One story that emerged over the course of the week of the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s was that of some ‘smaller’ schools performing exceptionally well.
Often smaller schools and state schools can go under the radar somewhat, and that was definitely the case for Bishop’s Stortford High Schools U14s, who reached the semi finals of the U14 tournament in 2017, and the 2016 U13 semi finals, and arrived hoping to go one better this year.
The did not quite do so, being knocked out in the quarter final groups by eventual finalists Taunton with a last minute score, but nonetheless they impressed a huge number of people with such a strong showing across three years with three different groups across the U14 age group.
They have done so through embracing a specific philosophy of how to play 7s, with their exciting and aggressive style drawing praise from coaches and referees alike, and a culture of developing all-round athletes.
Playing in their distinct pink kit Bishop’s Stortford High School have developed from a relatively unknown entity into somewhat giant killers within junior 7s rugby. Knocking out Cheltenham College in the elimination round of the U14 tournament two years running was a huge achievement, indeed they are the only school to have beaten Cheltenham College U14s in a 7s game this season.
So where has this upshift in fortunes come from? Head of Rugby David Paine firmly believes that a thorough knowledge of players’ capabilities is key to their preparation.
“Having coached these boys since they were U12 the game plan revolves around the individual players ability and skill set rather than the traditional tactics coached on courses and employed by many 7s coaches.’
“I believe that too many teams play in a regimented way which is easy to defend against and easy to break down in attack. Our philosophy is ‘score quickly, concede slowly’. We will inevitably concede at some point but if we can slow down opponents possession and flow in attack we have great belief in our ability to score quickly and ultimately win games.”
For a school whose intake regularly includes plenty of players with no experience of contact rugby, it is an impressive rate of development, one that has been recognised on the circuit as their fixture list begins to include more and more of the strongest school in the south east.
Keep an eye on some of these Bishop’s Stortford High School boys over the next few years, perhaps they will come back to Rosslyn Park as U16s in a couple of years and reach that elusive first National Schools final for these groups.
Many pupils join TBSHS (a non-selective state school in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire) having never played contact rugby. The school has developed a strong fixture list against some of the strongest rugby playing schools in the SE of England. Within a couple of years teams are winning matches against schools with pupils who have played since they were 8 and are bolstered with sports scholarship pupils at U14 age. This is credit to the attitude and grit of the boys at TBSHS and the effort and determination of the sports department to provide an outstanding experience and create memories.