2020 U18 & U15 Schools Plate Semi Final Previews

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Coach Logic

Among the many semi finals this week are the U18 and U15 Schools Plate Semi Finals.

 

The Plate competition is the second tier at U15 level, for sides knocked out in round 1 of the Cup, while in the U18s it is the third tier, below last terms Champions Trophy and, like the U15s, for those knocked out in the first round of the Cup.

 

Since its inception, the Plate has proved an incredibly competitive tournament with the quality of teams taking part providing some spectacular rugby throughout the competition. It has also proved a key stepping stone, Bloxham won last year’s U18 competition and are back for more this year, the side they beat in that final, Sherborne, will be competing in the Cup semi finals on Saturday.

 

With a place at Allianz Park in the Plate final on Tuesday 17th March at stake for all of those competing in this week’s Plate semi finals, we should see four fantastic games across the two competitions.

 

U18 Schools Plate Semi Finals:

 

Bloxham v Grammar School at Leeds – Tuesday, 2pm

Dean Close v Bishop Wordsworth’s – Thursday, 2.30pm

 

Results so far & Tournament Bests:

 

Bloxham (Midlands A)

 

QF: 25-12 at St Mary’s

Rd3: 17-8 at King’s Worcester

Rd2: 50-0 at Worksop College

Rd1: 30-11 at Bishop Vesey’s GS

Cup Rd 1: Lost 24-5 at Warwick

 

Grammar School at Leeds (North B)

 

QF: 27-15 v Stowe

Rd3: 43-0 at Hartlepool 6th form College

Rd2: 61-0 v Hymers College

Rd1: Bye

Cup Rd1: Lost 24-22 at St Peter’s, York

 

Dean Close (South West A)

 

QF: 19-0 at Langley Park

Rd3: 45-5 v Richard Huish

Rd2: Downside – Walkover

Rd1: Bye

Cup Rd1: Lost 20-7 v Sir Thomas Rich’s

 

Bishop Wordsworth’s (South West B)

 

QF: 15-5 v Reed’s

Rd3: 24-19 at Reading Blue Coat

Rd2: 40-7 at Portsmouth GS

Rd1: Bye

Cup Rd1: Lost 32-5 at Canford

 

Previews

 

Bloxham v Grammar School at Leeds – Tuesday, 2pm

 

Reigning champions Bloxham get the entire week’s worth of semi finals underway when they host Grammar School at Leeds on Tuesday afternoon. Both sides can, frankly, consider themselves pretty unlucky not to have made further progress in the Cup. Bloxham had the misfortune of meeting the 2017 and 2018 champions, Warwick, who also reached last year’s final and are in this year’s semi finals. Grammar School at Leeds meanwhile lost out in a thriller to St Peter’s York in their opener, a side that proved one of the strongest in the region through the season. Since them GSAL have stormed through this Plate with big wins at the regional stage before a strong 27-15 quarter final victory over Stowe, meanwhile Bloxham have had to work hard – this is their first home game of the entire tournament. It is a run that has included tough trips to the likes of Bishop Vesey’s and Bowl champions King’s Worcester but the Midlands side have proved more than up to the challenge throughout.

 

For this Bloxham group there is plenty of experience of this sort of huge game, after all many of last year’s Plate winners are in the side still, among them England flanker Dan Eckersley. Grammar School at Leeds might not have such recent experience but they have a history of performing well at the top end of schools rugby, back in 2013 they played at Allianz Park in the inaugural Champions Trophy final, losing out to Millfield in the end but garnering plenty of admirers along the way. Despite recent weather, we could be in line for a superb game of rugby, Bloxham’s groundstaff appear to have been working round the clock, such is the superb look of their 1st XV pitch ahead of this one. Either way, a historical moment for their school rugby team awaits the winner, for Bloxham a chance for back to back titles, for Grammar School at Leeds a chance to add to their U15 Cup triumph from back in 2012 – the group that went on to help reach that Champions Trophy final two school years later.

 

Dean Close v Bishop Wordsworth’s – Thursday, 2.30pm

 

When these two South Western sides meet on Thursday afternoon they will already know their potential opponent for the final at Allianz Park. That brings with it a pressure of its own, but with the quality that these two bring, that should not be an issue. Dean Close are schools rugby force on the move, their relationship with Gloucester has helped them flourish and they now have a huge number of England U18 internationals, Bishop Wordsworth’s meanwhile alerted everyone to their quality back in 2017 when they reached the Schools Cup final, they also reached the inaugural one way back in 1991, Harlequins’ Cadan Murley among the stars of the 2017 run.

 

Dean Close’s run in this Plate has been relatively serene in that it has only actually involved two Plate games. After losing out to a strong Sir Thomas Rich’s side in the Cup, they had a bye in the first Plate round before a walkover against Downside in Round 2. Round 3 was where their campaign really began, then, and in real style with a 45-5 victory. Quarter Final success over Langley Park followed but they will know that this Bishop Wordsworth’s test will be their toughest yet. Bishop Wordsworth’s have beaten Portsmouth Grammar and Reading Blue Coat in the regional games following their Cup exit at the hands of Canford. A home tie against Reed’s in the quarters was the reward for them and they duly did their job for a 15-5 victory to set up this massive semi final on Thursday. It could go either way, form over the season suggests Dean Close start as favourites but it has been some time since these two played – that 2017 experience of preparing a side for these mid-March bumper ties could prove crucial for Bishop Wordsworth’s.

 

U15 Schools Plate Semi Finals

 

Stamford v Rugby – Thursday, 2pm

John Fisher v Marlborough College – Thursday 2.15pm

 

Results so far & Tournament Bests:

 

Stamford (Midlands A)

 

QF: 31-26 at Grammar School at Leeds

Rd4: 7-3 at King’s Worcester

Rd3: 12-8 at Radley College

Rd2: Bye

Rd1: 20-10 v Loughborough Grammar

Cup Rd1: Lost 17-5 at Trent College

 

Rugby (Midlands B)

 

QF: 56-7 at Merchant Taylors’

Rd4: 14-7 v Finborough

Rd3: 34-19 v The Perse

Rd2: 13-10 v Bloxham

Rd1: Uppingham – Walkover

Cup Rd1: Lost 27-7 v Oundle

 

John Fisher (London & South East B)

 

QF: 12-12 at Truro (away rule)

Rd4: 26-12 v Hurstpierpoint College

Rd3: 45-12 v St Olave’s Grammar

Rd2: 26-12 v Langley Park

Rd1: 26-7 v Eltham College

Cup Rd1: Lost 29-22 at Dulwich College

 

Marlborough College (South West A)

 

QF: 20-17 at Haberdashers’

Rd4: 12-10 v Ryde

Rd3: 26-14 at Dean Close

Rd2: 51-7 at Pangbourne College

Rd1: Bye

Cup Rd1: Lost 21-5 v Wellington College

 

Previews

 

Stamford v Rugby – Thursday, 2pm

 

The U15 Plate lines up perfectly, with both games taking place on Thursday afternoon. The first game sees Stamford host Rugby in a clash that would feel utterly fitting at Cup level too. It is a first home game for Stamford since the opening round victory over Loughborough Grammar before victories over Radley College and King’s Worcester that demonstrated their ability to graft in tough conditions as they came through two terrifically close encounters. Then in the quarter finals they fought against real momentum, too, with Grammar School at Leeds hoping to achieve semi finals at both U18 and U15 level only for this gutsy Stamford U15 group to stop them. Rugby have also had to really dig in during a few of these U15 Plate rounds, a tight 13-10 victory over Bloxham and a similar 14-7 victory over Finborough among them. When it came to the quarter finals though, they utterly let loose, a stunning 56-7 victory over Merchant Taylors’ powering them into the semi finals in more dominant fashion than anyone else across the competitions. They have another reason to dig extra deep in this semi final, too. Back in December their U18s reached the Champions Trophy final but lost out to a dominant Wellington College side. This is a chance to return to Allianz Park and seal success there for the founders of the game. You can be sure though that Stamford are not going to be handing out any favours, they have certainly shown that and more throughout this competition so far.

 

John Fisher v Marlborough College – Thursday 2.15pm

 

John Fisher certainly reached these semi finals in the most dramatic of possible circumstances after they made the long trip from Croydon to Cornwall to take on Truro School in the quarter finals and finished up level at 12-12, progressing as the away side. It was their first away trip of the Plate run, victories over Eltham College, Langley Park, St Olave’s, and Hurstpierpoint College had all come at home after their Cup exit to Dulwich College. It probably told us more about them than any of those games though, that was a result that took a lot of spirit and energy and this group came through it, albeit by the most slender of margins. That could proved key on Thursday afternoon. Up against them though are a Marlborough College side that are surely cursing their luck at having drawn defending champions Wellington College in the opening round of the Cup. This is a seriously good side and their progress through the Plate competition has shown that. There have been dominant wins, such as against Pangbourne College, and some real gusty efforts, including a 12-10 regional final against Ryde. These two make for an awesome head to head, and if there is one guarantee it is that Thursday at John Fisher will a fantastic occasion, the Croydon school are well known for their ability to conjure a special touchline atmosphere, something that ought to inspire these two talented groups.

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