This week has been a hectic one in the schools rugby world, with the NatWest Champions Trophy, NatWest Cup, and NatWest Vase taking over.
This weekend sees us return to normality though with a full fixture list of exciting block fixtures, though there are a couple of straggling Cup games in the too.
Bedford v Oakham
Both sides have started this season in fine form, Bedford are unbeaten and at the top of the Daily Mail Trophy table, while Oakham are flying having ended Stamford’s long unbeaten home run and seen off Berkhamsted in the Champions Trophy in fine style.
This is also interesting form a Champions Trophy point of view, Bedford are the holders and received a bye in the first round, while Oakham, as mentioned, beat Berkhamsted. They avoided each other in the second round, but could meet later so this will be an very interesting one to observe.
Brighton College v Dulwich College
Always a great fixture between two school with a friendly rivalry. Brighton are off to a flying start this year and were involved in a real classic last weekagainst St John’s, where they just edged it 11-10. Dulwich are undergoing a bit of a transition, moving to a more open and attacking style of play. Results have been mixed, but watching them you get the sense that if it all clicks then they are a real threat.
This should be an entertaining game of rugby between two sides who like to play an attractive style.
Prediction: Brighton College
Cheltenham College v Abingdon
Cheltenham College won their opening three games but lost on Tuesday night in the Ryan Bresnahan memorial game to Clifton College, 57-19. Nevertheless, Clifton are an impressive side and a tough result against them should not diminish from a Cheltenham side who look very handy indeed.
Abingdon look good too though, and are also off to a very handy start. This fixture is the first in a tough little series for them, so they will want to start it with a win.
Kirkham Grammar School v RGS Lancaster
Kirkham have started exactly where they left off last season, scoring big points and impressing all observers. RGS Lancaster will probably be their toughest test to date though, RGS had a good season last year, and have had some impressive displays already this year.
It is a tall order for them to dethrone Kirkham though, who once again are in flying form and look like one of the sides to beat this year.
Prediction: Kirkham GS
Millfield v Wellington College
This is quite simply one of the biggest fixtures on the schools rugby calendar. Moved form midweek to a Saturday, this game is going to be a monumental clash. Millfield are looking good this season, they are unbeaten, a run that includes a trip to the mighty Coleg Sir Gar.
Wellington have lost a game, going down by a point to Whitgift last week, but have probably the toughest fixture list on the calendar, and have already seen off the likes of Dulwich and Tonbridge.
This is definitely Millfield’s toughest fixture so far, and possibly Wellington’s too, it is likely to be incredibly finely balanced, perhaps home advantage just giving Millfield the edge.
Prediction: Millfield, just.
Sedbergh v Merchiston Castle
What a brilliant fixture this is, one of the great sides in English School Rugby against one of the great sides from Scottish School Rugby. It feels like the equivalent of a schoolboy Calcutta Cup, and given the talent on display it would be no surprise if a couple played against each other in the real thing one day.
Both sides are off to superb starts this season and are unbeaten. Sedbergh will really fancy their chances though as the two sides met in the final of the Pre Season Tynedale Festival, with Sedbergh winning 14-10.
That will fill Sedbergh with confidence, but Merchiston Castle will be fired up for revenge. It has all the ingredients of a classic!
Sherborne v Marlborough College
It has been a tough week for these two after they were both knocked out of the Champions Trophy in equally gut-wrenching, but contrasting, ways.
Sherborne drew 29-29 with Bristol Grammar School, going out on try count. It is a hard way to lose at the best of times, but even worse was that Sherborne led 29-5 at one stage.
Marlborough had Canford knock them out after conceding fifty points, it is a result and performance that will have them desperate to make a point on Saturday. It will be tough though, Sherborne will be equally determined and look a decent side again.
St Paul’s v RGS Guildford
This game doubles up as a Champions Trophy fixture, with these two drawn in the first round. With the draw for the second round having taken place on Wednesday afternoon, these two also know who their second round opponents will be. The bad news is that the winner will play the Champions, Bedford. The good news is that it will be at home.
On paper St Paul’s are the favourites for this one, however as the Champions Trophy has sown over and over again, anything can happen in this tournament and it never fails to thrill. Expect drama, plenty of tries, and an exciting afternoon of rugby.
Prediction: St Paul’s
Warwick v Whitgift
This is a massive game in any season, but particularly huge in the context of what both sides have done so far this season. Much was expected of Warwick this year with their team of U15 Cup finalists and winners, and so far they have delivered, beating Stowe and the U18 Cup holders, Bromsgrove.
Whitgift have been in stunning form too though. Last weekend they beat the mighty Wellington College, they have also beaten Caterham and Skinners’, and while they lost to Sedbergh it was by just a single point, all of which suggests that they are a mighty force this season. This should be a monumental battle.
Preidction: Whitgift, just.
Woodhouse Grove v Barnard Castle
Woodhouse Grove have been in excellent form this year, their only blemish is an opening weekend defeat to a very good St Peter’s York side. They have beaten QEGS Wakefield, who are expected to really challenge at the top end this year, and look like a top side themselves.
Barnard Castle will be another tough test though. They are one of schools rugby’s most famous sides and have started the season well with three big wins from three. This will be their most difficult fixture of the season so far though.
Prediction: Woodhouse Grove, just.
Around the Grounds
There are plenty of other exciting fixtures taking place this weekend that are not in our selected 10. Can Stamford get back to winning ways after losing their home record a couple of weeks ago? They travel to Bedford Modern, a side who definitely will not make life easy.
Bristol Grammar School, fresh from their Champions Trophy heroics on Tuesday, face Monmouth who have also progressed in the Champions Trophy. In fact Monmoth have progressed all the way to the quarter-finals after receiving a bye through the last 16. This should be a great game and could potentially be a Champiosn Trophy tie later down the line.
Bromsgrove were yet to win this season until a timely NatWets Cup win in midweek. They will be desperate to create some momentum from that, but Solihull will be a tough obstacle on Saturday. King’s Macclesfield were in good Cup form too, beating Lymm, but they face a tricky tie at Denstone College on Saturday, in what should be a good game.
Moving further north there is an exciting fixture between Grammar School at Leeds and RGS Newcastle. RGS are probably the favourites but it should be a good game of rugby. So should Haileybury v Oundle, with Haileybury playing well, but Oundle riding the crest of a wave after a last minute win over Bromsgrove last weekend.
Reigate Grammar v Worth could be a good game of rugby, both sides look like they could cause the other some damage. So too RGS High Wycombe v Hampton. These two always seem to produce classic encounters, and so often they have ended up playing in the latter stages of the Cup too. Expect another good one on Saturday.
St John’s Leatherhead will welcome some star players back from injury against Hurstpierpoint College. St Joseph’s College v Northampton School for Boys is worth keeping an eye on as St Joseph’s step up their preparations ahead of their Festival in a fortnight’s time.
Truro v Blundell’s is a very interesting fixture. Blundell’s are second in the Daily Mail Trophy table and are seemingly free-scoring, but Truro are always a good side who punch well above their weight. An away trip there is no easy task. Nor is an away trip to Wilmslow High for Lymm High School, this is another game that could be a high scoring and exciting one.
Another worth just having a look out for is Tonbridge v Judd. Tonbridge are the favourites but Judd are really playing well this season, and Tonbridge will be tired after a tough game against Hampton in midweek. It is unlikely to be an upset, but worth just checking out on.
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Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Focus On Fixtures:
Bedford v Oakham (DMT)
Brighton College v Dulwich College (DMT)
Cheltenham College v Abingdon (DMT)
Kirkham GS v RGS Lancaster (DMT)
Millfield v Wellington College (DMT)
Sedbergh v Merchiston Castle
Sherborne v Marlborough College (DMT)
St Paul’s v RGS Guildford (Champions Trophy)
Warwick v Whitgift (DMT)
Woodhouse Grove v Barnard Castle (DMT)
Further School Fixtures:
Ampleforth College v Austin Friars
Aylesbury GS v Reading Blue Coat
Bedford Modern v Stamford (DMT)
Berkhamsted v St Albans (DMT)
Birkdale v Ashville College
Bloxham v KES Birmingham (NatWest Cup)
Bradford GS v Nottingham HS (DMT)
Bristol GS v Monmouth (DMT)
Bromsgrove v Solihull (DMT)
Bolton v Manchester GS
Campion v QES Barnet
Cheadle Hulme v Sandbach
Christ’s Hospital v Caterham (DMT)
Colston’s v King’s College, Taunton (DMT)
Cranbrook v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Crypt v Pate’s GS
Dartford GS v Wallington CGS
Dean Close v Hereford Cathedral School
Denstone College v King’s Macclesfield (DMT)
Downside v KES Bath
Emanuel v Latymer Upper
Felsted v Gresham’s
Fettes College v Bell Baxter
Grammar School at Leeds v RGS Newcastle (DMT)
Gunnersbury v London Oratory
Haileybury v Oundle (DMT)
Hymers College v Durham (DMT)
John Fisher v Wimbledon College (DMT)
Kingswood v Prior Park College
Langley Park v Ravens Wood
Lawrence Sherriff v King Edward VI, Stratford
Leicester GS v Bablake
Loughborough v QEGS Wakefield (DMT)
Magdalen College v Merchant Taylors’ (DMT)
Mill Hill v Windsor Boys
Newcastle School for Boys v Yarm
Oratory v Reed’s (DMT)
Perse v Royal Hospital School
Plymouth College v Exeter
Portsmouth GS v Churcher’s College
Ratcliffe College v Mount St Mary’s
Reigate GS v Worth (DMT)
RGS Colchester v Norwich
RGS High Wycombe v Hampton (DMT)
Rugby v Uppingham (DMT)
Seaford College v KES Southampton
Sevenoaks v Eltham College
Shiplake College v City of London Freemen’s
Sir Thomas Rich’s v King’s Worcester (DMT)
Skinners’ v Brentwood
St Columba’s College v Bishop Stortford HS
St George’s Harpenden v Hayes
St John’s, Leatherhead v Hurstpierpoint College (DMT)
St Joseph’s College v Northampton School for Boys
Stockport GS v St Ambrose College (DMT)
Stonyhurst College v Rydal Penrhos
Sutton Valence v Colfe’s
Taunton v QEH
Tiffin v Haberdashers
Trent College v Old Swinford Hospital (DMT)
Trinity v New Hall
Truro v Blundell’s
Tonbridge v Judd
Watford GS v Tring
Wellington School v St Peter’s, Gloucester
Wilmslow HS v Lymm HS (DMT)