The signs were there on the opening weekend and they were confirmed on Saturday, 2019/20 is looking like a classic schools rugby season.
There were upsets, there were titanic clashes, there were dominant performances in games you might have predicted to be close, and there were some highly impressive performances right across the board.
At this stage of the season everyone is still learning about the relative strengths of each particular side, but what is clear is that the tries are raining in. Sure, it was a bit of an Indian summer weekend but that is not the only reason, it is a trend and it is one that is making schools rugby ever more entertaining to watch.
Before we delve into the goings on everywhere else though, first we take a look at our ten ‘Focus On’ games from the weekend.
Rugby School have been on the up and up and they began last week with a strong performance at home to Oakham. On Saturday they faced their first Champions Trophy match, against the former champions, Bedford. Rugby were favourites, but few could have predicted the astonishing performance that they put on, a 66-7 victory away from home – a result and performance that will have elevated them into a position as one of the key sides to look out for in the second round and indeed throughout the rest of the regular season.
Another side starting strong were Bromsgrove, who beat great rivals Warwick last week. On Saturday they face Oundle, who had been superb against Bedford last week too. However Bromsgrove just had too much, playing with real confidence against an Oundle defence that was stoic throughout. Eventually though pressure wins out, and Bromsgrove ground the visitors down for a seriously impressive 39-0 victory, all done without the services of their skipper, Ollie Wynn, who was in action for Worcester Warriors in the Premiership 7s.
A game that has been building and building as a rivalry is Hurstpierpoint College v Brighton College. Hurst were looking to get a first win after a defeat to Seaford the week before in a cracking game, while Brighton came in confident after a win at St John’s. Both sides have played rugby that suggests they are well worth watching this season, but Brighton College are showing real potential to be a top side and showed that with a superb 35-10 victory.
One of the big derby games of the weekend was Oakham v Stamford these two rivals have had many a great battle down the years and on Saturday we were treated to another. Doncaster Close was bouncing for a game that was decided by the slimmest of margins. Both threw everything at it, but it was Oakham that came out on top, 21-19, a perfect response to defeat to Rugby last time out.
Curiosity was high ahead of Woodhouse Grove’s trip to QEGS Wakefield on Saturday. How would Woodhouse Grove respond to defeat to St Peter’s last week, are QEGS back at the very top table after a slightly quieter year last year? It let nobody down as both teams gave everything, but it was Woodhouse Grove who responded in style after last week for a very impressive 33-12 away win.
Perhaps the result of the weekend came in Buckinghamshire, where RGS High Wycombe pulled off a simply outstanding 22-19 victory over Millfield. It was an epic contest, the sort that RGS revel in for they are always one of the most passionate sides around. Sure, Millfield maybe had half an eye on Wednesday’s touring fixture, but take nothing away from RGS. This was a massive result and could provide the spark that fuels the rest of their season and could lead them onto massive things.
Arguably the most intriguing fixture on the list for us was Seaford College v Eastbourne College. Seaford impressed in a tight win over Hurstpierpoint College last week, while Eastbourne were in stunning form at Portsmouth Grammar School having been quiet for a few years. The feeling was that Saturday would tell us a lot, and so it did – a lot about just what a top quality outfit this Seaford College side is as they surged to a 61-3 victory to give them a perfect 2/2 start.
Sedbergh are also 2/2 and in seriously impressive style. In the opening two weeks they have taken on the holders of two of the three major titles that they did not win themselves last year, Whitgift (Schools Cup) and RGS Newcastle (St Joseph’s Festival. They beat Whitgift last week, and on Saturday against RGS Newcastle they made it two out of two with a 41-12 victory. As so often last year, it was a closer game than that suggest for much of it, but in the final quarter Sedbergh just accelerated away. It is a feeling that so many last year will have been familiar with, they just run you out of legs and then when the chance is there they go and they get points in quick succession. A seriously impressive start.
Sherborne’s start has been seriously impressive too. A strong win over Bishop Wordsworth’s in week one was back up on Saturday by an outstanding 42-0 victory over Radley College. Every indication at the start of this season is that this is a Sherborne side to keep a real eye on as the season progresses, Marlborough College on the 28th September could be one to really look out for.
Finally in our Focus On section was Dulwich College’s trip to St Joseph’s College, where they will be returning next month for the St Joseph’s Festival. They will be returning with some confidence too. After a tough defeat to Wellington College on the opening weekend, Dulwich were excellent in Suffolk on Saturday as they played some brilliant rugby for a 31-12 victory that must leave them feeling hugely satisfied.
Around the Grounds
There were a couple of Schools Cup games in the mix on Saturday, Campion getting their campaign off to a really impressive start wit a 27-7 victory over Eltham College to send them into the second round, while Lord Wandsworth College won an absolute nail-biter against Portsmouth Grammar School in South West B, finishing up with the slimmest of margins, 18-17, sending Lord Wandsworth College through.
Plenty of sides backed up dominant opening weekend results with further impressive work in this second weekend to really mark themselves out as sides to keep an eye on this year. Clifton College were sensational on their way to a 61-8 victory over Sir Thomas Rich’s, and really feel like a side to keep an eye on, as to Cranleigh, whose 67-0 victory over Bishop Wordsworth’s was outstanding.
Denstone College are looking formidable this year, and once again their highlights were just outstanding as they beat Solihull 47-7. Sedbergh on Friday 27th September is going to be a game to move heaven and earth to see.
Barnard Castle are also off to a flying start, 61-0 victors over Hymers College this week, while Bradford Grammar also appear in excellent nick as they won 45-7 at Crossley Heath. St Albans, meanwhile, went somewhat under the radar despite a brilliant 54-10 victory at Bedford Modern, they have every chance to do very well this year.
Early evidence is that Kirkham Grammar are going to be right up there once again. They were brilliant on their way to a 48-0 victory over Wirral Grammar on Saturday, but keep an eye on Wirral. Against their more direct peers, they could yet be a force. Up there with the likes of Kirkham are surely going to be Whitgift. They lost out to Sedbergh on the opening weekend but bounced back with a massive Cup victory on Wednesday to kick off the defence of their title, while on Saturday they were outstanding again to defeat a Wimbledon College side that has plenty about them, 48-0.
At the closer end of the scale St Paul’s and Abingdon enjoyed a real tussle in Barnes on Saturday. Both sides look like they could have strong seasons, but it was St Paul’s that came out on top with a 19-14 victory. Moving east, things simply could not have been closer at New Hall where Bishop’s Stortford High School were in town. The two sides put on a real show and just could not be split, drawing 31-31.
All over the country though sides were putting in some startling displays, in the northern section Pocklington were on fire against Giggleswick for a 59-14 victory, while Merchant Taylors’ were in great form against Calday Grange, 46-12. Manchester Grammar and Stonyhurst College were also in fine trying scoring form as each put in magnificent displays.
St Peter’s York backed up their brilliant opening day victory over Woodhouse Grove with an equally impressive 33-17 victory over Mount St Mary’s College, a side expected to do well this year.
The Midlands saw some outstanding displays too, not least from an Uppingham side that probably enjoyed their biggest ‘statement’ victory for a fair few years with a brilliant 52-0 victory over The Perse. Aylesbury Grammar were in flying form too, a 69-0 effort over St Columba’s, so too 2018 Schools Vase champions Langley, who won 50-0 at Leicester Grammar. Loughborough College were on a roll too, 61-5 over Ratcliffe College.
There was a cracking game at Bloxham, where they host Malvern College. The two sides shared plenty of points but it was Bloxham that came out on top, 47-22. It was a tight game up to the half, before Bloxham pulled away in the second half, with the two sides sharing eleven tries.
Over in Buckinghamshire Cheltenham College made the trip to Stowe and the two sides laid on quite the game in the glorious setting that is Stowe School. It was Cheltenham that came out on top though, securing a 38-21 victory.
There was a fine game in Hertfordshire too at Haileybury welcomed Felsted to town. Both had got their seasons off to good starts, but it was Haileybury out of the blocks first with a brilliant try for Oliver Firth that was full of offloads. They then followed that up with a powerful effort from Ehimen Osebor, before Felsted eventually broke through the valiant home defence shortly before the half to leave Haileybury just three points ahead at the half at 10-7. Haileybury crossed from a third early in the second half though, Harry West crossing, and despite good pressure from Felsted they held on for an important 15-7 victory ahead of their big game against old rivals Oundle. With the likes of West, Phoenix Healy, Cam Giwa-McNeil, and Callum McGurk all in good form, they will be feeling confident.
There were some impressive performances coming out of Scotland, not least a strong 57-0 victory for Fettes College at home to Loretto. However the big headline was a 17-14 home victory for George Watson’s College over Merchiston Castle. It is always one of the key games in Scotland, and these two old rivals put on yet another tense and exciting encounter.
Back in the Midlands Wellington College made the trip up to Northampton School for Boys. NSB have been making a name for themselves with some brilliant Cup runs, but this was always going to be a tough outing for them, nonetheless they stood up excellently. Wellington College though were simply excellent, as they were last week against Dulwich College, securing a strong 47-11 victory.
Over in the south east Sevenoaks have started the year brilliantly. They were outstanding in week one and one Saturday they only added to that with a brilliant 51-0 victory at home to Reigate Grammar. Epsom College were similarly dominant as they showed all of their class for a 52-7 victory over RGS Guildford.
Once of the games of the weekend was surely Harrow v Warwick a massive game before it kicked off, it proved to be an even bigger event once it started. These two gave everything in an epic battle and after seventy minutes of pulsating rugby could only be separated by three points as Harrow took the 27-24 victory.
There was glory from Trinity in the first of the Croydon derbies this season, beating John Fisher 20-17 away from home to claim the first of the bragging rights. A John Fisher that only last week had won at Eton College. On Saturday Berkhamsted repeated that trick with a strong performance for a 32-20 victory, bouncing straight back from last week’s defeat to Harrow in strong fashion.
The south west, as ever, was an absolute hotbed of outstanding school rugby on Saturday. At Canford there was a brilliant game as they and Blundell’s put each other under extreme pressure. In the end though it was the hosts that held out best, securing a tight 19-15 victory.
Things were fascinating along the road at Marlborough College, too, where they continued their fine start to the season with a 17-5 victory over St Edward’s Oxford that must leave them with a real spring in their step after this opening couple of weeks.
Elsewhere Dean Close’s fast start carries on with a 48-3 victory at King’s College Taunton, Bristol Grammar where also on form with an excellent 31-0 win at KES Bath, while The Oratory were sensational at home to KES Southampton, securing a 60-0 victory.
There was a fantastic triangular in the South West too, with Mount Kelly coming out on top, they beat Exeter 23-7 and West Buckland 28-5, with Exeter securing second thanks to a 33-5 victory over West Buckland.
Friday also saw some action, Argentina’s Cardinal Newman continued their superb UK tour with a 50-14 victory at Glenalmond, while Hartpury College’s non-AASE side were 31-17 victors over Pate’s Grammar.
Of course there was plenty of other brilliant rugby right across the country, Dauntsey’s v Bryanston and Gyn v City of London Freemen’s jus two of a number of examples. It really has been a sensational start to the season.
As we say every season and every week, please do get in touch with your stories, photos, videos, reports, and opinions from the week’s rugby. It all makes a massive difference and allows us to feature your school and your team! You can get in touch via any of the below methods:
Schools Rugby Weekend Results– Saturday 14th September:
Bedford 7-66 Rugby (Champions Trophy)
Bromsgrove 39-0 Oundle
Hurstpierpoint College 10-35 Brighton College
Oakham 21-19 Stamford
QEGS Wakefield 12-33 Woodhouse Grove
RGS High Wycombe 22-19 Millfield
Seaford College 61-3 Eastbourne College
Sedbergh 41-12 RGS Newcastle
Sherborne 42-0 Radley College
St Joseph’s College 12-31 Dulwich College
Austin Friars 14-38 Newcastle SfB
Bablake 43-15 KES Camp Hill
Barnard Castle 61-0 Hymers College
Bedford Modern 10-54 St Albans
Bishop’s Stortford College 21-7 St Edmund’s College
Bishop Vesey’s GS 27-5 Nottingham HS
Bloxham 47-22 Malvern College
Bolton 12-7 Liverpool College
Campion 27-7 Eltham College (Schools Cup)
Canford 19-15 Blundell’s
Caterham 22-7 King’s Canterbury
Cheadle Hulme 22-7 St Anselm’s College
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS 17-42 Langley Park
Clifton College 61-8 Sir Thomas Rich’s
Cranbrook 15-15 St Olave’s GS
Cranleigh 67-0 Bishop Wordsworth’s
Crossley Heath 7-45 Bradford GS
Dame Allan’s 5-17 Ampleforth College
Dauntsey’s 21-19 Bryanston
Denstone College 47-7 Solihull
Duke of York’s RMS 39-5 St Dunstan’s College
Edinburgh Academy 14-26 Dollar Academy
Ellesmere College 22-17 Christ College
Epsom College 52-7 RGS Guildford
Eton College 20-32 Berkhamsted
Fettes College 57-0 Loretto
Framlingham College 3-32 Ipswich
George Watson’s College 17-14 Merchiston Castle
Glyn 18-17 City of London Freemen’s
Grammar School at Leeds 26-19 Durham
Gresham’s 36-24 The Leys
Haberdashers’ 20-17 Hitchin Boys
Haileybury 15-7 Felsted
Harrow 27-24 Warwick
Hereford Cathedral School 15-5 Wycliffe College
John Fisher 17-20 Trinity
KES Bath 0-31 Bristol GS
King’s College, Taunton 3-48 Dean Close
King’s Worcester 22-0 St Peter’s, Gloucester
Lancaster RGS 28-10 King’s Macclesfield
Latymer Upper 49-7 Cobham International
Leicester GS 0-50 Langley
Llandovery College 19-7 Plymouth College
Lord Wandsworth College 18-17 Portsmouth GS (Schools Cup)
Loughborough College 61-5 Ratcliffe College
Marlborough College 17-5 St Edward’s, Oxford
Merchant Taylors’ 46-12 Calday Grange GS
Mill Hill 19-17 Watford GS
Monkton Combe 14-7 Prior Park College
Monmouth 22-10 Old Swinford Hospital
Mount Kelly v West Buckland v Exeter (Triangular) Mount Kelly 28-5 West Buckland, Mount Kelly 23-7 Exeter, West Buckland 5-33 Exeter
Newcastle Under Lyme 36-12 Birkenhead
New Hall 31-31 Bishop’s Stortford HS
Northampton SfB 11-47 Wellington College
The Oratory 60-0 KES Southampton
Pocklington 59-14 Giggleswick
Princethorpe College 19-14 Ratcliffe College
QEH 24-20 Wellington
Queen’s College, Taunton 31-19 Downside
Reading Blue Coat 38-6 Shiplake College
Reed’s 22-24 KCS Wimbledon
RGS Colchester 12-13 Culford
RGS Worcester 31-21 Colston’s
Richard Hale 14-39 UCS
Robert Gordon’s College 5-55 Dundee HS
Royal Hospital School 19-17 Norwich
Sandbach 12-50 Lymm HS
Sevenoaks 51-0 Reigate GS
Silcoates 12-31 Yarm
Skinners’ 12-14 Ravens Wood
St Benedict’s 21-17 London Oratory
St Columba’s College 0-69 Aylesbury GS
St Paul’s 19-14 Abingdon
St Peter’s, York 33-17 Mount St Mary’s
Stockport GS 0-50 Manchester GS
Stonyhurst College 57-0 AKS Lytham
Stowe 21-38 Cheltenham College
Taunton 40-0 Kingswood
Trent College 12-38 Loughborough GS
Uppingham 52-0 The Perse
Wallington CHS 17-19 Tiffin
Whitgift 48-0 Wimbledon College
Whitgift 2nd XV 76-12 Christ’s Hospital
Wirral GS 0-48 Kirkham GS
Wisbech GS 14-29 Wellingborough
Woodbridge 0-50 King’s Ely
Worth 16-14 Wellington College 3rd XV
Wrekin College 17-21 Abraham Darby
Glenalmond 14-50 Cardinal Newman (Argentina)
Hartpury College 2nd XV 31-17 Pate’s GS
Still to Come:
Adams GS v King Henry VIII, Coventry
Altrincham GS v Wilmslow HS
Bancroft’s v Colfe’s
Brentwood v Judd 2nd XV
Cardinal Vaughan v Gunnersbury
Gravesend GS v Maidstone GS
Kelvinside Academy v St Aloysius’ College
King’s Bruton v Clayesmore
Pangbourne College v St George’s College, Weybridge
St Ignatius College v QES Barnet
Strathallan v Stewart’s Melville