This was a really interesting weekend of schools rugby, with massive games, some huge scorelines, and also a number of upsets and games that went against the historical norm.
All of which gave us plenty of contenders for out Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend this week, including plenty that have not featured on the list before.
We eventually narrowed it down though, and tried to mix up a few big wins, upsets, and important wins in big games within the list.
Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend
Cranleigh’s season has started well, with wins of Eastbourne College, Brighton College, St John’s Leatherhead, and now Epsom College. This win over Epsom College was perhaps their best though, certainly it was their highest scoring as they saw the home side off 48-13. Having won the St Joseph’s Festival and Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s title last year, they look, if anything, to perhaps be in even greater form this year. Epsom might not be off to a flyer, but anyone putting nearly fifty points past them is playing some impressive rugby.
Downside do not traditionally gather a lot of rugby playing headlines, but under the stewardship of Mike Baxter they are beginning to play some really good stuff and to get their rewards for it in results. They have kicked off their season with two wins from two, beating Monkton Combe and Bryanston. They beat Monkton Combe by a bigger margin, but Saturday’s 26-19 win at Bryanston is the win that finally gets them in the Top 5. Bryanston have traditionally almost always beaten Downside, and while Bryanston are not the force they once were, they are still a huge scalp for Downside to claim, especially away from home.
Haileybury’s position in the Top 5 could be summarised in one sentence; they beat Oundle 68-5 away from home. That it the kind of result that gets anyone into the Top 5, let alone away from home, against a side that has been very strong over the last few years, or having to bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss the weekend before as Haileybury did. It was, as Haileybury Director of Rugby Michael Owen said “arguably one of the best performances and results in the school’s history”. Five tries in each half added to a 100% record off the tee from Sam Cappaert certainly backs that up.
In a way Judd’s 20-17 win over Tonbridge was a bit of a paradox, simultaneously a shock and not a shock. Judd reached the Schools Cup quarter finals last year and have started this season in exactly that kind of form, Tonbridge meanwhile are not off to a great start. They beat Eastbourne in their opener but were then humbled by Wellington College and have now lost to their nearest neighbours. So from that perspective, a close game edged by Judd was perhaps not unexpected. However, Tonbridge are one of the great schools of schoolboy rugby and are the reigning Champions Trophy winners. They almost never lose to Judd, and in that context, and for what it will mean to the players and to the school, Judd’s win is more than deserving of a place in the Top 5.
QEGS have started off in stunning fashion. An 82-0 win over RGS Lancaster got them in our first Top 5 of the season, they backed that up with a good 33-20 win over Woodhouse Grove. They reach the Top 5 for the second time in three weeks after an excellent 49-17 away win at King’s Macclesfield. A win that sees them up to second in the Daily Mail Trophy. There are not too many games coming up on their fixture list that you would back them to start as anything other than favourites or at least 50/50 in from now either, bar Sedbergh, so they could well be there to stay.
It is worth pointing out a few other results that impressed us this weekend. Blundell’s, Grammar School at Leeds, and Woodhouse Grove all picked up impressive big wins this weekend, against Kings College Taunton, RGS Lancaster, and Pocklington respectively. Brighton College bounced back well from what would have been a painful defeat to Hurstpierpoint last week, beating St John’s Leatherhead 31-14, while St Edward’s Oxford continue to quietly impress us, they beat Clifton College 22-19.