St Joseph’s Festival 2016: A day on and it remains one of the most extraordinary

Having had a night to sleep on it, the buzz, excitement, and drama of the 30th Annual St Joseph’s Festival still remains.


Few finals of any tournament, let alone just this one, can possibly end in such a dramatic and uncertain way. Cranleigh won the De Salle Trophy after only entering the tournament for the first time last year.


How that tile came about though was extraordinary. Cranleigh had been outstanding throughout the second day, beating QEGS Wakefield, Denstone College, and Merchiston Castle to reach the final.


In the final they met Brighton College, who had arrived there unbeaten after a full set of wins on Saturday, and a day of extraordinary rugby on Sunday that saw them past RGS High Wycombe, Dulwich College, and Millfield.


In the final Brighton started on top but after a drop goal attempt slid wide, Cranleigh came charging, and took a 10-0 lead into the break following a penalty and a converted try from a move at the back of a maul from a five metre line out.


Brighton clawed their way back to make it 10-7 in the second half though, thanks to a well worked backs try off the back of a scrum. However at 10-7 the vital moment in the match came.


Brighton College were awarded a penalty five metres from the Cranleigh line, right in front of the posts. They took the points to level the game, a sensible call in the eyes of most on the touchlines.


However that was the moment that the title swung definitively in Cranleigh’s direction. The reason being that as schoolboys are not allowed to play more than 90 minutes in a day, extra time is not a possibility in the event of a draw. Therefore the number of tries scored becomes the deciding factor.


That was tied too though, at one each, so the rules stated that in that event the first side to score a try would win. Meaning that a 10-10 draw would give the title to Cranleigh, for Brighton to win they had to actually win it.


With no further scores in the game Cranleigh were crowned the champions in probably the most dramatic fashion ever seen at St Joseph’s, while Brighton were left to rue perhaps not being quite brushed up enough on the rules.


Not only did Cranleigh win though, but they now hold both the St Joseph’s Festival title and the Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools 7s title, two of the most prestigious titles in schoolboy rugby. Few have ever done that, only Millfield in recent memory have held both at the same time, which shows just what a special achievement it is.


The final did raise the question of whether those should be the rules though, first try scorer does appear an arbitrary method of selecting a winner. It is hardly St Joseph’s fault though, it is a reasonably standard method in schools rugby, used right the way up in the final of the NatWest Schools Cup.


There are no easy solutions though, once you go beyond most tries scored any method of separation is going to be controversial in some way. Possibly the side to score the last points might be a fairer method as coming from behind to draw level is maybe more challenging on average than scoring first, but it is still far from perfect. The only other option is for titles to be shared – that is the dilemma, if we want to see a winner then we all have to accept that at a certain point we will have an imperfect method of finding one, otherwise we must go back to shared title. Neither is ideal.


Regardless, it should not detract from what was a wonderful tournament and what is a tremendous achievement from Cranleigh, who are producing some breathtaking results at the moment. Their achievement is one of the great ones in schools rugby.


Nor should it detract from what was a truly brilliant couple of days from Brighton College, who played some sublime rugby and were rightly rewarded with the Player of the Tournament award for their fly half, Marcus Smith.


The other great story of the day saw the defending Cup champions, Hampton, pick up the Plate. Hampton, by their own admission, did not have their best day on Saturday, and missed out on Cup qualification. However they rallied brilliantly on Sunday, dominating the day and going on to win the Plate by beating the hosts, St Joseph’s College, 13-0 in the final.


The story of the day though was Cranleigh. They are punching so far above their weight in terms of pupil numbers at the school, and now hold two of the most prestigious titles in the whole of schools rugby.


It was truly a brilliant weekend all around, with magnificent rugby throughout. Millfield v Brighton College on Sunday, and Saturday’s game between Millfield and Cranleigh will live long in the memory, so too the extraordinary last minute victories on Saturday for Eltham College and Hampton over Dulwich College and Denstone College respectively.


Next year can’t come soon enough!


St Joseph’s Festival De La Salle Cup Winners – Cranleigh

St Joseph’s Festival Plate Winners – Hampton


St Joseph’s Festival Day 2 Groups – Final Standings
Group A (Cup) Group B (Cup) Group W (Plate) Group X (Plate)
Brighton College Cranleigh Hampton St Joseph’s College
Millfield Merchiston Castle RGS Newcastle Whitchurch HS
Dulwich College QEGS Wakefield Eltham College John Fisher
RGS HW Denstone College Gordon’s St Peter’s


St Joseph’s Festival – Day 2 Results
Time Pitch 1 Pitch 2
08.30 RGS Newcastle 18-0 Eltham Hampton 40-0 Gordon’s
09.05 Millfield 24-0 Dulwich College Brighton College 7-3 RGSHW
09.40 Whitchurch 7-18 St Peter’s St Joseph’s 16-0 John Fisher
10.15 Merchiston 15-0 Denstone QEGS Wakefield 0-7 Cranleigh
10.50 Gordon’s 0-29 RGS Newcastle Hampton 26-0 Eltham College
11.25 Millfield 27-0 RGSHW Dulwich 10-19 Brighton College
12.00 Whitchurch 5-0 John Fisher St Joseph’s 12-0 St Peter’s
12.35 Cranleigh 12-0 Merchiston QEGS 35-7 Denstone College
13.10 RGS Newcastle 7-14 Hampton Eltham College 12-5 Gordon’s
13.45 Brighton College 14-5 Millfield RGSHW 5-19 Dulwich College
14.20 Whitchurch 5-5 St Joseph’s John Fisher 15-14 St Peter’s
14.55 QEGS 10-19 Merchiston Cranleigh 39-5 Denstone College
15.30 Plate Final – Hampton 13-0 St Joseph’s College
16.15 Trophy Final – Brighton College 10-10 Cranleigh (Cranleigh win as 1st try scorers)


St Joseph’s Festival Day 1 Groups – Final Standings
Pos Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
1 Millfield (Q) Brighton College (Q) Merchiston Castle (Q) QEGS Wakefield (Q)
2 Cranleigh (q) Denstone College (q) RGS High Wycombe (q) Dulwich College (q)
3 RGS Newcastle Hampton Whitchurch High School St Joseph’s College
4 John Fisher St Peter’s, Gloucester Gordon’s Eltham College


St Joseph’s Festival – Day 1 Results
Time Pitch 1 Pitch 2
09.00 Millfield 19-3 RGS Newcastle Cranleigh 25-5 John Fisher
09.40 Hampton 7-8 St Peter’s Denstone 3-38 Brighton
10.20 RGS High Wycombe 18-6 Gordon’s Whitchurch 10-20 Merchiston
11.00 Dulwich 8-12 Eltham QEGS 13-7 St Joseph’s
11.40 Millfield 17-9 John Fisher Cranleigh 27-0 RGS Newcastle
12.20 Hampton 7-5 Denstone St Peter’’s 0-40 Brighton
13.00 RGS HW 18-5 Whitchurch Gordon’s 0-36 Merchiston
13.40 Dulwich 10-15 QEGS Eltham 3-10 St Joseph’s
14.20 Millfield 11-7 Cranleigh John Fisher 8-9 RGS Newcastle
15.00 Brighton 12-7 Hampton St Peter’s 7-15 Denstone
15.40 Merchiston 12-6 RGS HS Whitchurch 24-0 Gordon’s
16.20 St Joseph’s 7-26 Dulwich QEGS 38-0 Eltham
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