Epsom College made it back to back titles at the Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s on Wednesday afternoon as they once again beat Cranleigh in a repeat of last year’s final.
On a day that was, for once this season, absolutely fit for 7s, Epsom College were in flying form right from the off as they topped one of the trickiest pools in the competition ahead of St John’s Leatherhead, Eastbourne College, and Graveney.
They went on to face St John’s again in the last 16 before victories over Eton College and St Paul’s Catholic College sent them to the final again to face their old rivals Cranleigh in a final fitting of such a prestigious tournament.
The tournament is one of the jewels in the crown of the school season, and a key competition in the build up to the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s in just over a week’s time.
The impending threat of the coronavirus, among other issues, saw a few late drop outs from the competition. As a result a group was dropped and teams reallocated, leaving twelve groups, from which the winners and the four best runners up from the 12 would reach the Cup last 16 round. The remaining best eight Surrey affiliated schools went to the Plate quarter finals.
It was as one of the best runners up that St John’s ended up facing local rivals Epsom again in the last 16, Cranleigh meanwhile faced St George’s College Weybridge, another of the best runners up and were in rampant form for a 41-14 victory.
St George’s had finished behind Eton College in Group B and Eton faced a depleted Hampton side, who had topped Group C, in the last 16. England’s U18 international at the weekend had taken a few top level players from a number of schools. Eton had been impressive all day though and beat Hampton 24-17 to set up that quarter final against Epsom, meanwhile St Paul’s Catholic College, who had topped Group E beat a KCS Wimbledon side that had performed exceptionally to see off the competition in Group D.
If they were a bit of a surprise package though, there was one even bigger surprise in the form of St Edward’s Oxford, who bested the competition in Group F, which included Hartpury College. Hartpury went through as a best runner up though but again Teddies got the better of the AASE legends to reach the quarter finals.
John Fisher meanwhile also reached the quarter finals. They topped a tricky Group H on points difference after they, Wellington College, and St Benedict’s all took points off each other. In the last 16 they faced Wimbledon College, the fourth of the best runners up and beat them narrowly to set up a quarter against Cranleigh.
Two sides that had everyone talking were Clifton College and Harrow, who topped Groups K and M respectively. They went into the last 16 where they saw off Millfield and Beechen Cliff, two sides that were playing some delightful rugby despite being shorn of some stars.
To the quarter finals then and Clifton got the better of Harrow in a real classic, 31-19, setting up a semi final against Cranleigh, who were again in top form over John Fisher for a 24-0 victory.
Epsom College were just looking so comfortable though as they secured their 24-5 victory over Eton College, setting up a semi final against St Paul’s Catholic College, who were made to work so hard for their 19-17 victory over St Edward’s Oxford.
Come the semi finals and Epsom were again just a level above their opponents as they saw off St Paul’s 24-14, looking in control throughout and sparking plenty of admiring touchline conversation as they reached the final once again to defend their crown.
Over on the other pitch though things were about as tense as could be as Cranleigh and Clifton College went head to head. Throughout the day Clifton were generally being spoken of as one of the biggest challengers to the previous world order here at the Edwin Doran Surrey School Senior 7s and they certainly showed that in their semi final with Cranleigh. The two went at each other ferociously in a real end to end encounter with an edge of physicality that all of the very best games of 7s had. Cranleigh built a good lead and though Clifton chipped away, they could not chip far enough as the former back to back Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s champions sealed their place in back to back finals here at the Richmond Athletic Ground.
First though was the Surrey Plate final, where two giants of the school game were to meet, Whitgift and Dulwich College.
Whitgift have a Schools Cup final, and a tilt at back to back titles to prepare for, so they rested many of their stars. Still though victories over first Reigate Grammar and then local rivals Trinity sent them to the final against a Dulwich side that had beaten Reed’s and City of London Freemen’s. What followed was exactly what you would expect between these two legends of the school scene, a giant of a game that swung this way and that, eventually falling the way of Whitgift, 22-19, and the Croydon side will be hoping that that is just the first piece of silverware that they will be getting their hands on in the next seven or eight days.
It set up beautifully for this epic Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s final, Epsom College v Cranleigh. Epsom won an absolutely cracking final last year 26-15 through a combination of brilliantly effective work whenever the ball hit the deck, supremely organised defence, and clinical attacking decision making, and they found that same formula again today.
The first half was as tight as tight can be for the first five minutes or so, but as Cranleigh stretched the play Epsom were just caught out having to stretch a little too far to make the tackle and saw yellow for going high. Cranleigh went quick and scored for a 5-0 lead but the reigning champions showed fantastic composure to stay calm amidst the pressure and kept the ball in their own hands to eat away the clock.
By doing so they looked for contact just a little more, slowing the game up a tad, but such was their power that as they hit one tackle they went absolute bursting through to go in just about under the sticks from half way, giving Thomas Lynagh an easy conversion for a 7-5 lead at the break.
If anything the second was even more tense, both sides had their chances but the relentless pressure that Epsom were puling on in defence was just starting to force Cranleigh into the odd error. Slowly the sense of belief from the Seaford 7s champions became more and more palpable, and with barley seconds remaining they managed to release Harlequins speedster Kitan Ojo to soar away for their second try, Lynagh converting for a 14-5 lead that they would hold onto for the rest of the game.
Truly they were the outstanding side on the day, rarely overly troubled until this final and even then while they met a side of equal quality, they barely gave them a try-scoring chance. It was a wonderful display of controlled 7s and a staggering achievement from this remarkable group of young men to be able to go back to back in one of the most challenging tournaments in all of schools rugby.
The only real shame is that we will not get the chance to see these two in action against each other at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s this year, Cranleigh will be in a really exciting pool alongside Wellington College and Barnard Castle, but Epsom College sadly will be in the tier 2 Vase competition. Nevertheless, that is a story for a different day.
The story today was of another wonderful Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s tournament and an epic team in the form of Epsom College, who were outstanding in the fifteen-a-side season, reaching the Champions Trophy semi finals, and have carried that through to the 7s season, and indeed building on it, winning first the Seaford 7s and now the Surrey 7s. To do so back to back is not just a sign of their quality, but of their coaching, spirit, and determination. A quite outstanding group,
Edwin Doran Surrey School Senior 7s Results:
Epsom College 14-5 Cranleigh
Epsom College 24-14 St Paul’s Catholic College
Cranleigh 22-19 Clifton College
Epsom College 24-5 Eton College
St Paul’s Catholic College 19-17 St Edward’s, Oxford
Cranleigh 24-0 John Fisher
Clifton College 31-19 Harrow
Epsom College 19-17 St John’s Leatherhead
Eton College 24-17 Hampton
KCS Wimbledon 17-40 St Paul’s Catholic College
St Edward’s, Oxford 33-17 Hartpury College
Cranleigh 41-14 St George’s College, Weybridge
John Fisher 19-17 Wimbledon College
Millfield 5-24 Clifton College
Beechen Cliff 19-24 Harrow
Whitgift 22-19 Dulwich College
Trinity 7-24 Whitgift
Dulwich College 12-7 City of London Freemen’s
Trinity 24-17 Gordon’s
Whitgift 40-5 Reigate Grammar
Dulwich College 24-5 Reed’s
RGS Guildford 19-26 City of London Freemen’s
Edwin Doran Surrey Schools Senior 7s Final Group Standings:
|Pos||Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|1||Epsom College||Eton College||Hampton||KCS, Wimbledon|
|2||St John’s||St George’s College||Kirkham Grammar 2nds||Berkhamsted|
|3||Eastbourne College||Abingdon||Reading Blue Coat||Henley College|
|4||Graveney||Wallington County GS||Isleworth & Syon||St Peter’s, Gloucester|
|Pos||Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|1||St Paul’s Catholic Coll||St Edward’s, Oxford||Cranleigh||John Fisher|
|2||Millfield 2nds||Hartpury College||RGS Guildford||Wellington College|
|3||Bedford||Reigate Grammar||Marlborough College||St Benedict’s|
|4||Emanuel||Tiffin||University College School||Gordon’s|
|Pos||Group J||Group K||Group L||Group M|
|1||Millfield||Clifton College||Beechen Cliff School||Harrow|
|2||Seaford College||Trinity||Wimbledon College||Oaklands College|
|3||City of London Freemen’s||Whitgift||Dulwich College||Reed’s|
|4||Rugby||London Oratory School||Campion||Caterham|
*Group I removed due to dropouts, 4th best runner up qualifies to last 16.