The 2018 AASE League kicks off this week with five fixtures on Wednesday and one on Tuesday night.
Hartpury College are looking to defend their title after making up for losing out on the title for the first time in its history in 2016 with a stunning 66-14 defeat of Gosforth Academy in last year’s final.
The defending champions begin with a bye though this year in the Southern Conference, as do Moulton College in the Northern Conference.
As last year, there are fourteen teams in the competition, seven in the north and seven in the south. Each side plays the other sides in the conference once prior to half term before the leagues then split, still staying north/south, with the top end sides playing each other once again and the bottom end sides doing the same.
Following those games the teams then meet for a final round of games that are play offs against their counterparts in the opposite conference. So seventh in the north play seventh in the south for 13th/14th place and so on, right up to the top side in each conference meeting at Allianz Park for the AASE League final.
Each side is affiliated to a professional club, and thirteen of the fourteen sides are as they were last year. The only exception are newcomers Stourport High School, who replace Worcester 6th form College and are now aligned with the Worcester Warriors Academy. The only one of the fourteen RFU Academies not represented with an AASE side is Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs meanwhile have two, Exeter College and Truro College.
Stourport’s first AASE game will be at home against the side that finished fourth overall last year, Oaklands College, the Saracens affiliates. It will likely be a tough outing against one of the stronger sides in AASE’s history, but a home game will be a great way to kick off.
Last year’s runners up, Gosforth Academy, kick off their season away from home. The Newcastle Falcons feeders are away to Sale Sharks affiliates Myerscough College, where they will look to continue playing the exciting offloading brand of rugby that has been their trademark over the last couple of years. Myerscough will be tough though, the Sale Academy is one of the best around.
Finally in the North last season’s newcomers Brooksby Melton College, linked to Leicester Tigers, will host Bishop Burton College. The Yorkshire Carnegie affiliates finished in twelfth place last year, while Brooksby Melton finished ahead in eighth, so they will be hoping that they can start off with a bang this year.
Third placed in 2017, Exeter College begin their season at home to their Exeter Chiefs partners, Truro College. They do so a day early too, kicking off on Tuesday night to end an exciting day that will have seen some of the lower sides from each setup play each other too.
Wednesday sees Beechen Cliff, 9th last year, take on SGS Filton College, who finished eleventh. It is yet another Bath v Bristol clash in this opening week of the season, which has seen the sides meet in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Shield, and now with their respective affiliates in the AASE League. It currently stands at 2-0 Bristol, will they make it the hat-trick or can Bath pull one back?
The final game of the opening round sees a clash between 5th and 7th last year as St Paul’s Catholic College take on Henley College. St Paul’s, the London Irish AASE side, have had a brilliant couple of years and will be looking for more of the same but Wasps partners Henley had some really strong moments last year and will be hoping to build on those this time around.
All in all, it should be an intriguing opening to the AASE season!
AASE Round 1 Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Brooksby Melton College v Bishop Burton College
Myerscough College v Gosforth Academy
Stourport High School v Oaklands College
Moulton College – Bye
Beechen Cliff v SGS Filton College
Exeter College v Truro College (Tuesday)
St Paul’s Catholic College v Henley College
Hartpury College – Bye
Bishop Burton College v Myerscough College
Gosforth Academy v Stourport High School
Moulton College v Brooksby Melton College
Oaklands College – Bye
Hartpury College v St Paul’s Catholic College
Henley College v Exeter College
Truro College v Beechen Cliff
SGS Filton College – Bye
Myerscough College v Moulton College
Oaklands College v Gosforth Academy
Stourport High School v Bishop Burton College
Brooksby Melton College – Bye
Beechen Cliff v Henley College
Exeter College v Hartpury College
SGS Filton College v Truro College
St Paul’s Catholic College – Bye
Bishop Burton College v Oaklands College
Brooksby Melton College v Myerscough College
Moulton College v Stourport High School
Gosforth Academy – Bye
Hartpury College v Beechen Cliff
Henley College v SGS Filton College
St Paul’s Catholic College v Exeter College
Truro College – Bye
Gosforth Academy v Bishop Burton College
Oaklands College v Moulton College
Stourport High School v Brooksby Melton College
Myerscough College – Bye
Beechen Cliff v St Paul’s Catholic College
SGS Filton College v Hartpury College
Truro College v Henley College
Exeter College – Bye
Brooksby Melton College v Oaklands College
Moulton College v Gosforth Academy
Myerscough College v Stourport High School
Bishop Burton College – Bye
Exeter College v Beechen Cliff
Hartpury College v Truro College
St Paul’s Catholic College v SGS Filton College
Henley College – Bye
Bishop Burton College v Moulton College
Gosforth Academy v Brooksby Melton College
Oaklands College v Myerscough College
Stourport High School – Bye
Henley College v Hartpury College
SGS Filton College v Exeter College
Truro College v St Paul’s Catholic College
Beechen Cliff – Bye