Another brilliant weekend of schools rugby makes the task of trying to whittle down all of the brilliance to just 5 schools an unenviable one.
Special mention has to go out to a number of schools that did not quite make the list, not least Altrincham Grammar School, who topped a field of Austin Friars, Newcastle School for Boys, Silcoates, and Yarm to claim the Tom Burrow Cup, beating Newcastle 14-5 in the final.
Mention too for a stunning Hymers College performance that saw them beat Birkdale 77-0, and a number of other schools such a Aylesbury Grammar, Eltham College, and St John’s Leatherhead, who all performed magnificently.
However this week’s Top 5 is dominated by sides that won some really tight games of rugby, though there a couple of exceptions with sides that won relatively comfortably in a couple of seriously high profile games that a comfortable victory was far from certain in.
Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend
We were treated to a spectacular game between Hampton and Cranleigh on Saturday. Hampton led 17-5 in the second half, only for Cranleigh to come storming back with a pair of tries to level the scores. It looked like it might be heartbreak for Hampton however, summoning the spirit that saw them score in the last second to beat Dulwich College in the Champions Trophy prior to half term, this magnificent group of players rallied again to score a wonderful try down the left wing following a cross kick to win the game at the death. Spectacular stuff, and quite wonderful courage and adventure to win the game 24-17 with the conversion.
Like Hampton, The Oratory were involved in an absolute nail-biter on Saturday. They took a 17-6 lead at St Edward’s Oxford, only for the home side to close to 17-16 with under ten minutes left in the game. Having been in control on the scoreboard and then suddenly under real pressure with time running down it was a hugely impressive display of courage and belief from The Oratory to hold on for victory in the face of what was an unrelenting wave of St Edward’s confidence as the game closed. A brilliant game of rugby, and a superb victory for The Oratory.
Seaford College’s game against Wimbledon College on Saturday doubled as a Schools Cup last 16 tie, with the winner facing the winner of the South West B section in the quarter finals. Both sides had been in fantastic form heading into the game, and Seaford were the marginal favourites. What was expected though was a tight, gritty encounter, perhaps won by no more than a score. What happened was that Seaford College turned in one of their best performances to secure an utterly dominant 46-10 victory that sends them absolutely flying into the quarter finals, and surely feeling good about their prospects there too. A magnificent result.
Sedbergh travelled to Woodhouse Grove on Saturday knowing that it was a key game against a seriously tough opponent. Like Sedbergh, Woodhouse Grove were unbeaten and considered among the best in the country, and this game saw Sedbergh kick off a trio of absolutely key fixtures as this season heads to a close, with them facing Wellington College on Wednesday, and Millfield the following week. Three games in 12 days that would define their season, ultimately. So a win was vital, but it would have to be hard earned, this Woodhouse Grove side is seriously good. Once again though Sedbergh showed the unrelenting quality that they have with the ball in hand, winning relatively comfortably in the end, 35-7. A seriously impressive outing a the start of a key period for them.
Whitgift’s game to Millfield was probably the game of the weekend prior to any of the games actually kicking off, however it is rare for a game to actually live up to its billing in those circumstances. Yet this one did, it was magnificent, both sides gave everything and were almost literally crawling off the field in exhaustion afterwards. In front of a watching Gareth Edwards, who enjoyed photos with the players afterwards in a moment that will surely live long in the memory, the lead changed hands five times in a thrilling afternoon. Whoever won it, by this point, was almost certain to end up in our Top 5. In the end it was Whitgift, who won 34-28, and it has to surely rank as one of the best away wins of the season – and not just their season, of the school season as a whole.