Cup after beating RGS Newcastle on Wednesday.

Bradford Grammar have been flying too though. They have been in and out of the Top 10 of the Daily Mail Trophy, and they have claimed some big scalps, including St Peter’s vanquishers, Woodhouse Grove.

Their form has just been stifled by a tricky run of games that has seen them lose twice in a row, to QEGS and then to RGS Newcastle on Saturday. That RGS defeat is the key as four days later St Peter’s beat them. Advantage St Peter’s, you would say.

Prediction – St Peter’s York

 

Those five matches are far from being the only action of the weekend, and our five previews below are just a small example of what are a number of other high quality matches that could produce some real thrills.

 

5 Previews

 

Durham v Barnard Castle

This is a really interesting fixture. Both sides have been among the strongest teams in the region this season and have played some good rugby.

Of late though, the wheels seem to have come off a touch for Durham, who have lost their last three on the bounce to Woodhouse Grove, RGS Newcastle, and St Peter’s York.

That is not necessarily the good new that it may appear for Barnard Castle though, as it will surely mean that Durham will have an added layer of determination and motivation to right that downward trend.

Barnard Castle have also had a tricky run of form, losing four of their last five, but when you look at the four, context rather changes your opinion. They have come against Sedbergh, Kirkham Gramamr School, QEGS Wakefield (narrowly), and to Blundell’s in the Champions Trophy quarter final. In between they have beat St Peter’s York.

That St Peter’s York game is perhaps the key, for after they lost to Barnard Castle, they beat Durham, suggesting Barnard Castle may have the edge.

Prediction – Barnard Castle

 

Epsom College v Dulwich College

It has been a strange old season for both of these schools, so dominant on the schools rugby scene over the last few years.

Both have had some outstanding results and performances, but at the same time have lost games that ordinarily you would expect them to win. In many ways, their seasons have been a reflection of what has been something of an unpredictable season in general.

What it does do is make this game very exciting. Epsom College reached the Champions Trophy final, where they lost to Bedford, but bounced back to beat St John’s Leatherhead last week. They will want to round off this season with a win, and Dulwich are a great scalp on which to end.

For Dulwich though this is more than a last game of the season, this is their last game under Director of Rugby Sam Howard, the man who led them to three NatWest Cup titles in a row, plus another final appearance. His impact on Dulwich’s rugby has been sensational, and you can bet anything that his players will be playing for him on Saturday, and that could just give them the edge over Epsom. Let’s not forget, they have a win over Wellington College to their name this season, as well as having beaten St Joseph’s Festival winners, Hampton.

Prediction – Dulwich College, just

 

Hampton v Brighton College

This is always a good game of schools rugby, and Saturday should be no different,

Hampton absolutely flew out of the traps at the start of the season, reaching half term unbeaten and going on to win the St Joseph’s Festival. After half term though, their form stuttered as they lost to Wellington College and Dulwich College, and drew to Berkhamsted, though still squeaked through in that Cup game on try count.

In the last couple of weeks though they have got back on track with an impressive win over Reigate Grammar and another against John Fisher. They definitely appear back in form.

Brighton College have been a little up and down. Always a good team to watch, they have just occasionally slipped up where you do not expect them too, such as losing to Eastbourne College last weekend. That said they also have secured some very good wins, including a recent victory over Epsom College. They could easily claim victory in this one and will be desperate to after defeat last week. Hampton will be no less determined though.

Prediction – Hampton

 

John Fisher v St Benedict’s

Fresh from winning the County Cup at Allianz Park on Wednesday evening, St Benedict’s will be full of confidence and absolutely up for this. Why not. They have only lost three this season, to Hampton, RGS High Wycombe and KCS Wimbledon, all very good teams. Even then they were in the game, particularly against KCS where only a try in the final play denied them the win.

John Fisher have been a bit up and down, and probably not as consistent as in previous years. That said, they have had some notable wins, including one over RGS High Wycombe, which is perhaps a useful one as an indicator ahead of this game.

Either way, it looks set to be a very good and very close game of schools rugby, and one that is well worth making the trip to if you are in the area.

Prediction – John Fisher, just

 

RGS Newcastle v QEGS Wakefield

A slow start to the season for RGS have given way to a good second half of the season, a half that has only seen them beaten by St Peter’s York, albeit twice.

Their last two wins have been against Bradford Grammar and Durham, two good sides. Indeed Bradford Grammar gave QEGS one of their toughest tests this season.

A toughest test perhaps, but a test that QEGS won. In fact, outside of the St Joseph’s Festival have won every game this season bar a draw on the opening weekend with RGS Lancaster. Their unbeaten run is no coincidence, they are a top class side, made up of U15 NatWest Cup finalists, and they are a very tough side to play against.

RGS will push them, but it will take a top performance to beat them.

Prediction – QEGS

 

Around the Grounds

 

Outside of those featured fixtures there are plenty of other exciting games. Sedbergh, fresh from facing Millfield, host Llandovery College for what is always a very tough cross border clash.

 

Millfield themselves host a Welsh side too, they host Monmouth. Oundle host Rugby for what ought to be a good game, while Kirkham Grammar School look to continue their unbeaten season against Sir Thomas Rich’s.

 

Campion v RGS High Wycombe has the potential to be an interesting one, while Bryanston v Canford should also be a top quality game of schools rugby.

 

Skinners’ v Trinity could well produce some fireworks, they are two good teams. Meanwhile Stamford look to extend that five year unbeaten home run, they host Loughborough Grammar.

 

There is also NatWest Cup action from Midlands A as Bedford Modern host Bishop’s Stortford College in the 5th round.

 

If you have any results, photos, videos, or match reports from any of the weekend’s games, featured or not, please send them in to writers@fifteenrugby.com

 

Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):

 

5 Key Fixtures

 

Bedford v Stowe

Cranleigh v Whitgift

Eton College v Tonbridge

St Paul’s v Wellington College

St Peter’s York v Bradford GS

 

5 Previews

 

Durham v Barnard Castle

Epsom College v Dulwich College

Hampton v Brighton College

John Fisher v St Benedict’s

RGS Newcastle v QEGS Wakefield

 

Other Key Games

 

Ashville College v Yarm

Aylesbury GS v St Albans

Bedford Modern v Bishop’s Stortford HS (NatWest Cup)

Bishops Vesey’s GS v Princethorpe College

Bloxham v The Oratory

Bristol GS v Pate’s GS

Bromsgrove v KES Birmingham

Bryanston v Canford

Campion v RGS High Wycombe

Caterham v Reigate GS

Cheltenham College v Uppingham

Clifton College v Bristol Academy

Coopers Coborn v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

Crossley Heath v Stockport GS

Dame Allan’s v Newcastle School for Boys

Denstone College v King’s Macclesfield

Eastbourne College v St John’s Leatherhead

Felsted v Norwich

Glynn v Judd

Grammar School at Leeds v Nottingham HS

Haileybury v Merchant Taylors

Harrogate GS v Mount St Mary’s

Hurstpierpoint College v Cranbrook

Hymers College v Woodhouse Grove

Ipswich v St Joseph’s College

King’s Canterbury v Sevenoaks

King Edward’s Southampton v Portsmouth’s GS

Kingswood v QEH

Worcester v Old Swinford Hospital

Kirkham GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s

Lord Wandsworth College v St George’s College, Weybridge

London Oratory v Berkhamsted

Malvern College v Colston’s

Magdalen College v Pangbourne College

Merchant Taylor’s v St Ambrose College

Millfield v Monmouth

New Hall v Harrow

Northampton School for Boys v Warwick

Oakham v Trent College

Oundle v Rugby

Plymouth College v Blundell’s

Pocklington v Ampleforth College

Prior Park College v Dean Close

Ratcliffe College v Leicester GS

Reading Blue Coat v Dauntsey’s

Reed’s v Christ’s Hospital

RGS Worcester v St Peter’s Gloucester

Royal Hospital School v Framlingham College

Seaford College v Shiplake College

Sedbergh v Llandovery College

Sherborne v King’s College Taunton

Skinners’ v Trinity

Solihull v Adam’s GS

Stamford v Loughborough GS

St Anselm’s College v Rydal Penrhos

St Columba’s College v Langley Park

St Olave’s GS v Dartford GS

Tiffin v Langley Park

UCS v Haberdashers

Wallington CGS v Ravens Wood

Wimbledon College v Eltham College

Worth v City of London Freemen’s

Wirral GS v Sandbach

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