The next two schools on our School Team of the Decade shortlist are two sides that have picked up some of the highest honours in English schools rugby over the 2010s decade, St Joseph’s College and Tonbridge.
They follow the sides previously announced on the shortlist, Bedford, Brighton College, Bromsgrove, Cranleigh, Dulwich College, Epsom College, Hampton, John Fisher, Kirkham Grammar School, Millfield, QEGS Wakefield, RGS High Wycombe, RGS Newcastle, and Sedbergh, it is a shortlist that will eventually total 20 school from which you will whittle them down to just one as you vote for your top English school 1st XV on the last ten years, the School Team of the Decade. You can see our articles on the other shortlisted sides below.
The decade in question is the 2009/10 season to the 2018/19 season, therefore covering September to December 2009 but not covering that same period in 2019.
St Joseph’s College
Major Honours: St Joseph’s Festival 2013 & 2010
For St Joseph’s College priority number 1 is their very own St Joseph’s Festival, a 16 team event that is one of the most challenging and prestigious tournaments on the schools rugby calendar. This last decade saw them lift the title twice, sparking huge celebrations both times and marking as their most successful decade at the Festival, which has run since the mid-80s.
The signs were good right from the off in 2009/10 with a very strong season, a season that laid the foundations for their first Festival triumph of the decade in October 2010 with a side led by the outstanding Alex Day. It was a fantastic team that only lost one game all season, a nail biting cup quarter final to eventual Schools Cup finalists Oakham. The following year was, perhaps, even better. They might not have picked up silverware through 2011/1 but they were astonishingly strong, only two powerful AASE sides beat them before they lost one of the great Schools Cup semi finals to a Dulwich College side that as at the beginnings of a dynasty.
A quieter year followed, though still a strong one, as they built towards perhaps their strongest year of all in 2013/14. With a supremely talented side, led by England’s Lewis Ludlam, they won the Festival in October in front of a bouncing squad, they then charged into the rest of the season, losing just one game, a memorable mud-soaked slugfest at Campion. They reached the quarter finals at the Rosslyn Park 7s too, for the second year running, laying the foundations for lifting the Plate there in 2015. In 2015/16 they were just a point away from winning a third Festival title in the decade, just missing out to an epic Millfield side, and again they only lost one game all season. They were much fancied in the Cup, too, drawing in the latter stages and missing out on progression due to the opposition having scored first.
The following season saw them compete hard once more at the Festival, reaching the Plate final, and then, as the decade drew to a close, it was on the 7s field where they made their strongest mark, reaching the Cup and then Plate quarter finals at Rosslyn Park. Over the decade some exceptional players have passed through their ranks, among them Ethan Waddleton, Tom Emery, George Wacokecoke, and Dan Lewis, as well as those two Festival winning captains, Alex Day and Lewis Ludlam.
Major Honours: Champions Trophy 2016, Rosslyn Park Festival 2010 (& Vase 2016)
The 2010s decade was always going to take a lot from Tonbridge to better their 2000s, where they enjoyed a three year unbeaten run, but you’d have to say they certainly gave it a good crack, and possibly even bettered it, certainly in terms of major silverware. That silverware came rolling in right from the start of the decade as they took the Rosslyn Park 7s Festival title, beating the Festival’s most successful side in recent history, Wellington College, in the final. Along the way they also reached the Surrey 7s final and only lost twice in the fifteen-a-side season, to a mid-dynasty Whitgift and a Dulwich College side about to kick off a dynasty of their own.
2010/11 was a bit of a truncated season but still they found time to reach the St Joseph’s Festival plate final and the Rosslyn Park 7s Festival quarters, and the following year they would go one further as they reached the semis. All the while competing hard on possibly the toughest fifteen-a-side circuit in the country. The following year they reached the Festival final at Rosslyn Park but this time Wellington College returned the favour, but as 2013 turned to 2014 something special was brewing. Only Epsom College, Dulwich College, and Wellington College, all at the peak of their powers beat them, and the was encouragement enough to enter the fledgling Champions Trophy the following year. They went out early, but in one of the most epic schoolboy contests in recent memory, heading to Somerset to take on eventual champions Millfield in a classic that ended up 16-14. Later that season they reached yet another Rosslyn Park Festival final, and the year after they went one better, in what was now the Vase, beating Champions Trophy winners Bedford in the final.
Maybe that 7s win was in the back of their minds a few months later, when in December 2016 they met Bedford in the Champions Trophy final at Allianz Park and took home the silverware, probably the most prestigious single honour in the school’s incredible rugby history. In the Cup tournament now at Rosslyn park, they went well, just missing out to a Woodhouse Grove side that went on to lift the Plate.
The last couple of years of the decade were not quite at those heady Champions Trophy winning heights, but still they were hugely competitive, picking up 7s titles at Reigate and elsewhere and performing well at Rosslyn Park, only narrowly losing to a Merchiston Castle side inspired by the majestic Jamie Dobie. Tonbridge had their own fair share of majestic rugby players through the decade though, among them Charlie Spawforth, Matteo Peteozzi, Matt Eliet, George Head, Dylan Taylor, Ben Ransom, and, of course, the incomparable Ben Earl.