The final full weekend of the term gave us slightly fewer games to choose from for our Top 5, with swathes of games being cancelled due to the snow and ice.
Luckily, what rugby there was turned out to be exceptional, indeed in many ways it was one of the very best weekends of the year. With it being the last one, it also gives us a chance to pick a few sides in our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend with a slightly different criteria, fulfilling their hopes heading into the final weekend of completing an unbeaten season.
Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend
Cheltenham College hosted Champions Trophy runners-up Blundell’s in a key game on Saturday. The winner would secure a top end Daily Mail Trophy finish, while the loser would likely drop out of the Top 10. For Cheltenham there was even more riding on it, victory would secure them an unbeaten season. It was a tough game but the home side did it, winning 18-7 to finish 5th in the country and secure just a third unbeaten season since 1850. They have been quite extraordinary this season, and were once again on Saturday, earning a place in our Top 5 and almost certainly putting themselves in the mix for the team of the season accolade over the Christmas period.
Clifton College (and Canford)
Clifton College make the Top 5 after a thrilling game against Canford on Saturday. The two sides shared eighty-four points, with Clifton just nicking the win 43-41. In reality, after a game like that, whichever side won it was going to make the Top 5, it was surely the most entertaining game of the entire season. The win secures Clifton College and excellent 9th place finish in the Daily Mail Trophy too. It truly was an extraordinary game, 19-19 at half time before Clifton pulled away, only for Canford to haul them back. A thrill a minute.
Like Cheltenham, Cranleigh needed a win on Saturday to secure an unbeaten season. They did so in style, beating Marlborough College 43-12 away from home for a fourth unbeaten season in 102 years. It caps a remarkable few years for Cranleigh, who are the 2016 St Joseph’s Festival winners, back to back Rosslyn Park 7s champions in 2016 and 2017, and now have an unbeaten 2017 season. It is the stuff of dreams, and a testament to the hard work and dedication of both coaches and players, and of the school as a whole. It truly has been a stunning few years for Cranleigh School rugby.
Oakham recorded the biggest win of the weekend on Saturday when they defeated Stowe by a hugely impressive 66-5 margin. Much more important than that though was the fact that it capped a remarkable second half of term. Prior to half term they had struggled a little, however since half term they have been in stunning form, losing just once, to the Schools Cup champions, Warwick. That run has included six victories in a row, an outstanding run of form, capped by a super victory to end the season on a real high.
On Tuesday last Whitgift were not meeting Bishop Wordsworth’s in their Schools Cup quarter final until January. 24 hours later, they were meeting them on Saturday and had a number of injury worries to overcome in that three day period. More than that though, they faced a Bishop Wordsworth’s side that reached last year’s final, and had just found their best form of the season in the last few weeks, knocking the excellent Dean Close out in style in the previous round and also enjoying a good win over Canford. Whitgift, meanwhile, had a tough loss to Cranleigh to overcome. They did so in superb fashion though, putting on a stunning display in freezing conditions to take a brilliant 48-15 victory into their semi final against the reigning champions Warwick, what a tie that should be.