After what has seemed like a very long half term, school rugby returns with a bang this weekend.
A huge fixture list on Saturday sees some massive games all over the country, as well as some massive Anglo-Welsh clashes and an Anglo-Irish fixture that has the potential to be the game of the season.
We dive in, as ever, with our ten ‘Focus On’ fixtures, before taking a look at a few of the other fixtures around the country, as well as our predictions for every game at the foot of the article.
Abingdon v St Edward’s, Oxford
It is a huge start to the second half of term in Oxfordshire with one of the Oxford derbies, Abingdon v St Edward’s Oxford. It was a tough first half of term for Abingdon, who picked up just the one win, however it was a fierce fixture list and they competed well. They will be hugely determined to kick start the season in this huge derby on Saturday. Teddies enjoyed a strong first half of term, winning three and losing two. In many ways it was those two defeats that taught us the most about them, losing by four points and two points to Haileybury and Cheltenham College respectively, two sides that enjoyed stunning results elsewhere. Teddies therefore probably start as favourites, but count no chickens in what should be a cracking contest.
Prediction: St Edward’s, Oxford
Blundell’s v Clifton College
Another cracking fixture. These two enjoyed some awesome results prior to half term, Clifton winning five from six and Blundell’s winning six from eight. Blundell’s also stormed into the Champions Trophy quarter finals, enjoying a hugely significant win over their nemesis in the competition, Epsom College. This game ought to be a great one between two of the top sides in the region at the moment. Blundell’s probably have the edge on form, but with a greater number of eggs in their basket at the moment, may have to manage things ahead of this week’s Champions Trophy quarter final.
Denstone College v Woodhouse Grove
Denstone impressed at the St Joseph’s Festival, reaching the Cup groups for Day 2. The experience of that group, where they faced Dulwich College, Hampton, and the eventual winners, Brighton College, should stand them in good stead for the rest of the season, beginning with Woodhouse Grove on Saturday. It will not be easy against the Yorkshiremen though, Woodhouse Grove may have lost more than they won before half term, but that does not tell the whole story, they had a fierce fixture lists, and yet in every defeat they fan their opposition close. They are a far better side than a won 3, lost 4, record suggests. This should be close.
Prediction: Denstone College
Harrow v Tonbridge
As school fixtures go, this is one of the biggest in terms of history. Two great schools, with fine rugby traditions going head to head. It takes on extra significance on Saturday though. Harrow are one of the top sides in the country, unbeaten and playing some truly stunning rugby, just ask St Paul’s, who lost 63-3. Tonbridge on the other hand are having a tough season, for them this is a chance to put a lot of things right, a win or a good performance here would be a huge boost, if it all goes wrong though, Harrow are capable of making life seriously tough. For Tonbridge it could make their season, for Harrow it is another big hurdle that must be crossed if they are to hit that huge game with Wellington towards the end of the season still unbeaten.
KCS Wimbledon v St Paul’s
A bit of a derby game between two of London’s highly prestigious schools. St Paul’s have had an interesting season, they have suffered three pretty tough defeats, but all were at the hands of top end rugby sides this season. They have won every other game, including against Rugby and RGS High Wycombe, so they are a side capable of plenty. For KCS life has been tough, they have not won since September and have just two wins to their name. That could easily be so much more though, they have been in close touch in every game bar Whitgift, who are a top side, and they will fancy that they can keep in touch with St Paul’s on Saturday, from there it is anyone’s game.
Prediction: St Paul’s
Marlborough College v Canford
On the surface this looks like a very predictable fixture, Marlborough are yet to win a game while Canford are unbeaten. However there is a bit more to it than that, Marlborough may not have a win, but three of their defeat have been by less that three points, and only one has been comprehensive by any normal standards. Yes, Canford are favourites, they are possibly one of the best around as their signature wins over the likes of Millfield and Blundell’s show, but this will not be as simple as it appears at first glance, Marlborough are a really tough nut to crack.
Oakham v Warwick
These two former Schools Cup champions head into Saturday’s clash with identical first half of term records, won three, lost three, and ought to put on a great show. Games between teams with strong history in the school game tend to be. Dig a little deeper though and it looks like Warwick should head in with a decent amount of confidence, for while they have lost three they have been against Harrow, Wellington College, and Whitgift, three of the best sides in the country. Oakham might not yet have faced that calibre of side but they have thumped Rugby, run Stamford and Bedford seriously close, and are coming off the back of a victory over local rivals Uppingham that will have them full of confidence.
Oundle v Uppingham
One of the biggest games of the season for both schools, and you can bet that Oundle’s tight knit and atmospheric 1st XV pitch will be packed and noisy for this one. It is also a key game for both, Oundle had a slow start to the season with four losses on the bounce, but two wins in their final two games before half term really gave them some momentum and they will want to keep that going. Uppingham started off really well, with three wins from four, but four defeats in a row before half term, including two on the bounce to local rivals Stamford and Oakham, will have really hurt, Saturday is a chance to get back to that early form against another local rival. It should be a cracking game.
Sherborne v Radley College
This is always a pretty big clash, but this year Sherborne will host it on a wave of confidence. They have won five from seven, but have in fact only lost to one schools, Blundell’s, who beat them very early in the season and then again in the Champions Trophy. That aside, they have been on fire. Life has been tougher for Radley, losing against some big name rivals, but under the tutelage of Nick Wood they are on the up you suspect. Having had the half term break to rest, they will be ready to come out firing for this one, though Sherborne will no doubt be fresh and raring for action too.
Wellington College v Blackrock College
This might just be the biggest game of the season. Arguably the best in England against arguably the best in Ireland. Two of the biggest names in school rugby, not each other’s countries, but globally. This is that big. Wellington have swept all before them this season, with some astonishingly big scorelines against some huge names in schools rugby, but this is likely to be the ultimate test. Eyes from neutrals around both countries will be on this one, and already you suspect that they will not be disappointed. Whoever wins, this is going to be one special day of rugby. Predictions are nigh on impossible, perhaps home advantage may favour Wellington, but the margins are so tight.
Prediction: Wellington College
Away from those ten ‘Focus On’ fixtures there is plenty of other exciting rugby on show this weekend. Brighton College return to the field for the first time since that stunning St Joseph’s Festival triumph when they host a Skinners’ side that enjoyed a strong first half of term.
There is a big game in the South West as Schools Cup finalists Bishop Wordsworth’s make the trip to Bryanston. Bishop Wordsworth’s start as favourites, but Bryanston are long due a statement win and will be up for it.
There is a massive Anglo-Welsh clash too, with Millfield making the trip across the Severn to face Llandovery College, who were well beaten by Sedbergh a couple of weeks ago.
Moving to Scotland, Merchiston Castle are back in action after a brilliant St Joseph’s Festival campaign, they are hosted by Edinburgh Academy and will be looking to continue that St Jo’s momentum. There is a massive clash too between Dollar Academy and George Watson’s College, two of the best in Scotland.
The north east of England sees a schoolboy classic between RGS Newcastle and Ampleforth College. RGS enjoyed one of their best ever St Joseph’s Festival campaigns, and the confidence gained from that will surely shine through on Saturday.
There is a massive derby in Liverpool as St Edward’s College host Liverpool College, while there are a couple of exciting looking fixtures in East Anglia, Royal Hospital School hosting The Perse, and The Leys travelling to Norwich School.
Stamford had a stunning unbeaten first half of term and they will look to continue that on Saturday when they host a good Solihull site on their fortress of a 1st XV pitch.
There is plenty more rugby besides all of that on what promises to be an exciting weekend of school rugby, with each and every side itching to get back out there after a fair old while without a game.
As always, if you have any videos, photos, or reports from the weekend’s rugby, please feel free to send them in via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby), Instagram (@fifteenrugbyxv), or through email (email@example.com).
Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures – Saturday 4th November (predictions in bold):
Abingdon v St Edward’s, Oxford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Blundell’s v Clifton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Denstone College v Woodhouse Grove (Daily Mail Trophy)
Harrow v Tonbridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
KCS Wimbledon v St Paul’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Marlborough College v Canford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oakham v Warwick (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oundle v Uppingham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sherborne v Radley College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wellington College v Blackrock College
Ashville College v Dame Allan’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Barnard Castle v Austin Friars
Bedford v Loughborough (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bedford Modern v Watford GS
Bishop Stortford’s HS v Campion
Bishop Vesey’s GS v Adams GS
Bradford GS v Pocklington (Daily Mail Trophy)
Brighton College v Skinners’ (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bristol GS v QEH
Bryanston v Bishop Wordsworth’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Caterham v Worth (Daily Mail Trophy)
Cheadle Hulme v Wilmslow HS
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v Cranbrook
City of London Freemen’s v Churcher’s College
Clayesmore v Queen’s College, Taunton
Cranleigh v Gower (Old Boys)
Dauntsey’s v Prior Park College
Dollar Academy v George Watson’s
Edinburgh Academy v Merchiston Castle
Ellesmere College v King’s Worcester (Daily Mail Trophy)
Emanuel v Wimbledon College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Enfield GS v Haberdashers’
Fettes College v Loretto
Glasgow Academy v Hutchesons’ GS
Glasgow HS v Kelvinside Academy
Glenalmond v Bell Baxter
Glyn v Langley Park
Gunnersbury v Latymer Upper
Hampton v Seaford College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hereford Cathedral School v King’s Gloucester
KES Birmingham v Old Swinford Hospital (Daily Mail Trophy)
KES Stratford v RGS Worcester
King’s Bruton v KES Bath
Leicester GS v Lawrence Sherriff
Llandovery College v Millfield
London Oratory v Wellington College 2nd XV
Maidstone GS v Dartford GS
Merchant Taylors’ v Reading Blue Coat (Daily Mail Trophy)
Northampton School for Boys v Aylesbury GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Nottingham HS v King’s Macclesfield (Daily Mail Trophy)
Norwich v The Leys
Oratory v Magdalen College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Reigate GS v Christ’s Hospital (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS Colchester v St Olave’s GS
RGS Newcastle v Ampleforth College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Richard Hale v St Columba’s College
Royal Hospital School v The Perse
Sevenoaks v Duke of York’s RMS
Stamford v Solihull (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stewart’s Melville v Strathallan
St Albans v Judd
St Edward’s College v Liverpool College
St George’s, Harpenden v QES Barnet
St Peter’s Gloucester v Pate’s GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Tiffin v St George’s College, Weybridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wallington CGS v John Fisher
Welbeck v Princethirpe College
Wirral GS v St Ambrose College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wisbech GS v Ratcliffe College
Yarm v Newcastle School for Boys