Schools Rugby Weekend Preview: Key round ahead of half term

With half term fast approaching, this weekend is a crucial one for schools looking to set the tone ahead of the mid-season break.

 

There are some huge head to heads, and of course the St Joseph’s Festival, which this year celebrates its 30th year. The Festival deserves its own preview though, which you can see here: St Joseph’s Festival Preview. Our weekend preview will focus on the other school fixtures around the country this weekend.

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Focus On

 

Barnard Castle v Sedbergh

Not just two of the most prestigious rugby schools in the north, but in the entire country, perhaps even globally. The number of internationals that these two schools have produced is quite simply astonishing. In recent years though, Sedbergh have been on top and are looking good again this year. They have started the season unbeaten, and stuck sixty points on Durham last week. Barnard Castle are in good form too, having won all but one of their games so far this year. They will need to be in the form of their lives to topple Sedbergh though. However, either way this is a schools rugby classic.

Prediction: Sedbergh.

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Blundell’s v Canford

This is a fascinating game between two sides who have absolutely flown out of the traps this season. Blundell’s are unbeaten and are into the quarter finals of the Champions Trophy after beating Bristol Grammar on Tuesday, while Canford have only lost twice, to Millfield and the all conquering Chileans, Craighouse. They put fifty points on Epsom last week, however it was a severely weakened Epsom side, so this will be a far truer test of where they are. On Thursday then beat Kingswood 48-20 to reach the Champions Trophy quarter finals, making it a staggering 105 points in 2 round. Will they be tired though?

Prediction: Blundell’s.

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Bradford Grammar School v Grammar School at Leeds

Nothing beats a good local derby, and a Bradford School against a Leeds School is definitely that. Both have had a couple of very promising season in recent years, but have perhaps not hit the ultimate heights yet this season, however Saturday’s encounter could be a springboard, as any passionate local derby can be. It ought to be a close game, and a great occasion for supporters of both games. Who comes out on top may just come down to that extra bit of determination.

Prediction: Bradford Grammar.

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Bristol Grammar School v Clifton College

These are two excellent sides who can both count themselves unlucky to have exited the Champions Trophy this midweek after they were drawn against two high calibre opponents in Blundell’s and Oakham respectively. If anything though, those defeats should make Saturday’s game even better, with both sides eager to prove a point. There is no doubting their class, so this really could be one of the top games of the weekend.

Prediction: Clifton College.

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Bromsgrove v Stowe

Another fascinating fixture. These two started off the season rather shakily, but have since picked up with some good results coming through, while both are enjoying a good run in the NatWest Cup, with Bromsgrove looking for a third Cup in a row. This fixture ought to be a very important one in that context of their momentum picking up after a slow start. A win for either side would see that good momentum carry through over half term, while a loss would leave them stewing on it for a couple of weeks. In any year this is a big game, in the context of this year, it is huge.

Prediction: Bromsgrove

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Eton College v Wellington College

This is a massive game, Wellington College, one of the best known rugby schools, against Eton College, arguably the best known schools. In 137 years, Eton have not won this fixture, but they are desperately hoping that this year might be the year. They host this game full of confidence having secured a Champions Trophy quarter final place, however their opponents are as formidable as ever. Yes, Wellington have dropped a game, but it was against the excellent Whitgift and they have seen off the likes of Millfield, Tonbridge, Dulwich, and RGS High Wycombe. Nevertheless, expect a full-blooded encounter in this long standing fixture.

Prediction: Wellington College

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St Edward’s Oxford v Cheltenham College

A classic schools rugby fixture this one between two sides who have been playing each other of years. Cheltenham arrive in a sticky patch of form after three losses in a row, a surprise after having started the season with three wins. However the defeats have been to top opponents, and provided that their heads are still up they will have come out a better side for those defeats. Teddies host this game full of beans having won their last three games, though they know that this will likely be their toughest since that run started. The outcome of this game could well come down to confidence.

Prediction: Cheltenham College.

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St John’s, Leatherhead v Eastbourne College

St John’s exploits this season have been well documented, they are unquestionably a side on the up, and though they lost to Epsom College in midweek, they were but a few dropped balls away from really clicking. What has been less spoken about is Eastbourne College’s excellent start. They are unbeaten since losing to Tonbridge on the opening weekend, scoring a hatful of points en route. This will be their toughest test since then, and while St John’s are favourites, do not expect this one to be routine, not this year.

Prediction: St John’s Leatherhead.

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Stamford v Warwick

Losing their home record to Oakham back in September makes Stamford a slightly less intimidating place to go, however the 6 years before that should not be discounted – this is still a challenging place to visit, one loss does not change that. They are also back on form after beating local rivals Uppingham at the weekend. Warwick, however, are one of the strongest teams in the country, they have lost just once, to an excellent Abingdon side, and are playing some fantastic stuff. A win on Saturday would set them up for a real challenge on all fronts after half term.

Prediction: Warwick.

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Whitgift v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

This game could potentially be played as a Round 3 NatWest Cup tie after the two were drawn together following victories this week’s second round. Whitgift beat a good Eltham College side by a highly impressive 60-0 margin. Chislehurst meanwhile beat Sir Joseph Williamson’s 24-0. Whitgift are absolutely the strong favourites, they are one of the best sides in the country, but there is every chance that they might rest a few players, and if this is played as a Cup tie then it just gains that extra edge of being a knockout game.

Prediction: Whitgift.

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Around the Grounds

 

There are fewer fixtures than usual this week, what with the St Joseph’s Festival and a few sides already finishing for half term, however there is still plenty to look forward to.

 

Ampleforth College v Durham in the North East could be a very interesting game. Neither has really hit the heights this season that they have previously been capable of, but a fixture against each other might well bring out the best from these two schools rugby heavyweights.

 

There is another big game in the region as Giggleswick host RGS Lancaster. RGS are the likely favourites, but a couple of tricky results recently might just encourage Giggleswick.

 

There is a huge game in the South East as Berkhamsted travel to Felsted, Berkhamsted are the likely favourites, but Felsted proved with a win over St Joseph’s College in midweek that they are more than capable of challenging and beating top teams.

 

There should be a great encounter in Surrey as Reed’s host Caterham, it ought to be an even contest, making for a great game of rugby. Look out also for St Paul’s v London Oratory. St Paul’s are the favourites, but after their huge effort in midweek that ultimately ended in defeat to Bedford, they will be well worth watching as they look to confirm the potential shown there with a big win.

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Friday

 

There are also a couple of fixtures on Friday, Wisbech Grammar take on Robert Clack, while in one of the very biggest games of the weekend, Abingdon host Kirkham Grammar School. Both have been in stunning form, with Kirkham unbeaten and scoring points for fun, while Abingdon have been excellent too, including a victory over Warwick, probably the best side that either have played so far. A win here for either side will be a real signal to every other school as to their quality. If you are in the area at 4pm on Friday, it will definitely be worth watching!

 

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).

 

Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):

 

Focus On:

 

Barnard Castle v Sedbergh

Blundell’s v Canford

Bradford GS v Grammar School at Leeds

Bristol GS v Clifton College

Bromsgrove v Stowe

Eton College v Wellington College

St Edward’s Oxford v Cheltenham College

St John’s, Leatherhead v Eastbourne College

Stamford v Warwick

Whitgift v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS

 

Further Fixtures:

 

St Joseph’s Festival

Ampleforth College v Durham

Ashville College v Hymers College

Bablake v Wellingborough

Bishop’s Stortford College v New Hall

Bishop’s Stortford HS v Ravens Wood

Bishop Vesey’s GS v Lawrence Sherriff

Churcher’s College v Reading Blue Coat

City of London Freemen’s v Halliford

Cranbrook v Judd

Dame Allan’s v King’s Priory

Dean Close v Taunton

Downside v Christ College

Exeter v Mount Kelly

Felsted v Berkhamsted

Giggleswick v RGS Lancaster

Glyn v Wallington CGS – NatWest Vase

Harrow v Brentwood

Hereford Cathedral School v King Henry VIII Coventry

KES Bath v Bryanston

KES Birmingham v King Edward VI, Camp Hill

King’s Canterbury v Hurstpierpoint College

Liverpool College v Cheadle Hulme

Lord Wandsworth College v The Oratory

Mill Hill v Shiplake College

Monmouth v Malvern College

Portsmouth GS v Magdalen College

Prior Park College v QEH

Reed’s v Caterham

RGS Colchester v Aylesbury GS

Rydal Penrhos v AKS Arnold

Sandbach v Wilmslow HS

Sir Thomas Rich’s v Old Swinford Hospital

St George’s College, Weybridge v Campion

St Olave’s GS v Cooper’s Coborn

St Paul’s v London Oratory

St Peter’s York v St Ambrose

Tiffin v Wimbledon College

Watford GS v St George’s, Harpenden

Wellington School v King’s College, Taunton

 

Friday

 

Abingdon v Kirkham GS – 16.00

Wisbech GS v Robert Clack – 18.00

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