After receiving over twenty nominations for both awards, it is time to announce the shortlists for the England Rugby Travel School Team of the Season and the England Rugby Travel Emerging Team of the Season.
Narrowing the field from the many nominations to just a handful for the shortlist for each award has been a challenge, perhaps best demonstrated by the names of some of the teams that have not made the shortlists.
In the England Rugby Travel School team of the Season award, Dulwich College, who so brilliantly won the Champions Trophy, becoming the first school to win both the Schools Cup and Champions Trophy, are hugely unlucky to miss out. So too are the side they beat in that final, Blundell’s, who thrilled throughout the season and went on to win the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s Vase tournament.
The side that Blundell’s beat there are also unfortunate to narrowly miss out, St Peter’s York, who enjoyed an unbeaten season and a strong Schools Cup run too, missing out by the narrowest of margins to QEGS Wakefield, the eventual runners-up.
The likes of Haileybury, Canford, Bishop Wordsworth’s, QEGS Wakefield, Woodhouse Grove, and the genuinely brilliant Kirkham Grammar School are also unlucky to miss out and provoked much debate as we finally pulled the six team shortlist together.
It was a similar story in the England Rugby Travel Emerging Team of the Season award, with the likes of Glyn, Ripon Grammar School, Cokethorpe, and Schools Bowl champions St George’s College Weybridge among those that were desperately unlucky to miss out.
Perhaps the most unlucky across both awards though was Campion, who had a truly outstanding season. They were on flying form and even beat New Zealand tourists Palmerstone North, who had a very successful tour otherwise. Three days later they lost out in the Schools Cup to Feslted, but it was still a magnificent effort. Unfortunately for them, the strength of nominations in the main award left no space for them, while with such a proud rugby history (including a Schools Cup title), they could not be considered emerging.
Ultimately though we ended up with six teams shortlisted for each category, with both fifteen-a-side and seven-a-side performances (and ten-a-side) taken into account, as well as style, consistency, and context.
England Rugby Travel School Team of the Season Shortlist:
Brighton College enjoyed a fantastic season once again. Their main target was the St Joseph’s Festival title, and they delivered in style in October. Last year they suffered heartbreak at the Festival, losing to Cranleigh after the two had drawn, with the winner being the side to have scored first, this year they were the pick of the bunch, enjoying a clean sweep of awards with the Festival title, the try of the tournament, and the player of the tournament.
They also enjoyed a strong 7s season, performing well and Rosslyn Park and the Surrey 7s as well as winning the Hampton 7s and South Coast 7s before finishing as runners up in the Sedbergh 10s.
(Brighton College 1st XV Highlights)
Cheltenham College enjoyed arguably the greatest season in their history. They went unbeaten through the fifteen-a-side season, a run that included victories over the likes of Blundell’s, Clifton College, St Edward’s Oxford, Rugby, and Stowe, among others. It was just the third time in the school’s long history that they have gone unbeaten.
They continued that run into the 7s season, where they did not lose a game until meeting Blundell’s at Rosslyn Park, who went on to win the Vase after beating Cheltenham. Across two terms and two forms of the game, the men in red and black lost just once, a sublime season.
(Cheltenham College 1st XV Highlights)
Like Cheltenham, Cranleigh went unbeaten this season. They eventually finished third in the Daily Mail Trophy table, and their unbeaten season included victories over the likes of Epsom College, Whitgift, and fellow shortlisted side, Brighton College. It was just the fourth time in 101 years of rugby at the school that they have gone unbeaten.
As well as impressing on the fifteen-a-side field, not just this year but for a number of years now, Cranleigh have also impressed on the 7s field and did so again this year. They won the Surrey 7s in fine style, effectively played three ‘final standard’ games in a row before eventually beating Harrow in the final. That sent them to Rosslyn Park in fine form, where they were looking for a third title in a row. They came oh so close, reaching the final only to fall at the last to s truly sensational performance from the Sedbergh 1st VII, but garnering a huge number of plaudits all the same.
(Edwin Doran Surrey School 7s – skip to end for final, Cranleigh v Harrow)
Another side to go unbeaten, and Harrow did so in style. They beat the eventual Schools Cup winners, Warwick, the eventual Champions Trophy winners, Dulwich College, and the reigning champions, Bedford, as well as the reigning Daily Mail Trophy champions, Wellington College as they secured an outstanding fifteen-a-side season and just the fourth unbeaten season in their history.
On the 7s field they were hugely impressive as well, reaching the Surrey 7s where only a brilliant Cranleigh performance in the final when both side were near exhaustion could stop them. The same happened at Rosslyn Park, where Cranleigh again stopped them, this time at the semi final stage. Along the way though was a huge feather in the cap for Harrow as a last play Manu Vunipola drop goal in the quarter final groups saw them become the only side to beat Sedbergh this season.
Sedbergh enjoyed a stunning unbeaten fifteen-a-side season, which saw them claim the Daily Mail Trophy and take the scalps of the likes of Wellington College, Millfield, Warwick, and Whitgift, as well as top local rivals like Kirkham Grammar School, Barnard Castle, and Durham.
They carried that brilliance on into the 7s season, where they enjoyed success at every turn before going to claim the greatest prize in schools rugby, the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s, putting in a brilliant display in the final against the back to back champions, Cranleigh. There was no time to rest on their laurels though, they had just a day to get back to Cumbria and host the annual Sedbergh 10s. Once again they were sensational, and went all the way to claim a hat-trick of titles in the 2017/18 season, beating Brighton College in the final.
(Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s – skip to end for final, Sedbergh v Cranleigh)
Warwick enjoyed a superb regular season, securing victories over the likes of Bromsgrove, Bedford, Oakham, and Hampton, among others. Defeats only came against some of the biggest names in schoolboy rugby history, among them two teams on this shortlist, Harrow and Sedbergh.
It was their work in the Schools Cup that secured Warwick’s place on this shortlist though. Over the last few years they have become almost synonymous with this competition, seemingly churning out finalists at either U18 or U15 level and sometimes both. Last year, after a number of near misses since their 2007 U18 triumph, they finally got their hands on that U18 Schools Cup trophy again, and this year they faced the challenging task of backing that up. Standing in their way in the final were QEGS Wakefield, a side that Warwick seem inextricably linked with after their three meetings at U15 level in a row. Warwick performed outstandingly well, securing a brilliant 29-7 win and a second Schools Cup title in a row, putting them alongside the legends of the Schools Cup.
(Schools Cup Final – Warwick v QEGS Wakefield)
England Rugby Travel Emerging Team of the Season
Hayes School have enjoyed a truly sensational year. For a small state school in Bromley, they have performed far beyond any expectations. They enjoyed an unbeaten regular season, but the jewel in their crown was surely their run the Schools Vase. They reached the quarter final stage, beating some serious sides along the way Sutton Valence and Richard Hale who both looked very strong. Their run was only halted by Langley, the eventual winners and by far and away the strongest side in the competition. 40-5 might look a tough defeat, but in the entire of Langley’s Vase run, that was the fewest number of points they scored, reflecting very well on Hayes.
(Hayes v Chislehurst & Sidcup GS – Highlights)
With only 25 boys, Newcastle-under-Lyme School became the most successful in their history, winning fifteen of their sixteen games this season. Their only defeat was to Warwick in the Schools Cup, the eventual winners. Manchester Grammar School and St Ambrose College are among those that they beat along the way. Silverware also came their way as they secured the Staffordshire Cup and the Staffordshire 7s title too, completing a truly fantastic season for any school, let alone one so small.
(Newcastle-Under-Lyme 1st Xv Highlights)
We debated long and hard over whether to place Kingswood in the main category or the emerging category, but decided that theirs was a run that few went so far beyond the assumed level that it was an emergence of a new force. They went unbeaten through the regular season, a stunning achievement on its own with only 70 boys per year group, but perhaps the even greater achievement was in reaching the Champions Trophy semi finals. They lost out to Blundell’s eventually, but along the way beat Marlborough College, Eton College, and most sensationally the reigning champions, Bedford. They then followed that excellent fifteen-a-side season up with a strong sevens season, reaching the finals of both the Rosslyn Park Bowl and the Bryanston 7s.
(Kingswood School 1st XV Highlights)
New Hall have only been running a senor 1st XV for five years and yet won 80% of their games this season and charged to the NatWest Plate quarter finals. They had two boys called up to the England U17 and U18 training squads and plenty representing Saracens through the year. This year they also put on a 2nd XV for the very first time, and they enjoyed stunning success, losing just one game all year.
Another school that we debated long and hard of whether they could be put in the emerging category or whether they could be solely included for consideration in the main award. Ultimately though, their emergence from a well-known school with a decent record to one with a stunning unbeaten season was too much for them to be left off. They won a superb 10 out of ten games this season, beating the likes of Hurstpierpoint College, KCS Wimbledon, and St George’s College Weybridge along the way. They also enjoyed a very strong Cup running, reaching the quarter finals of the Schools Vase, losing narrowly to eventual finalists, Wirral Grammar School.
Wisbech Grammar School
Wisbech Grammar School had a stunning season, winning ten of their twelve fixtures, including victories over opposition with far greater resources such as Worksop College. They also secured three wins from four on their tour of the USA. Wisbech have just 36 rugby players in the school, from a possible pool of 62, so a season of such success is a huge achievement. They followed that fifteen-side performance onto the 7s field, where they lost just two of their thirteen games, a run that included them winning their own 7s tournament, and finishing as runners up to Bedford in their own Floodlit 7s tournament, beating the likes of Uppingham and Berkhamsted en route.
It is worth also giving a shout out to a number of U15 sides that were nominated, not least Whitgift, Kenilworth, and Hurstpierpoint College. All had fantastic seasons and deserve recognition, as do many others, but with these awards just for 1st XVs, they could not be considered.
Although we will be selecting the winners for each award, we would love to know who you think should win, so please do vote below for your winners for the selected shortlists!
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