This week is Schools Cup semi final week, with the semi finals in the Cup, Plate, Vase, and Bowl across both U18 and U15 age groups are all taking place.
Already we have looked at the Plate, Vase, and Bowl semi finals, but the flagship tournaments are, naturally, the two Cup tournaments, where some of the greatest stories in the last thirty years of schools rugby have come from.
The two U18 Cup semi finals, Sherborne v Whitgift and Northampton School for Boys v Warwick both take place over the course of the weekend and therefore we will be previewing them with links to live streams separately on Wednesday.
Today we focus on the U15 Schools Cup semi finals, which take place on Wednesday and Thursday with four outstanding schools going head to head, Ivybridge Community College v Harrow on Wednesday and Stowe v Oakham on Thursday.
The semi finals this year are being held at the home schools as a result of budget cuts, which have also done for the live streams, however the final will still be at Twickenham Stadium, taking place on Thursday 19th March.
U15 Schools Cup Semi Finals Previews
Ivybridge Community College v Harrow – Wednesday, 2pm
Results so far:
Ivybridge Community College (South West B)
QF: 12-8 at Wellington College
Rd5: 10-10 at Beechen Cliff (scored first)
Rd4: 17-12 v QES
Rd3: 26-21 v Redruth
Harrow (London & South East A)
QF: 19-15 v Trinity
Rd5: 24-12 v Wimbledon College
Rd4: 40-12 at Berkhamsted
Rd3: 50-0 v Saint Cecilia’s
Rd2: 68-7 at Campion
Rd1: 53-0 v Mill Hill
Ivybridge – 2017 U15 Cup Semi Finals
Harrow – 2020 U15 Cup Semi Finals
This is quite simply the biggest game either of these have ever had at this age group, Harrow have never reached the semi final stage before, while Ivybridge did reach it back in 2017, where they lost out to Warwick, who were on a stunning run at the time. That makes this a first opportunity for an appearance at Twickenham in a national schools final, although Harrow did play 7s there a couple of years ago after reaching the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s Open final.
Both came through stunning semi finals, Ivybridge travelled to the reigning champions, Wellington College and came away with an incredible impressive 12-8 victory that they had to dig incredibly deep for. It has been the pattern of this Cup run for the Devon outfit. They began with two byes and since then they have been in a real battle, showing incredible resilience and determination to come through some seriously tough games. It started with a 26-21 win over Redruth, then an equally tight 17-12 effort against QEH. In the regional final though things got even closer as they drew 10-10 with Beechen Cliff, coming through to the national stages of the tournament only thanks to scoring first. Fine margins indeed.
Harrow, in contrast started their campaign in almost untouchable form, and who would have expected anything less, they won the U14 tournament at Rosslyn Park last year and are unbeaten this season. Their first four results in the competition this year read, 53-0, 68-7, 50-0, and 40-12. Brilliant rugby indeed. In the regional final though, they came across a test, Wimbledon College. They responded to that first true test of the competition though, coming through 24-12 on their tight 4G surface to send them through to the semi finals against Trinity, another unbeaten side. What unfolded was one of the great U15 Cup quarter finals, a game so epically tight that it really felt unpredictable right to the close. Even the ending fitted it, a penalty try to win it for Harrow after a desperate outstretched arm from Trinity knocked on a try-scoring Harrow pass. Drama to the end.
It leaves the mouth watering ahead of this semi final on Wednesday afternoon, a game that feels like it could go either way. Harrow’s record makes them favourites in just about every game they play, however Ivybridge have proven time and time against how hard they are to get over the line against and are a very very tough away trip. It should be epic.
Stowe v Oakham – Thursday, 2.45pm
Stowe (Midlands B)
QF: 21-14 at Stockport Grammar
Rd5: 24-15 v Felsted
Rd4: 50-10 v Samuel Whitbread Academy
Rd3: 52-0 at Oundle
Rd2: 50-3 at Sponne
Rd1: 42-12 v Bloxham
Oakham (Midlands A)
QF: 17-10 at Sedbergh
Rd5: 15-14 at Bromsgrove
Rd4: 20-14 at Warwick
Rd3: Ellis Guilford – Walkover
Rd2: 25-24 at Trent College
Rd1: 51-0 v Loughborough Grammar
Stowe – 2001 U18 Vase Final, 2010 U18 Cup Semi Finals, 2012 U15 Cup Semi Finals
Oakham – 2015 U15 Vase Final, 2011 U18 Cup Final, 2003 U18 Cup Winners, 2002 U18 Cup Winners
This is a massive game for both of these sides, Stowe have reached Cup semi finals at U18 and U15 level before but never got to the showpiece event at Twickenham, Oakham are legends at U18 level with two titles and a final, but in the U15 tournament this is further than they have ever been before. For both it is a massive game and a huge occasion, and in a magnificent setting at the historic Stowe School.
Stowe utterly stormed to the regional finals this year, beginning with a 42-12 victory over Bloxham before putting fifty past Sponne, Oundle, and last year’s Vase champions, Samuel Whitbread Academy. Come the regional final though and a real test, welcoming the impressive Felsted School to Buckinghamshire. It was a proper old contest but this excellent Stowe side came though, 24-15. That sent them to the quarter finals, where Stockport Grammar School lay it wait. A trip to Stockport was always going to be a big challenge, and so it proved, but again Stowe showed their strength as they kept control for a 21-14 victory.
Oakham meanwhile have had to show that level of utter determination almost from the start in this competition. It started in relatively normal first round condition, 51-0, and there was a welcome walkover in round 3, but those games aside they have been facing Cup legend after Cup legend in one exhausting contest after another. Round 2 was a thrilling 25-24 victory over Trent College, Round 4 saw them up against U15 and U18 Cup legends, Warwick. Again Oakham had to dig deep but came away with a 20-14 victory. Their reward, a regional final against Bromsgrove. Another incredibly tight contest against another top school side that again Oakham showed real heart to progress from, 15-14. So to the quarter final and yet another of the biggest names in schools rugby, Sedbergh. Once again though, Oakham were not fazed, fronting up in a massive game that was in the balance for a 17-10 victory.
It all sets up ideally for an epic semi final, set up even better by the fact that the two have already met this season. Back in December Oakham hosted Stowe and won 39-17. Perhaps that suggests Oakham start this one as favourites, but then again Oakham were at home, now Stowe are at home and will want to get their own back. It was also Stowe’s only defeat of the season, though Oakham have only lost two, and one of those was against Warwick, whom they then beat in the Cup to prove that results can be turned around. All in all it simply leaves a taste of real excitement, a huge game and one that really could go either way.