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Schools Rugby Weekend Preview: Huge weekend of rugby as half term nears

It is a big weekend of schools rugby this weekend, with many schools playing their final fixture before the half term break.

 

It also leads into a huge midweek with the Champions Trophy and NatWest Cup second rounds taking place, while at the end of that week the St Joseph’s Festival takes place.

 

Before all that though, this Saturday is set to provide plenty of entertainment and quality rugby across the board on perhaps the final weekend before the wintry chill sweeps in.

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Focus On

 

Abingdon v Warwick

Warwick are off to a fine start this season and are proving themselves to be just as good as people expected before the season, with key wins over the likes of Bromsgrove and Whitgift. Saturday will be a real test though, Abingdon are off to a flyer this season and are yet to lose a game. Their only blemish has been a draw with Berkhamsted, who were unbeaten as Colts last year, and victories have included Eton College and a 22-0 effort over Cheltenham.

Saturday ought then to be interesting, Warwick will be favourites, but Abingdon are going to make life hard.

Prediction: Warwick

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Bromsgrove v Millfield

Bromsgrove have beaten Millfield two years running, and are the back to back NatWest Cup champions. However this season has been a struggle. They lost their opening three games, but have picked up a bit of from with two wins from their last two. Millfield will be yet another monumental challenge though. The 2014 Champions Trophy winners might have lost to Wellington College last weekend, but up until that point the had been in storming form and will be determined to get back there on Saturday. It is all part of a huge week for them though, with Tonbridge in midweek followed by the St Joseph’s Festival next Saturday, so there may be a bit of player management.

Prediction: Millfield

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Canford v Epsom College

This could be a fascinating fixture. Both sides have started the season well, but both have huge Champions Trophy fixtures in midweek that they will want to make sure they do well in, so might they sacrifice a little on Saturday to make sure of that? Either way, it ought to be excellent, Canford have only lost to Millfield and Craighouse, the Chilean side who swept all before them on their UK tour.

Epsom College meanwhile have beaten everyone bar Cranleigh, though with fewer fixtures under their belt they may be more rested. Both sides have played Hampton, both winning, but a great points margin suggests maybe Epsom have a slight edge.

Prediction: Epsom College

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Cheltenham College v Rugby

This is the oldest fixture in schoolboy rugby. In fact, it is the oldest fixture in rugby, given that the game was invented in public schools in the 1800s. As such it demands to be in our ‘Focus On’ section, but even without that history it would be here as it promises to be a top game of schools rugby.

Cheltenham absolutely flew out of the traps with three big wins in their opening three games, two tough losses later though and Saturday is now looking like a key game for them. A Rugby School side with four wins from four is therefore not what they might be looking for, particularly having hit forty in their last two games. Either way, this game is a schools classic.

Prediction: Rugby

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Eltham College v Felsted

Eltham College have had a great start to the season, they have won four of their five games, only losing to Reigate Grammar, and even that was a game that they nearly won against the odds. Saturday will be tough though, they face a Felsted side that has plenty of quality and no little form. They lost their opening two games of the season, to Harrow and Haileybury, before smashing back with three wins from three.

Saturday will be a real test of where both sides are, and ought to be a fascinating one to witness.

Prediction: Felsted

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Kirkham Grammar School v Denstone College

Kirkham have started off this year where they left off last, unbeaten and scoring a hatful of points. They are yet to be really challenged though, bar a wobbly season opener, and perhaps Denstone College might be their toughest yet. Last year they certainly would have been, however this year things have been a little slow in getting off the ground for Denstone, who lost their opening three games. Two wins in two now suggest a return to form though.

Kirkham are the firm favourites, but this is still worth keeping an eye on to see if Denstone can put them under pressure, and to see how Kirkham respond.

PredictionL Kirkham Grammar

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QEGS Wakefield v St Peter’s, York

QEGS are a side with plenty of expectation on them this year, having reached the NatWest Cup final last year and having a 1st XV this year full of U15 winners and runners-up. St Peter’s York are in great shape this year too, having had a top season last year and kept that momentum up this.

St Peter’s arrive in Wakefield unbeaten, while QEGS have lost just one game, by three points to Woodhouse Grove. This game ought to be huge, and is without doubt between two of the top sides in the region.

Prediction: QEGS Wakefield

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Sedbergh v Durham

This is always a great occasion in the North of England between two schools with a superb rugby heritage. Sedbergh are usually the favourites, and that is no different on Saturday, however that should not detract from the occasion, nor from the fact that Durham are in a rich vein of form, that included a 50-0 win over Yarm in midweek.

Sedbergh’s form is fantastic too though, they have already beaten the likes of Whitgift and Merchiston Castle this season, and will be looking to claim another big scalp on Saturday.

Prediction: Sedbergh

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Tonbridge v Radley College

This is another classic schools rugby fixture between two schools who have been playing the game longer than most. Tonbridge have had the edge in recent years, and are highly likely to again, such has been their form this year. However this game is always a tough battle, between two schools who almost always each have a bruising pack.

Tonbridge may have half en eye on a midweek game against Millfield in the Champions Trophy, too, which could just open the door to Radley, who were knocked out my Monmouth in the opening game of the competition.

Prediction: Tonbridge

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Whitgift v John Fisher

The Croydon derby is always one of the most fiercely contested fixtures in schools rugby. This one should be no difference, and while Whitgift arrive with a reputation as one of the strongest handful of schools in the country, as their win over Wellington College a fortnight ago showed, it will count for little in this environment. It is a tough task for John Fisher nonetheless, this year. The Whitgift home crowd will be hostile, and Whitgift’s record is superior to theirs this year. However John Fisher already have one Croydon derby victory under their belts this season, having beaten Trinity earlier this term. That will have served as a useful appetiser to this one.

This game is always a classic, and while Whitgift do tend to have the upper hand, it remains always fiercely contested and exciting to watch.

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Around the Grounds

 

Bishop Wordsworth’s v Kingswood ought to be a good game, both have been producing some excellent results and are perhaps creeping under the radar a little. A game to keep an eye on.

 

One fixture that is often a great one is Bryanston v Blundell’s. These two have produced some excellent displays of rugby through the years, but currently Blundell’s have the edge on their more illustrious rugby rivals. They have been in flying form this year and will be hoping to nail down a good win.

 

Bedford will still be reeling having lost to Oakham last week, an away trip to Dulwich College is no easy first game back on the horse, but you sense that this is a Bedford side who are ready to cut loose – they will not have enjoyed losing and will be determined to make a statement to the watching world of schools rugby.

 

Seaford College v Reigate Grammar School should be excellent, both really impressed last season, and have shown glimpses of that at times this year, while at others expectations were perhaps higher. It makes Saturday’s game very interesting though, because these are two sides who ought to be reasonably well matched, and who are both looking for a statement win, which would be the case with a strong victory on Saturday. Both arrive confident after strong wins last weekend over KES Southampton and Worth respectively, but this will be a step up.

 

Last weekend Manchester Grammar School scored over eighty points, and while that is unlikely to be the case again this weekend against St Anselm’s College, they are certainly worth watching if you’re in the area – who knows what they might pull out of the bag.

 

There is another schools rugby classic to go with those previously mentioned this weekend as Marlborough College host Clifton College. Clifton are one of this season’s high flyers, and could perhaps be right up there with the best, while Marlborough are struggling just a little. Nevertheless, this is a fixture with bags of history and should be a superb game.

 

As should Monmouth v Sir Thomas Rich’s, two sides who always seem to perform well and ought to put on a great show on Saturday afternoon. So should Plymouth College and Truro School, two sides who have started the season well and ought to be impressive on Saturday.

 

Reed’s v King’s Canterbury should be a good test for both, Reed’s are probably favourites, but King’s will be looking to try to kickstart some momentum. A side already with plenty of momentum are St John’s Leatherhead, on Saturday they travel to RGS Guildford as they seek to make a mark ahead of next week’s Champions Trophy resumption.

 

RGS High Wycombe have been impressive so far this season, but on Saturday they face a stiff test in the form of Berkhamsted. Indications are that this should be a top game of schools rugby. So too should St Benedict’s v Hampton. Games between these two are usually good value, and Saturday’s ought to be no different.

 

One game that ought to be an interesting one is St Paul’s v Harrow. St Paul’s had a horror show opening weekend but have been excellent since then, while Harrow have been on fire all season and currently head up the Daily Mail Trophy table, Saturday should give a great indication of exactly where these two sides are. So too should Stowe v Oundle, both sides have had some real highs this season, but also some perplexing lows, predicting how this one could go is therefore a bit of a minefield, but either way it should be a great encounter.

 

So should Trinity v Brighton College, Brighton are one of the form teams this year, but Trinity is a tough place to go and the away side will need to be at the best. The home side will need to be at their best in the derby game between Uppingham and Stamford. Uppingham have had a really tough start to the season, but Stamford have too, having lost that precious home record. Some local bragging right would do wonders for each sides confidence.

 

If you have any photos, videos, or reports from the weekend’s schools rugby, please do send them in via email (writers@fifteenrugby.com ), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby ), or via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV).

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Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):

 

Focus On:

 

Abingdon v Warwick

Bromsgrove v Millfield

Canford v Epsom College

Cheltenham College v Rugby

Eltham College v Felsted

Kirkham GS v Denstone College

QEGS Wakefield v St Peter’s, York

Seaford College v Reigate GS

Sedbergh v Durham

Tonbridge v Radley College

 

Around the Grounds:

 

Ashville College v Mount St Mary’s College

Bablake v Princethrope College

Barnard Castle v Pocklington

Bedford Modern v London Oratory

Bishop’s Stortford HS v RGS Colchester

Bishop Wordsworth v Kingswood

Bloxham v Dean Close

Brentwood v Bishop’s Stortford College

Bryanston v Blundell’s

Cardinal Vaughan v Wisbech GS

Cheadle Hulme v Stockport GS

Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v Campion

Christ College v Hereford Cathedral School

City of London Freemen’s v Christ’s Hospital

Dauntsey’s v Downside

Dulwich College v Bedford

Eastbourne College v Cranbrook

Ellesmere College v King Henry VIII, Coventry

Haileybury v St Albans

Hymers College v Ampleforth College

KES Birmingham v Stafford GS

KES Stratford v Bishop Vesey’s

KES Southampton v Ryde School

King’s College, Taunton v Bristol GS

King’s Worcester v Loughborough

Lord Wandsworth College v Churcher’s College

Loretto v Dundee HS

Manchester GS v St Anselm’s College

Marlborough College v Clifton College

Merchant Taylors’ v UCS

Merchiston Castle v Stewart’s Melville

Mill Hill v Sevenoaks

Monmouth v Sir Thomas Rich’s

New Hall v Dartford GS

Norwich v Langley

Pangbourne College v Portsmouth GS

Plymouth College v Truro School

Prior Park College v Monkton Combe

QEH v Pate’s GS

Queen’s College, Taunton v Mount Kelly

Reed’s v King’s Canterbury

RGS Guildford v St John’s Leatherhead

RGS High Wycombe v Berkhamsted

RGS Newcastle v Austin Friars

Rossall v Giggleswick

Shiplake College v Cranleigh

Skinners’ v Judd

St Ambrose College v Grammar School at Leeds

St Benedict’s v Hampton

St Edward’s, Oxford v Magdalen College

St Ignatius v Aylesbury GS

St Joseph’s College, Stoke v Newcastle-Under-Lyme

St Paul’s v Harrow

St Peter’s, Gloucester v Solihull

Stowe v Oundle

Strathallan v Fettes College

Taunton v Colston’s

Trinity v Brighton College

Uppingham v Stamford

Wellington College v Sherborne

Wimbledon College v St George’s College, Weybridge

Wirral GS v Wilmslow HS

Worksop College v Trent College

Worth v Hurstpierpoint College

Wycliffe College Cokethorpe

Wymondham College v Gresham’s

Yarm v Dame Allan’s

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