The Champions Trophy semi finals take place this week as the final four compete to make the final at Allianz Park on Wednesday 6th December.
Whatever happens, we will have a new champion. All of the former winners, Millfield, Bedford, and Tonbridge, have all been knocked out, so one of the semi finalists will become the fourth different side to win the title.
Blundell’s, Dulwich College, Kingswood, and St John’s Leatherhead are the four semi finalists, each with their own tales that make their position there so special.
Blundell’s finally overcame their great nemesis in this competition, Epsom College. Twice Epsom had knocked them out but in the last 16 this year Blundell’s sent them packing, before then beating Stowe, vanquishers of Millfield, in the quarter finals.
Dulwich College are legends of the other great school competition, the U18 Schools Cup. Winning three times in a row, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and reaching the final in 2015. Having moved across to the Champions Trophy they are now looking to make history by becoming the first side to win both competitions. Momentum is with them, in the quarter finals they beat Bromsgrove, the side that ended that three in a row Cup run by beating them in that 2015 final.
Kingswood are making a fair bit of history in this Champions Trophy run. They are unbeaten in all competitions so far this season but it is in the Champions Trophy where they have starred, with their last 16 result the real icing on the cake. They were away at the 2015 winners and 2016 finalists, Bedford, and despite conceding within 30 seconds of kick off, they came back for a famous 29-17 victory.
Finally to St John’s Leatherhead, whose own progress has been spectacular. Year on year they have built their rugby programme, and they are now under the tutelage of for All Black Craig Newby, who was part of the Warwick staff that led them to Schools Cup victory last year. So they know what it takes to win school silverware. Their route has seen them record the biggest win of the competition, 61-14 over King’s Canterbury in the first round, before knocking out the Champions, Tonbridge, in the last 16, and winning away at Grammar School at Leeds, who knocked out Wellington College, in the quarter finals.
Each of the four has a story to tell that will make it a spectacular achievement if they go all the way, but first they must get to Allianz Park, so here is a closer look at those semi finals.
Blundell’s v Kingswood – Wednesday 22nd November (14.15)
A monumental all-South West clash. Blundell’s will host it in Tiverton, but it will not be a long trip from Bath for Kingswood. Kingswood are unbeaten this season, while Blundell’s have lost just one fixture, to Canford, one of the best sides around. They are both clearly in peak form, perhaps the big advantage that Blundell’s have is that they have faced tougher opposition in general, including the likes of Millfield and Clifton College, both of whom they have beaten comfortably.
Kingswood have been proving through this competition that they can step up to those high level opponents without any trouble though. Never more so than in that stunning last 16 win over Bedford. This is a huge game, and a huge opportunity for both sides. Passion is a guarantee, both have shown that in abundance, but quality will come with it. Make no mistake, these are two top school sides.
St John’s Leatherhead v Dulwich College – Thursday 23rd November (14.15)
From an all-South West tie on Wednesday to an all-London and South East clash on Thursday afternoon. These two do not quite have the extraordinary win/loss records of the other two, St John’s have lost 5 times this season and Dulwich 4, however that is not necessarily a reflection of a lack of quality on their part, more the sheer strength of the London & South East circuit.
Perhaps the key clue in this game is their respective results against Brighton College, where St John’s lost 31-14 and Dulwich won 29-26. However to read too much into that would be naïve. This competition has proved time and time again that drama and unpredictability are at its core. Dulwich certainly have the greater form, they have not lost since the 7th October, bar a loss to Brighton College in what was effectively a semi final, in the shortened time conditions of the St Joseph’s Festival. St John’s, in contrast, have lost their last two games. However there is a sense that they might have been rotating their squad to protect it ahead of this monster game of rugby. It is going to be a corker of a Champions Trophy semi final, with two exciting and high quality sides.
Prediction: Dulwich College
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Champions Trophy Semi Finals:
Blundell’s v Kingswood – Wednesday, KO TBC
St John’s Leatherhead v Dulwich College – Thursday, 14.15
Champions Trophy Quarter Final Results:
Kingswood 20-13 Eton College
Bromsgrove 19-37 Dulwich College
Stowe 3-16 Blundell’s
Grammar School at Leeds 17-24 St John’s Leatherhead
Champions Trophy Round 2 Results:
Bedford 17-29 Kingswood
Berkhamsted 17-33 Dulwich College
Bryanston 10-15 Eton College
Epsom College 7-31 Blundell’s
Grammar School at Leeds 17-11 Wellington College
RGS Guildford 22-37 Bromsgrove
St John’s Leatherhead 39-25 Tonbridge
Stowe 19-12 Millfield
Champions Trophy Round 1 Results:
Bromsgrove 34-5 Monmouth
Bryanston 47-37 Bristol Grammar
Dulwich College 43-12 St Paul’s
Grammar School at Leeds 38-24 Oakham
Marlborough College 3-22 Kingswood
Radley College 17-32 Berkhamsted
RGS Guildford 38-0 Caterham
Sherborne 7-18 Blundell’s
St John’s, Leatherhead 61-14 King’s Canterbury
Stowe 47-17 St Albans
Byes – Bedford, Epsom College, Eton College, Millfield, Tonbridge, Wellington College