It has been an incredibly busy and exciting week of semi finals across the Schools Cup, Plate, Vase, and Bowl at both U18 and U15 level.
All but three semi finals have been completed, all the remains at the two U18 Cup semi finals, Sherborne v Whitgift on Saturday at 2.30pm and Northampton School for Boys v Warwick on Sunday at 2pm, and the second U18 Vase semi final, Sutton Valence and Wellington School meet on Sunday at 1pm, Newcastle School for Boys await the winner of that.
It has been an unusual week in semi final terms, perhaps lacking some of the magic of previous years brought about by the lack of big neutral venues or even live streams (though the U18 Cup semis are live streamed) that we have become used to over the last seven or eight years.
Nevertheless the rugby has been absolutely fantastic despite some absolutely atrocious conditions throughout the week as teams in the Cup and Vase tournaments chased places in their finals at Twickenham Stadium, taking place on Thursday 19th March, and the Plate and Bowl teams chased spots at Allianz Park on Tuesday 17th March for their finals.
Crowds have lined the touchlines, huge spirit has been shown on and off the field, and the games have, for the most part, been unbelievably close affairs.
U18 & U15 Schools Cup, Plate, Vase, & Bowl Semi Final Results:
Tuesday 3rd March
Bloxham 15-12 Grammar School at Leeds – U18 Plate
St John’s, Leatherhead 10-3 St Lawrence College – U15 Vase
Bloxham secured the opportunity to become the first side ever to retain the U18 Plate when they beat Grammar School at Leeds on Tuesday afternoon. In a brutally tough game they and the former Champions Trophy finalists gave every last drop but it was Bloxham who came through 15-12 despite some outstanding GSAL defence to keep them out when on top for a lengthy period. You can see our report from that game here: Bloxham 15-12 GSAL.
The U15 Vase was the other tournament to get the ball rolling on Tuesday and it was another incredibly tense affair, this time in Leatherhead as St John’s hosted St Lawrence College. St Lawrence led 3-0 for a long stretch in what was an incredibly tense and tight game of rugby but St John’s turned it around for 7-3 and then capitalized on a couple of penalties to expand that to 10-3, closing out a fantastic semi final to send them to Twickenham.
Wednesday 4th March
Langley 0-7 Newcastle School for Boys – U18 Vase
St Edward’s College 5-26 Ampleforth College – U18 Bowl
Worthing College 14-0 Maidstone Grammar – U18 Bowl
Ivybridge Community College 22-22 Harrow – U15 Cup
Northampton School for Boys 14-5 King’s Grantham – U15 Vase
Farlingaye 5-17 King Henry VIII, Coventry – U15 Bowl
Marling 5-8 Warden Park – U15 Bowl
The U18 Vase quarter finals had plenty of controversy about them but there was no controversy in this semi final as Newcastle School for Boys travelled down to 2018 Vase champions Langley to secure a 7-0 win and a place at Twickenham. It was, as the scoreline suggests, an incredibly tight game, as tense and filled with drama as you could hope for from any semi final. With Sutton Valence and Wellington not meeting until Sunday, Newcastle School for Boys now have the opportunity to watch that game and assess who they will be facing on the 19th.
Both U18 Bowl semi finals took place on Wednesday afternoon, and actually they produced two of the most decisive result of the week. In Livepool, schools rugby legends Ampleforth College returned to the big time with a highly impressive 26-5 victory at St Edward’s College, one of the most impressive semi final performances of the week. It seals them a place at Allianz Park on Tuesday 17th, where they will be facing Worthing College after they beat Maidstone Grammar School 14-0 in a slippery old game that was pretty tight overall despite Maidstone not managing to get on the board.
Over in the U15 Cup we had the meeting of two sides that had won utterly thrilling quarter finals. What we could not have predicted, though, was that their semi final meeting would be even more dramatic. Ivybridge Community College were the hosts and had knocked out reigning champions Wellington College in the previous round, unbeaten Harrow had won with a last play penalty try against the previously unbeaten Trinity in their quarter final. What followed on Wednesday was a stunning game, it finished up 22-22 which went that that game was decided by the first scorer, Ivybridge. Heartbreak for Harrow, but ecstasy for Ivybridge. More important though, a simply incredible game of rugby that will go down as one of the great semi finals.
Northampton School for Boys and King’s Grantham met in the U15 Vase semi final on Wednesday, knowing that St John’s Leatherhead awaited the winner in the final after their victory over St Lawrence College on Wednesday. It was another tight and tense game at a re-arranged venue due to the weather conditions, but it was NSB, a school so used to visits to Twickenham over the last six or seven years, that came out on top with a 14-5 victory. They now have the opportunity to create a little history when their U18s take to the field on Sunday against Warwick, with the opportunity to have a side in a final at each age-group, much like fellow Northamptonshire side Samuel Whitbread Academy last year.
The U15 Bowl, like the U18 version, saw both semi finals take place on Wednesday afternoon. Both were incredibly tight games, not least Warden Park’s 8-5 victory over Marling, which was one of the most intense and nail-biting games of the entire week as Warden Park made a history for themselves by reaching the final. In the final they will be facing King Henry VIII, Coventry, who won 17-5 at Farlingaye but the game was far tighter than that score suggests. At half time they led just 5-0 put pulled away a little so seal their place in what should be a passionate and extremely well supported final a week on Tuesday.
Thursday 5th March
Dean Close 23-12 Bishop Wordsworth’s – U18 Plate
Stowe 15-5 Oakham – U15 Cup
Stamford 12-14 Rugby – U15 Plate
John Fisher 10-15 Marlborough College – U15 Plate
In the U18 Plate Dean Close hosted former Cup finalists Bishop Wordsworth’s, with the two sides knowing that reigning champions Bloxham lay in wait for the winners after their victory against Grammar School at Leeds on Tuesday. A big brutal game unfolded, with Dean Close utterly exceptional on the floor in a game where both sides showed their quality. Ultimate Dean Close had a bit too much, winning 23-12 to secure their first ever final in these competitions, and what a final it will be against Bloxham, two sides that could have had big Cup runs. Bishop Wordsworth’s will be back though, twelve or their squad return next year.
It was a similar situation in the U15 Cup where Stowe hosted Cup legends Oakham with the sides knowing their potential final opponent, Ivybridge Community College, after their defeat of Harrow on Wednesday. It was another incredibly tough game of rugby between two seriously good sides, you only have to look at the teams that these two have got the better of on this run to know that. Stowe had the edge on it though, at their magnificent home setting the pulled out to a 15-5 lead to seal their place in the final, where both they and Ivybridge will be bidding to win a Schools Cup for the first time ever.
Both U15 Schools Plate semi finals took place on Thursday and both were two of the toughest and closest semi finals of the entire week. In the Midlands Stamford hosted Rugby, two sides that could quite easily have been in the Cup competition. It was a gritty old game in horrible conditions that was utterly in the balance through. It came down to the finest of margins, but how else would you like your semi finals to be, Rugby just edging it to win 14-12. It is a phenomenal achievement for Rugby, who now have a side in the finals at both age-groups, their U18s were in the Champions Trophy in final in November, losing out to the mighty Wellington College. This U15 group will be hoping to go one better but they will have to be at their best, they will be facing an excellent Marlborough College side who showed on Thursday that they are not just good, they have bags of heart and grit. In front of a packed John Fisher touchline, that included Harlequins star Alex Dombrandt, they held of a fierce fightback from the home side in utterly torrential conditions to seal a 15-10 victory. You can see our report from that game here: John Fisher 10-15 Marlborough College.
Still to Come:
Saturday 7th March
Sherborne v Whitgift – U18 Cup, 2.30pm
Sunday 8th March
Northampton School for Boys v Warwick – U18 Cup, 2pm
Sutton Valence v Wellington School – U18 Vase, 1pm
U18 & U15 Schools Cup, Plate, Vase, & Bowl Finals:
Sherborne/Whitgift v Northampton School for Boys/Warwick
Bloxham v Dean Close
Newcastle School for Boys v Sutton Valence/Wellington School
Ampleforth College v Worthing College
Ivybridge Community College v Stowe
Rugby v Marlborough College
St John’s Leatherhead v Northampton School for Boys
King Henry VIII, Coventry v Warden Park
Images via: William Gurney, Sophie Jones, Peter Crawshaw