The return of the St Joseph’s Festival went beyond all expectations on Saturday as a thrilling day of close games and down-to-the-wire groups took hold.
From start to finish the sheer joy at the Festival being back was in clear evidence as thousands made their way to this pocket of Suffolk to take in the very best that schools rugby has to offer, and at times it really was the best, although for the home side it was to end in heartbreak. All day the quality was outstanding, not only were sides playing attractive and attacking rugby, they were playing smart, understanding that tries and territory are the manna from heaven in this tournament.
The streams were striving for eight De La Salle Trophy quarter final berths, assigned to the top two in each group, with the bottom two heading to the Bowl quarter finals, and you will be able to watch every game from every competition on both pitches right here on NextGenXV via the links below.
Day 1 Roundup
Group 1 saw Wellington College progress to the Trophy quarters after three wins from three, but they were made to work for it in a high quality group that began with a last play victory for RGS High Wycombe and ended with two incredibly close games as well. Denstone College join Wellington in the Trophy quarters after they secured victories against RGS and QEGS Wakefield, and keep an eye on them, they gave Wellington all sorts of bother in the opener, going down 7-5.
Over in Group 2, Kirkham Grammar School were the runaway leaders, winning three from three and earning plaudits from the touchlines – they appear at this stage to be many people’s favourites for the tournament, certainly many of our commentary team are aboard that particular hype-train. Keep an eye on Dulwich College though, and in particular number 8 Zach Carr. They were on fire against Eltham College and saw off a determined Whitchurch High School side to progress to the Trophy quarter finals alongside Kirkham.
Group 3 was a belter, but was tidied up early on after Hampton and Hurstpierpoint College both sealed early victories that meant they were both through with a round to spare. Hampton went through in first place though, winning their Group decider 15-8 and they are looking every inch a side that could cause problems. Hurstpierpoint College are arguably the surprise package of the tournament but they are through on merit after some outstanding performances and have a huge tie against Millfield to begin their Sunday with. Cheltenham College, in their debut year, and former champions RGS Newcastle are through to the Bowl quarters, after a frustrating day for both where they were competitive in every game but just could not quite collect the victories.
All of that leads to Group 4, the most dramatic of groups that went all the way down to the very last kick of the very last game. Already when Millfield, Brighton College, St Joseph’s College, and King’s Worcester were named together it looked like being a tough group, but when Millfield and Brighton College drew 0-0 first up, the tension ramped up even further. Throw in a massive, and we mean massive, home crowd behind St Joseph’s College, and a 5-0 win over King’s Worcester only fired them up more. Brighton College then had a strong win over King’s Worcester, while Millfield kept the group wide open with a 7-3 victory over St Joseph’s that they held on to thanks to a last play defensive stand.
Which led us to the final round of games in the group, two from Brighton, Millfield, and St Joseph’s College going through, with Brighton and St Joseph’s going head to head – try count was going to be crucial and Millfield did their part against King’s Worcester, winning 33-0 to guarantee their Trophy quarter final spot. Brighton and St Joseph’s could not have been more different though, the crowd felt as though it numbered a thousand, the noise was deafening, the atmosphere electric, and when St Joseph’s went into the final minutes with a 13-7 lead, it seemed like their fairytale Festival might unfold. But up stepped Brighton College, this side that know drama like no other at this Festival after their finals in 2016 and 2017, as they grasped a last-gasp try to leave a conversion for the win and a place in the quarter finals. It was down to Zak Coxson to land it, having missed one to win v Millfield earlier, but he was to get his fairytale as he banged it over with plenty of style to send Brighton College into the quarter finals behind Millfield on try count.
Day 2 – The De La Salle Trophy and The Bowl Quarter Finals
It’s a new format this year, a straight knockout on day two. Those losing quarter finalists from the Trophy will go to the Plate semi finals, and those from the Bowl to the Shield semis, plus there are third place play offs, so everyone has three games on Sunday.
The four De La Salle Trophy quarter finals see Wellington College v Dulwich College at 10.20 on pitch 1, with Hampton v Brighton College on pitch 2, followed by Kirkham Grammar v Denstone College on pitch 1 and Millfield v Hurstpierpoint College on pitch 2 at 11am.
Three of those four quarter finals have already been played this year in the regular season, with Wellington College narrowly winning at Dulwich College, Hampton beating Brighton College at Esher RFC, and Kirkham Grammar beating Denstone College. Only Millfield v Hurstpierpoint College will be a ‘blind’ fixture for each.
What could that mean? Well, familiarity works both ways so both sides will know plenty about each other and will know exactly what they have to do, it will ultimately come down to this shortened time frame and how they can respond best to it – tries and territory are king, that will never change at St Joseph’s.
Over in the Bowl, the day begins with RGS High Wycombe v Eltham College and Cheltenham College v King’s Worcester at 9am, before Whitchurch High School v QEGS Wakeifeld and St Joseph’s College v RGS Newcastle at 9.40. Which means there are four former champions in the draw, RGS High Wycombe, QEGS Wakefield, and then the hosts, St Joseph’s College, against 2018 champions RGS Newcastle.
That only serves to demonstrate the sheer quality that was on show on Saturday, that four former champions should end up in the Bowl, and it looks as though it should be an extraordinary competition too.
After an epic Saturday, it feels as though it is all bubbling towards an absolute classic St Joseph’s Festival Sunday, and you won’t miss a minute on the NextGenXV live streams.
Check out all the result and standings, plus tomorrow’s draw below!
Qualifying Groups – Final Standings
|3||RGS High Wycombe||3||1||2||3|
Group 3 RGSN, Hampton, Hurst, Cheltenham
Group 4 Millield, Brighton St Jo’s, KSW
|3||St Joseph’s College||1||0||2||3|
|Pitch 1||Time & Group||Pitch 2|
|QEGS Wakefield 5-7 RGS High Wycombe||9am Group 1||Wellington College 7-5 Denstone College|
|Whitchurch High 12-0 Eltham College||9.40am Group 2||Kirkham Grammar 13-3 Dulwich College|
|Hurstpierpoint College 11-5 Cheltenham College||10.20am Group 3||RGS Newcastle 10-14 Hampton|
|St Joseph’s College 5-0 King’s Worcester||11am Group 4||Millfield 0-0 Brighton College|
|Wellington College 14-0 QEGS Wakefield||11.40am Group 1||Denstone College 12-3 RGS High Wycombe|
|Kirkham Grammar 15-5 Whitchurch High||12.20pm Group 2||Dulwich College 17-0 Eltham College|
|RGS Newcastle 5-10 Hurstpierpoint College||1pm Group 3||Hampton 10-5 Cheltenham College|
|Millfield 7-3 St Joseph’s College||1.40pm Group 4||Brighton College 27-5 King’s Worcester|
|Denstone College 7-0 QEGS Wakefield||2.20pm Group 1||Wellington College 10-7 RGS High Wycombe|
|Dulwich College 17-12 Whitchurch High||3pm Group 2||Kirkham Grammar 10-7 Eltham College|
|Hampton 15-8 Hurstpierpoint College||3.40pm Group 3||RGS Newcastle 10-15 Cheltenham College|
|Brighton College 14-13 St Joseph’s College||4.20pm Group 4||Millfield 33-0 King’s Worcester|
Sunday – Knockout Structure & Fixtures
|Pitch 1||Time & Match Number||Pitch 2|
|RGS High Wycombe v Eltham College||9am – Match 25/26||Cheltenham College v King’s Worcester|
|St Joseph’s College v RGS Newcastle||9.40am – Match 27/28||Whitchurch High v QEGS Wakefield|
|Wellington College v Dulwich College||10.20am – Match 29/30||Hampton v Brighton College|
|Kirkham Grammar v Denstone College||11am – Match 31/32||Millfield v Hurstpierpoint College|
|Shield SF 1||11.40am – Match 33/34||Shield SF 2|
|Bowl SF 1||12.20pm – Match 35/36||Bowl SF 2|
|Plate SF 1||1pm – Match 37/38||Plate SF 2|
|Trophy SF 1||1.40pm – Match 39/40||Trophy SF 2|
|Shield Final||2.20pm – Match 41/42||Shield 3rd Plate|
|Bowl Final||3pm – Match 43/44||Bowl 3rd Place|
|Plate Final||3.40pm – Match 45/46||Plate 3rd Place|
|Trophy Final||4.20pm – Match 47/48||Trophy 3rd Place|