Saturday looks likely to be a belter in the world of schools rugby, with some big names going head to head from distant parts of the country.
While much of the rugby world might have its attention turned to Twickenham, Cardiff, Dublin, or Edinburgh, there will be plenty of exciting action in all of the school towns in between.
Abingdon v Radley College
The exciting Oxford derby, or to be precise, the Abingdon derby. These two are located unbelievably close to each other and across the school rugby world that almost always results in a tense and exciting encounter. Abingdon have won the last three of these encounters in a row, however they have not won since a single point victory over Berkhamsted on the opening weekend of the season. Radley have found the going similarly tough, but have picked up two wins in November. It suggests a close game, perhaps home advantage will help Abingdon, as might knowing that while they beat Berkhamsted, Radley lost to them. Could easily go either way.
Barnard Castle v St Peter’s, York
On form, St Peter’s should feel confident going into this one, they have a superior record and are playing the better rugby. However Barnard Castle are giants of the school game and that shadow looms large when making the trip there. On the surface, the fact that RGS Newcastle put forty past Barnard Castle in the Cup and St Peter’s then put fifty past RGS last weekend suggests a potentially heavy scorecard, but expect this to be closer than that suggest, Barnard Castle will fight and scrap and make life hard.
Prediction: St Peter’s, York
Berkhamsted v Rugby
This should be a good game of rugby, both have had some great results this season, and probably a few more defeats than they would have liked. Berkhamsted have had a highly unusual run of late, drawing two of their last three, while Rugby are on three wins from three after a slow start to the season. It was the look of a game that could go either way, much might depend on the confidence that each feels heading into this one. Their one common opponent, Abingdon, saw Berkhamsted narrowly beaten and Rugby take the win, but they came at such contrasting times in the year that it is hard to read too much into those results.
Bishop Wordsworth’s v Hampton
Another game that look’s like it could easily go either way, Hampton have won two of their last three but suffered a tough defeat last week to Wellington College, while Bishop Wordsworth’s have also won two of their last three. Much might depend on how Hampton react to that defeat, but having had the England U18 coaches in attendance this week, one would think they will be in high spirits and full of confidence. This game hangs in the balance though, both have strong qualities and good players, it should be a cracker.
Brighton College v Eastbourne College
Eastbourne College’s win over St John’s Leatherhead last week forces this one into the ‘Focus On’ section. Was it just a flash in the pan, or could Eastbourne build on it and really trouble Brighton College on Saturday? It will be a tough assignment, Brighton are in top form, winning their last two by strong margins off the back of that magnificent St Joseph’s Festival triumph just before half term. They will fancy their chances of another strong performance as they seek out a second half of term to see them shoot up the Daily Mail Trophy rankings. Eastbourne will not make it easy though, after last week’s win they will want to prove it was more than a one off.
Prediction: Brighton College
Haileybury v St John’s, Leatherhead
After tough defeats last week, both sides will be determined to bounce back and find a way to victory this weekend. Haileybury performed well against Whitgift last weekend, the strongest side the have faced so far, losing 10-7, just their second of the season. They will be determined to capitalise on what was a strong performance and will be desperate not to lose back to back games. So too St John’s, who will have been gutted to lose to Eastbourne College last week, particularly having just confirmed their Champions Trophy semi final spot. They will want to make certain that that was a blip, and to proved those Champions Trophy credentials. Expect a close battle between two top teams.
RGS High Wycombe v Bromsgrove
This is a bit of a schools rugby classic, and it could come down to how each side reacts to their midweek results. Bromsgrove were knocked out of the Champions Trophy, in their first year, at the quarter final stage by Dulwich College on Tuesday. They will be determined to bounce back in style, and on form over the season, they are probably favourites. RGS had a really tough defeat to a very good Dean Close side, they will be determined to come back from it but confidence will be shaken. Perhaps crucially, that game took place on Thursday, meaning Bromsgrove have a couple more days of rest behind them too.
Stamford v Denstone College
With just one defeat to their name all season, Stamford are on their way to a very special season if they can keep it up. However last week they drew with Berkhamsted, and they will be keen to ensure that it is not the start of a wobble, but in fact an example of strength in a game that they could have lost. Dentone College will provide stern opposition, and if it is the start of a wobble then they will certainly take advantage. All in all, we should be set for a storming game of schools rugby.
Warwick v Sedbergh
A monstrous clash between the U18 Schools Cup champions, and Sedbergh, one the best teams, if not the best, in the country. Sedbergh are unbeaten and scoring points for fun. They have conceded double figure points just twice, and even then not since September. They are a terrifying proposition for anyone. However Warwick are having a good year too, playing some top rugby and already through to the last 16 in the Cup. Their only defeats have been to sides among the very best in the business, Whitgift, Harrow, and Wellington College. It is there though that perhaps the challenge lies, for that is exactly the sort of company that Sedbergh are keeping this year.
Whitgift v Dulwich College
Another fascinating clash. Both enjoyed hugely important wins in midweek, Whitgift with a narrow win over Felsted in the Schools Cup to advance to the last 16 on Wednesday, while on Tuesday Dulwich beat Bromsgrove in relative comfort to reach the Champions Trophy semi finals. That extra day’s rest could be crucial in what is sure to be a fast paced and physical encounter. It might not be the classic that the circa 2012 clashes were, but it is not going to be a long way off. Both have fantastic chances of silverware this year, and the momentum gained from a victory on Saturday would be absolutely huge.
Prediction: Dulwich College
Around the Grounds
Bedford v Stowe is always a good game of rugby. Bedford have been the stronger of late but three losses from their last four games will not have been easy to take, they will want to bounce back with gusto.
There are plenty of exciting games in the South West as Bristol Grammar travel to Colston’s, then unbeaten and highly impressive Dean Close hosting King’s Worcester, while Champions Trophy semi finalists, Kingswood, are hosting Dauntsey’s. Kingswood are also unbeaten and playing some stunning rugby this season, keep and eye out for their game against Dean Close towards the end of term.
Also unbeaten are Cheltenham College, and after their impressive win at Sixways Stadium against Radley College on Wednesday night, they look to continue that with a tricky fixture away at Monmouth.
Two of school rugby’s most decorated state schools, John Fisher and Campion, go head to head in the Daily Mail Trophy on Saturday. Campion have been having a truly brilliant season, and will be desperate to add the major away scalp of John Fisher to that.
Staying in the South East of London, Eltham College have a big game at home against New Hall, the two look well matched and should produce a cracking game. Epsom College, over on the South West side, must be hoping to pull out an excellent performance on Saturday against RGS Guildford as they look to get back to winning ways.
A little further along the A3, KCS Wimbledon welcome Hurstpierpoint College to town. Hurstpierpoint have not quite hit the heights of earlier in the season when they beat Brighton, however they are still a very good side and will cause KCS plenty of problems in what should be an excellent game.
Also in London is a clash between two of the most famous schools around, St Paul’s and Eton College. Over the course of the season Eton have had the better running, however after the high of last week’s win over Tonbridge, St Paul’s will surely be bursting with confidence. Speaking of Tonbridge, they have a chance to bounce back on Saturday with another home game, against King’s Canterbury. They will have to work hard for it though against a King’s side with a few dangerous runners.
There are a couple of cracking games in Yorkshire as QEGS Wakefield host Bradford Grammar, QEGS have been in fine form all year and will want to keep their momentum up ahead of their huge Schools Cup last 16 tie. Woodhouse Grove, meanwhile, host Durham, for what promises to be a really close encounter.
Trent College, meanwhile, host Oakham. Trent beat Oakham’s local rivals Uppingham last week, but will surely find Oakham a tougher proposition, particularly given the Rutland side’s excellent form of late.
Finally, there is a particularly important game at Seaford College, where the outstanding Canford are the visitors. It is being dubbed ‘Stand Together Saturday’, and the focus of the day is about enjoyment through the age-groups, fostering good relationships between players, parents, and staff from all sides and all teams, and focusing on process rather than outcome. Win, lose, or draw, it ought to be a fantastic day for all, which is essentially the point.
Friday is a busy day of school rugby, the highlight fixture is probably the Daily Mail Trophy game between high flying Harrow and King’s Macclesfield. However there is plenty of other rugby to be excited about, not least Shiplake College v Lord Wandsworth College and Beechen Cliff v KES Bath.
Elsewhere Christ’s Hospital host Rutlish and Merchant Taylors’ welcome Emanuel, while St Benedict’s and Trinity meet for what ought to be a cracking game, as should Langley Park v St Olave’s Grammar School.
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Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures – Saturday 18th November (predictions in bold):
Abingdon v Radley College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Barnard Castle v St Peter’s, York (Daily Mail Trophy)
Berkhamsted v Rugby (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bishop Wordsworth’s v Hampton (Daily Mail Trophy)
Brighton College v Eastbourne College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Haileybury v St John’s, Leatherhead (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS High Wycombe v Bromsgrove (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stamford v Denstone College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Warwick v Sedbergh (Daily Mail Trophy)
Whitgift v Dulwich College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Altrincham GS v Manchester GS
Bishop’s Stortford HS v Brentwood
Bedford v Stowe (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bishop Vesey’s GS v Bloxham
Bolton v Stockport GS
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v Ravens Wood
City of London Freemen’s v Reigate GS
Clayesmore v King’s Bruton
Colfe’s v Latymer Upper
Colston’s v Bristol GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Cooper’s Coborn v Bancroft’s
Culford v Gresham’s
Crossley Heath v Harrogate GS
Crypt v QEH
Dartford GS v Cranbrook
Dean Close v King’s Worcester (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dollar Academy v Glasgow Academy
Eltham College v New Hall
Epsom College v RGS Guildford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Exeter School v King’s College, Taunton
Felsted v Royal Hospital School
Glasgow HS v Stewart’s Melville
Gordon’s v St George’s Harpenden
Gravesend GS v Judd
Hereford Cathedral School v Cathedral School, Llandaff
Hutton GS v Cheadle Hulme
Hymers College v Grammar School at Leeds (Daily Mail Trophy)
John Fisher v Campion (Daily Mail Trophy)
KCS Wimbledon v Hurstpierpoint College (Daily Mail Trophy)
KES Southampton v Churcher’s College
King’s Grantham v Northampton School for Boys
King William’s College v Queen Ethelburga’s
Kingswood v Dauntsey’s
Leicester GS v Langley
Loughborough v KES Birmingham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Magdalen College v KES Stratford
Mill Hill v Pangbourne College
Monkton Combe v Wellington School
Monmouth v Cheltenham College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Newcastle-Under-Lyme v Liverpool College
Nottingham HS v Solihull (Daily Mail Trophy)
Pate’s GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Perse v Norwich
Plymouth College v Queen’s College, Taunton
Pocklington v Yarm (Daily Mail Trophy)
Portsmouth GS v Bryanston (Daily Mail Trophy)
Princethorpe College v Wellingborough
Prior Park College Wycliffe College
QEGS Wakefield v Bradford GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Ratcliffe College v King Henry VIII, Coventry
Reed’s v Skinners’ (Daily Mail Trophy)
Richard Hale v QES Barnet
Rydal Penrhos v Birkenhead
Sandbach v St Ambrose College
Seaford College v Canford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sir Joseph Williamson’s v St Dunstan’s College
St Albans v Bedford Modern (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Aloysius’ College v Kelvinside Academy
St George’s College, Weybridge v Caterham (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Joseph’s College v RGS Colchester
St Paul’s v Eton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Strathallan v Loretto
Sutton Valence v Sevenoaks
Tiffin v Windsor Boys
Tonbridge v King’s Canterbury (Daily Mail Trophy)
Trent College v Oakham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wallington CGS v Halliford
Watford GS v UCS
Wimbledon College v London Oratory (Daily Mail Trophy)
Woodhouse Grove v Durham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Worksop College v Wisbech GS
Christ’s Hospital v Rutlish
Harrow v King’s Macclesfield (Daily Mail Trophy)
KES Bath v Beechen Cliff
Langley Park v St Olave’s GS
Merchant Taylors’ v Emanuel
Shiplake College v Lord Wandsworth College
St Benedict’s v Trinity