This weekend saw some of the most prestigious rugby schools in the country go head to head, and left those watching with a clear sense of the quality of schools rugby this year.
Previous weeks have been littered with a number of notable dominant performances, but this weekend seemed to see far more tight game than on average across the first three weekends of the season, there were even a few upsets, perhaps a few sides being inspired by Japan’s stunning victory over Ireland in the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.
There were some outstanding performances in our Focus On section this week, beginning on Friday with another strong effort from Sedbergh, who beat a very good Denstone College side 32-7 to continue an unbeaten run that stretches back to November 2016, it looks as though it will take something spectacular to top them at the moment.
Wellington College are in the sort of from that suggests that they can mount a challenge, they came close last year and are in stunning form this year. They continued their unbeaten start with an impressive 34-15 victory over Millfield, who have had a tough week or so but did pose Wellington more problems than anyone else has so far.
One side that has recovered brilliantly since losing out to Wellington College on the opening day is Dulwich College, who have been unbeaten since and extended that with a really impressive 27-19 victory against Brighton College. It took Brighton a while to get out of the traps but with almost all of their points coming in the second half, they will feel a full 70 minute performance will see them living with the best.
One of the most highly anticipated games of the weekend was the repeat of the 2019 U18 Schools Cup final, Whitgift v Warwick. Whitgift won a pulsating game in that final in March with a thrilling performance and they were at it again on Saturday, albeit it in a more scrappy game. They ran out 34-17 victors, a result that demonstrates that despite defeats to Sedbergh and Wellington, they are right up there one again.
It looks as though Sherborne are right up there too. Dominant in their opening four games having only conceded a solitary penalty in three of them and not conceding at all in the other, they travelled to Marlborough College full of confidence. Once again they were in sensational form, winning 42-5, a perfect build up to a run that sees them take on Abingdon and Millfield in the next two weeks. The only disappointment would have been conceding that first try of the season!
Abingdon also impressed ahead of that game against Sherborne, they travelled to a very well respected Berkhamsted outfit on Saturday and in a really tight game of rugby they managed to come away with the result, 20-16, a feat that few will manage at Berkhamsted this year.
Perhaps one of the surprise packages of the season to date are Barnard Castle. Under former England scrum half Lee Dickson they have flown out of the traps this season. They are unbeaten so far and yet to concede a point, but Saturday was by far their most impressive effort of the season as they defeat a strong Woodhouse Grove side, who have been up there with the best for a few year, 24-0.
Another side that is scrapping higher than they have for a good few years is Uppingham. They hosted the Rutland derby on Saturday against their great rivals Oakham, who for a decade have held the upper hand. 2009 was Uppingham’s last victory over them, but in a really tight and tough game of rugby it was Uppingham that prevailed this time, 15-13. Not their biggest victory this season, but surely the one that means the most.
It was tight in Hornchurch too as Campion hosted Northampton School for Boys. Both have started the season well, Campion were unbeaten and had only conceded a solitary try, Northampton had lost just once, but it was to the formidable Wellington College. Predictably, then, it was an incredibly tight game of rugby, but it was the visitors that impressively came out on top, NSB winning 15-14. Keep an eye on both through the rest of the year though.
Hampton were also in good form this weekend, they were hosting an RGS High Wycombe side still bouncing after their defeat of Millfield. However Hampton rode through that wave of RGS energy to claim an impressive 32-12 victory.
Around the Grounds
Saturday was a massive day right across the country, so many games went right down to the wire, not least King’s Macclesfield’s trip to Merchant Taylors’, which ended in a 12-12 draw and Chislehurst & Sidcup’s 15-15 draw at Sir Joseph Williamson’s, tight game were an excellent theme.
Eastbourne College won one of those really tight games, holding out at home against Reed’s for a 17-15 victory, while Sir Thomas Rich’s won an even tighter one at King’s Worcester, 14-13.
Perhaps the could standard of tight games though was actually one with a bigger points differential than any of those as Cheltenham College won 5-0 at home to Blundell’s. In front of a large and vociferous crowd these two threw everything at each other but the two defences were magnificent. Blundell’s spent almost the entire final twenty minutes of the match camped in the Cheltenham 22 but the home side held out for the most tense of victories.
It was not all close games though, there were some impressive displays from sides in games that could have been predicted to be closer, not least a very impressive 24-3 victory for Newcastle School for Boys at Durham, and another excellent Bradford Grammar display. They secured a 52-24 victory at Hymers College and really are looking formidable this year.
Kirkham Grammar School are also in fine form once more this year and showed it again on Saturday with a 43-5 victory away at a Lancaster RGS side that had looked good throughout the opening weeks of this season. LRGS started well, going 5-0 up inside of 30 seconds, but Kirkham came storming back. Kirkham, by the way, are the last side to have beaten Sedbergh, back in November 2016 as mentioned earlier.
Stamford rode the crest of the wave that they created with victory over Bromsgrove last time out as they enjoyed another highly impressive display of a different sort at Bedford for a 57-7 victory. Bromsgrove bounced back from that Stamford result impressively too, against local rivals Solihull. It was a tighter game than the 31-10 score suggested, but clinical play from the backline saw them score five tries to their opponents two, with the centre partnership of Seb Atkinson and Cam Ritchie looking formidable. With Millfield followed by Rugby next on the fixture list, a key period is now upon Bromsgrove.
Bryanston were also impressive on Saturday, bouncing back quickly from their Champions Trophy exit at the hands of RGS Guildford, they sealed a 41-19 victory at home to KES Bath. Monmouth also exited on Thursday and gave a good account of themselves on Saturday, however in a thrilling game on Saturday against Bristol Grammar, who travel to Epsom next round in the Champions Trophy, they lost out 38-26.
Seaford College came up against a rejuvenated Bishop Wordsworth’s side on Saturday, but held out well in a tight game for a 19-14 victory. One side that upset the odds a little was City of London Freemen’s, who beat a Sevenoaks side that has really looked impressive to date by an 18-11 margin. Gresham’s also sprung a bit of a surprise as they defeated St Joseph’s College in a real thriller at home, 28-24.
Sticking to East Anglia, Felsted were in barnstorming form at New Hall for a 47-19 victory, while Norwich were on fire at home to RGS Colchester, securing a highly impressive 54-0 victory. Royal Hospital School meanwhile earned a result to be proud of, beating Oundle 38-14.
Aylesbury Grammar earned huge plaudits last week for their defeat of St Edward’s Oxford and they backed it up well this week with a 32-26 victory at Reading Blue Coat, who themselves have been played some really good rugby so far this year.
RGS Newcastle’s form continues to impress ahead of their defence of the St Joseph’s Festival title (the draw for which was made on Friday, click here), they secured a 43-19 victory over Grammar School at Leeds. QEGS Wakefield also impressed, seeing off Loughborough Grammar 54-12, while in Scotland Stewart’s Melville and Merchiston Castle played out a thrillingly tight contest, Merchiston just coming out on top, 15-14.
Mount St Mary’s College also came out on top in a tight game, but it was a tough old game at Stonyhurst College. In sodden conditions, against a Stonyhurst pack well suited to them, Mount St Mary’s came out on top despite only making 4 visits to the opposition 22, scoring three tries form those visits for a 19-15 victory.
St Paul’s continue to impress us here and they did so again on Saturday as they travelled to Radley College for one of the oldest fixtures not just in schools rugby history, but in all of rugby history. They came out on top, 23-10, and are looking in superb form at the moment.
There were plenty of other impressive performances, not least a 45-7 away win for Ampleforth College at Yarm. Wirral Grammar were in storming form too, capping a strong start to the year with a 45-14 home win over Hutton Grammar. Further South, Tiffin were flying, beating Halliford 57-0, while Sutton Valence continue to impress, this time with a 64-10 victory at Colfe’s.
There were some thrilling games in the South too, not least at Wimbledon College where in the tightest of contests John Fisher just came out on top, 20-19.
There was also an outstanding effort from St John’s Leatherhead at Hurstpierpoint College, where in a really tough game of rugby between two good sides St John’s came out on top 26-19.
The South East also saw Schools Cup action on Friday night with Trinity beating Langley Park in a close contest 15-10. It moves Trinity into the second round in London & South East B, where they will travel to local rivals, and reigning champions, Whitgift. It should be a formidable contest.
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Schools Rugby Weekend Results:
Barnard Castle 24-0 Woodhouse Grove
Berkhamsted 16-20 Abingdon
Campion 14-15 Northampton SfB
Dulwich College 27-19 Brighton College
Hampton 32-12 RGS High Wycombe
Marlborough College 5-42 Sherborne
Sedbergh 32-7 Denstone College (Friday)
Uppingham 15-13 Oakham
Wellington College 34-15 Millfield
Whitgift 34-17 Warwick
Bancroft’s 28-12 Haberdashers’
Bedford 7-57 Stamford
Birkdale 0-7 Ratcliffe College
Bishop Wordworth’s 14-19 Seaford College
Bristol Cathedral 51-14 Clifton HS
Bryanston 41-19 KES Bath
Caterham 12-0 Reigate GS
Cheltenham College 5-0 Blundell’s
Churcher’s College 15-18 Portsmouth GS
City of London Freemen’s 18-11 Sevenoaks
Colfe’s 10-64 Sutton Valence
Durham 3-24 Newcastle SfB
Eastbourne College 17-15 Reed’s
Edinburgh Academy 22-7 Dundee HS
Exeter 31-14 Plymouth College
George Watson’s College 38-12 Robert Gordon’s College
Gresham’s 28-24 St Joseph’s College
Hurstpierpoint College 19-26 St John’s Leatherhead
Hymers College 24-52 Bradford GS
KES Southampton 15-7 Ryde
KES Stratford 49-15 KES Birmingham
King’s College, Taunton 32-20 Wellington
King’s Gloucester 17-12 The Crypt
King’s Worcester 13-14 Sir Thomas Rich’s
Lancaster RGS 5-43 Kirkham GS
London Oratory 17-21 St George’s Harpenden
Manchester GS 28-8 Bolton
Merchant Taylors’ (Crosby) 12-12 King’s Macclesfield
Merchant Taylors’ (Northwood) 14-12 Magdalen College
Monmouth 26-38 Bristol GS
New Hall 19-47 Felsted
Norwich 54-0 RGS Colchester
Pate’s GS 8-10 RGS Worcester
Princethorpe College 21-40 Bablake
QEGS Wakefield 54-12 Loughborough GS
QEH 21-31 Taunton
Queen’s College, Taunton 10-7 West Buckland
Radley College 10-23 St Paul’s
Reading Blue Coat 26-32 Aylesbury GS
RGS Guildford 43-7 Emanuel
RGS Newcastle 43-19 Grammar School at Leeds
Richard Hale 10-12 Coopers’ Coborn
Royal Hospital School 38-14 Oundle
Sandbach 7-26 Cheadle Hulme
Sir Joseph Williamson’s 15-15 Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Solihull 10-31 Bromsgrove
St Benedict’s 10-29 St Albans
Stewart’s Melville 14-15 Merchiston Castle
Stonyhurst College 15-19 Mount St Mary’s College
Strathallan 55-26 Dollar Academy
Tiffin 57-0 Halliford
UCS 7-19 The Oratory
Wallington CGS 7-27 Dartford GS
Wimbledon College 19-20 John Fisher
Windsor Boys’ 10-34 Latymer Upper
Wirral GS 45-14 Hutton GS
Yarm 7-45 Ampleforth College
Trinity 15-10 Langley Park (Schools Cup)
Still to Come
Mill Hill v St Columba’s College
Parmiter’s v QES, Barnet (Schools Vase) – Friday
St Dunstan’s College v Dunottar
Wymondham College v Woodbridge (Schools Bowl) – Friday