It is the third week of the season and, as every year, that means a slightly quieter weekend with many independent schools on exeat/leave, however there is still a huge amount of top quality rugby on offer.
Following an exceptional midweek of rugby, including a bumper Thursday, we head into the weekend with some key storylines set to emerge as the pattern for the season slowly starts to unfold before us. After two weekends a few of the teams to look out for are now becoming clearer.
One again there is also live action here on NextGenXV as we travel up to Leicester Forest RFC to live stream Denstone College v Ipswich School on Friday night (which you can watch below and on our YouTube channel) following on from Wednesday’s live stream of Haileybury v Blundell’s at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium and Thursday’s live streaming of Clifton College v Kirkham Grammar School from Clifton Rugby Club, the Ryan Bresnahan Memorial Game.
There is so much more than just the live streams through, with a busy Friday night and a seriously competitive Saturday, and it follows on from a fantastic weekend last weekend with some great performances, which made picking out our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend in this week’s NextGenXV podcast a real challenge. You can check that out below (and on Acast, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify, just search NextGenXV), where we also pick our Greatest Schoolboy Locks of the last ten years, continuing our series to pick our Greatest Schoolboy XV of Decade, with Beno Obano (Dulwich College), Alfie Barbeary (Bloxham), and Fin Baxter (Wellington College) already selected in the front row.
Schools rugby is in full swing!
Ten to Watch
As ever we begin our preview with our Ten to Watch, and do make sure to vote on who you think will win each of the games – last week saw our readers correctly predict an impressive 80% of the Ten to Watch.
Berkhamsted v Bromsgrove – Saturday
We start on Saturday with a game between two sides that know their way around a top class school season. Bromsgrove of course are former back to back Schools Cup champions while Berkhamsted are the reigning Daily Mail Trophy champions. Both arrive with strong results behind them, Berkhamsted getting their Daily Mail Trophy defence off to a good start with a 26-10 victory at Bromsgrove’s old rivals Warwick last week, to follow on from a tight pre-season win over RGS High Wycombe, while Bromsgrove won a thriller against Sir Thomas Rich’s in their opener, 36-27. Last year Berkhamsted took victory here with relative ease, how this one shakes out this year will tell us an awful lot about both side.
Denstone College v Ipswich (at Leicester Farmers RFC) – LIVE STREAM, 7.30pm, Friday
Our Friday Night Light live stream, this one promises to be a fantastic game of rugby. You can see a more in depth preview here, Denstone College v Ipswich, but in short the signs are that this is going to be a really tight one. Both have a barnstorming victory to their name, Denstone over St Peter’s York last week and Ipswich over Uppingham in week one, but it is their respective results again Northampton School for Boys that create the biggest intrigue here. Denstone just edged them in week 1, 12-11, while in week 2 Ipswich just fell shorts in their comeback attempt against NSB in front of our live cameras, losing by a narrow 24-19 margin. It suggest that there is going to be barely anything between these two teams, and should make for a fantastic game.
Dulwich College v Brighton College – Saturday
Two old friends going head to head in this one, and a fixture that has produced some truly glorious matches in the past. This year it could do again, certainly both will want to put in a performance after differing but equally frustrating games last week, with Dulwich falling at the hands of an exceptional Harrow side and Brighton College losing out narrowly to Hampton, who have started the year in style. Last year Brighton won this one relatively comfortably and probably start as favourites again this year, though the mounting injury list must be causing frustration. More than anything though, this is a special fixture and we saw a bit of that on Wednesday night with last year’s two star number 8s, Zach Carr and Jonny Smith playing for Harlequins in the Premiership Cup. Friends and rivals, the very best of schools rugby.
Hampton v RGS High Wycombe – Saturday
As mentioned, Hampton are off to a flier. Back to back Friday night victories over Seaford College and Brighton College, followed by a dominant midweek victory over Campion, have marked Hampton out as a major force this year and a side to pay real attention to. It’s a busy run for the South West London side, playing Saturday/Wednesday/Saturday two weeks running, but they will be excited by the challenge. In RGS High Wycombe they face a schools rugby great and a side that look as though they are on form this year too, only losing by a point to Daily Mail Trophy champions Berkhamsted at the end of pre season and following it up last week with an exciting win over St John’s Leatherhead. It has been nearly five years since RGS won this one, and Hampton will start as favourites after this exceptional start, but they will have to be on the money because RGS are ready to pounce.
Harrow v Whitgift – Saturday
You have to hand it to Whitgift, they are unafraid to take on a challenge – how many other schools would front load their fixture list with Sedbergh, Wellington College, and Harrow in successive weekends, three of the strongest teams in the country. In taking on that challenge and being unafraid of defeat, though obviously desperate to win (and more than capable of doing so), they demonstrate the very best of the school game. Having gone down in The Schools Championship first to Sedbergh and then in that absolute thriller last weekend to Wellington College (see below), they now take on a Harrow side that is on storming form in their first non-TSC game of the season. Last week Harrow were on fire against Dulwich College, the week before, in their season opener, they travelled to a hostile Bigside at Wellington College and put in a fantastic performance for a 21-15 victory that was more dominant than that score suggest. Whitgift will be another huge test for Harrow, as they will be for Whitgift, and, when the whistle goes, we could be in for an absolute classic.
RGS Guildford v KCS Wimbledon – Saturday
RGS Guildford are the talk of the town at the moment after a first victory over Epsom College in 11 years in their season opener, followed by a strong victory over Wimbledon College last week. Everyone is keen to see what this group can continue to do. On Saturday they face a good test, Wimbledon College’s great local rivals KCS Wimbledon, who had a stunning season last year (perhaps not unlike what RGS are showing signs of this). They did not quite get the start they were after, losing a close one to Reed’s in week one, but came roaring back against London Oratory last Friday night. Now comes a big test against RGS, but they will know that in turn they are a test for their opponents. It sets up for a fascinating game and, as so often in the early part of the season, one we will learn plenty from.
Seaford College v Wellington College – Saturday
There is real excitement ahead of this one. Both sides had tough outing in their opening games, Seaford College losing out in a Friday night encounter against Hampton and Wellington College going down to a powerful Harrow side, but both bounced back in week two, Seaford defeating Epsom College and Wellington College winning that absolute thriller against Whitgift. With confidence back in the systems then, Saturday looks exciting. They played for the first time last year, Wellington College winning that one at home 29-12, now at home Seaford look to bounce back. Victory would be one of the great results in the schools history, but it is absolutely on the table if they are at their best. For Wellington College a continuation of some of the interplay and spirit shown against Whitgift will be the aim, and from that they can do some very special things.
St John’s, Leatherhead v Epsom College – Saturday
A classic rivalry in right on the outskirts of South West London, and this year a rivalry with plenty on the line as both teams look to bounce back from tricky starts to the season. Both have played two and lost two, yet both have been in pretty tight games in each. St John’s have been involved in thrillers, going down 29-27 to Hurstpierpoint and 35-22 to RGS High Wycombe, while Epsom lost just 19-10 to Seaford and 15-10 to RGS Guildford. It will still sting though and Epsom will be particularly stinging and keen to find form ahead of a big Cup game against Whitgift in midweek, and at their best this Epsom group can be superb. For St John’s, having twice come to close, the fact that this is a first home game – and against their great rivals – will provide huge inspiration. Could a first victory over Epsom since 2016 be on the cards or will Epsom make it six in a row? It’ll be fascinating either way.
Stowe v Bloxham – Saturday, Schools Cup
This one should be compelling, and the fact that it doubles up as a Schools Cup game only adds to that with the added prospect of defeat meaning a run in the Plate – which both sides have one recently, Stowe doing so last year. Both will want to be mixing it in the main competition. Stowe were quite brilliant last year and much is expected this year, but they were on the wrong side of the result in their opener in a tight defeat at Stamford. They came absolutely roaring back at Oundle last week though and now in their first home game of the season you can be sure they will want to perform. Bloxham will too though, like Stowe they lost their opener, a good to and fro with Cheltenham, and bounced back in game two, a 24-18 home victory over King’s Worcester. This will be their stiffest test yet though, but Bloxham have always loved the tough test. It should be a cracker.
Woodhouse Grove v Sedbergh (at Wharfedale RUFC) – Friday
Speaking of cracking games, the weekend kicks off with one on Friday night as Woodhouse Grove and Sedbergh meet at Wharfedale RUFC, two legends of the north and giants of the school game going head to head. It’s part of a massive start to the season for Woodhouse Grove who have front loaded their season in a big way, opening against Barnard Castle and now taking on Sedbergh. Barnard Castle beat them in a high scoring game last week, 40-26, and Sedbergh are likely to pose an even bigger threat. However with a game under their belts, that special Friday night atmosphere, and a big crowd behind them, Woodhouse Grove are going to be inspired. So too are Sedbergh though, who have been on a points scoring spree in the early part of this season. In their opening game they beat Whitgift 46-10 in The Schools Championship, which you can watch below, before backing that last week with a top performance on the road to beat RGS Newcastle 40-8. The men in brown are looking formidable, but the men in green will be up for the challenge.
If those ten games are not enough to whet the appetite, the rest of the weekend has plenty more to offer as well, with games on Friday and Saturday and some crucial ones at that as some of the best in the business to head to head, and there are some huge derbies alongside.
Lymm High v Wilmslow High
Perthshire RFC v Morrison’s Academy
St Peter’s, Gloucester v Monmouth (at Old Cryptians)
St Joseph’s College v New Hall (at Ipswich RFC)
Trinity v Langley Park
Along with the Woodhouse Grove v Sedbergh game and our live stream of Denstone College v Ipswich, Friday night has plenty on offer. Schools Cup champions Trinity are back in action after a brilliant victory over Cranleigh last week, taking on Langley Park in what will be a tough test for the visitors. Trinity, by the way, were among three new teams announced on Tuesday to be attending the St Joseph’s Festival this year. St Joseph’s College themselves are in action on Friday night, they head to Ipswich RFC where they will welcome New Hall in what ought to be a strong game.
There is a big one over at Old Cryptians too as St Peter’s Gloucester welcome a strong Monmouth side over the border for what is expected to be a great occasion. There is a big one in the North West too, with Lymm High and Wilmslow High going head to head – two sides with great history. Up in Scotland there is Friday night action too, with Morrison’s Academy looking to back up their midweek victory with a game against club side Perthshire RFC.
Bedford Modern v Stamford
Bradford Grammar v Pocklington
Campion v Emanuel
Cardinal Vaughan v St Richard Reynolds
Cheadle Hulme v Sandbach
Churcher’s College v Portsmouth Grammar
Dame Allan’s v Austin Friars
Durham v Newcastle School for Boys
Ellesmere College v Haberdashers’ Adams
Eltham College v Maidstone Grammar
Finborough v Northampton School for Boys
Giggleswick v AKS Lytham
Haberdashers’ Abraham Darby v Newcastle-Under Lyme
KES Southampton v Embley
KES Stratford v King’s Gloucester
King’s Canterbury v Sir Thomas Rich’s
King’s College, Taunton v Wellington
King’s Rochester v Ashford
Kingswood v Malvern College
Langley v Culford
Latymer Upper v Cedars
London Oratory v Reed’s
Lord Wandsworth College v St George’s College, Weybridge
Loughborough Grammar v Bishop Vesey’s Grammar
Magdalen College v St Edward’s, Oxford
Manchester Grammar v Bolton
Merchant Taylors’, Crosby v King’s Macclesfield
Mill Hill v St George’s, Harpenden
Monkton Combe v Wycliffe College
Mount Kelly v Exeter
Norwich v Bishop’s Stortford College
Pangbourne College v Aylesbury Grammar
QEGS Wakefield v St Peter’s, York
QEH v Taunton
Queen’s College, Taunton v KES Bath
Reigate Grammar v Caterham
RGS Colchester v Royal Hospital School
RGS Newcastle v Grammar School at Leeds
RGS Worcester v Pate’s Grammar
Richard Hale v Coopers’ Coborn
Sir Joseph Williamson’s v Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar
Skinners’ v Hurstpierpoint College
Solihull v Leicester Grammar
Stewart’s Melville v Dollar Academy
Strathallan v Edinburgh Academy
St Ambrose College v Stockport Grammar
St Anselm’s College v Wirral Grammar
St Benedict’s v St Albans
St Olave’s Grammar v Gravesend Grammar
St Paul’s v Reading Blue Coat
St Peter’s, York 2nd XV v Scarborough College
The Crypt v Bristol Grammar
The Judd v Ravens Wood
Tiffin v Halliford
UCS v QES Barnet
Wallington County Grammar v Dartford Grammar
Watford Grammar v Haberdashers’
Wimbledon College v John Fisher
Wisbech Grammar v King’s Ely
Yarm v St Andrews Scots, Argentina
Saturday is, as ever, an absolute massive day and a day full of huge fixtures and exciting derbies. There are so many side looking to build on positive performances from last week and one that deserves a huge mention are The Judd, who claimed the huge scalp of Tonbridge last week and now host Ravens Wood as they look to build on that incredible result.
Another perhaps lesser highlighted fixture, yet one that everyone should be paying attention to, is Finborough v Northampton School for Boys. NSB are a well known entity and have already shown in the early part of this season how good they are with strong performances against Denstone College and Ipswich (check out that performance against Ipswich below), but Finborough are a coming force as well and will see this game as a great opportunity to put themselves well and truly on the map.
One that has caught our eye is Stamford’s trip to Bedford Modern. Stamford got off to a great start with a victory over Stowe and then followed it up with defeat in a thriller to Haileybury, now they face Bedford Modern a side that they should have the better of usually, but who are worth keeping an eye on after a stunning performance against QES Barnet last week to following a promising display against St Albans. For Stamford, it’s all about bouncing back and building on that Stowe result.
The North of England has some great fixtures this weekend, among them a great looking fixture in the North East as Durham host Newcastle School for Boys. Durham are three from three, including a big win over Austin Friars, meanwhile NSB have only played once a strong win over Dame Allan’s, Saturday will be a massive one. Those two defeated sides, Dame Allan’s and Austin Friars also go head to head, looking to bounce back well.
Yarm are also in action and they have a really exciting game against Argentine tourists St Andrews Scots. There will be interest in RGS Newcastle this weekend too, in their first competitive game of the season they had a tough outing against Sedbergh last week, but there is a sense that they are a strong side and they will be keen to demonstrate that against Yorkshire’s Grammar School at Leeds on Saturday, who enjoyed a good victory over Cheadle Hulme last time out.
It will be massive in Yorkshire too as Bradford Grammar look to build on a brilliant midweek performance when they take on Pocklington, who will be keen to get stuck in after a tough outing last week. QEGS Wakefield v St Peter’s York is a massive game, QEGS are schools legends while St Peter’s York have built superbly in recent years, both arrive with a point to prove though after difficult openers, which could make this one incredibly competitive. Scarborough College meanwhile take on St Peter’s 2nd XV, while Giggleswick are hosting AKS Lytham, who make the trip from the North West.
Over in the North West the big contests continue and King’s Macclesfield are looking to make it three from three as they travel to the tricky Merchant Taylors’, Crosby. Merchant Taylors’ went down to Manchester Grammar last week and they are looking to back that victory up when they host Bolton on Saturday. Cheadle Hulme, meanwhile are looking to bounce back after losing at GSAL last week, now back at home against Sandbach they will be keen to enjoy themselves in front of the home support.
St Anselm’s were off to a good start at Birkenhead last week, this week they host Wirral Grammar, who are in strong from at the moment, wining their opening two games. St Ambrose College and Stockport Grammar meanwhile go head to head in first official games for each side this season. Elsewhere, Ellesmere College are hosting Haberdashers’ Adams, while Newcastle-Under-Lyme head to Haberdashers’ Abraham Darby.
In that West side of the Midlands there are some teams to keep a real eye on, not least Solihull. They have gone past sixty points in each of their games so far and now host a Leicester Grammar side that conceded 50 to a Princethorpe side that Solihull put 60 past. The great beauty of schools rugby means that this will likely be far more balanced than that headline suggests, but keep an eye on Solihull, they are flying.
In Stratford, KES Stratford welcome King’s Gloucester, with the home side looking to make it three in a row, but in King’s Gloucester they have a tricky encounter against a side that played well in victory over Wycliffe last Friday. After that, KES face St Edward’s Oxford, who have a bit of an Oxford derby on their hands this week as they head to Magdalen College for what looks on paper as if it will be a fantastic game of rugby.
A little more centrally, Pangoburne College welcome Aylesbury Grammar, while back in the West RGS Worcester look to get back to their performance against Hereford Cathedral after a few tricky results since, they welcome a strong Pate’s Grammar School side.
Deeper into the South West, it’s a busy day in Taunton as King’s College welcome Wellington School and Queen’s College welcome KES Bath, meanwhile Taunton School are on the road against QEH.
Kingswood enjoyed a strong start to the season against Bristol Grammar and now host a Malvern College side looking for a first victory. Bristol Grammar, meanwhile, look to bounce back from that game against Kingswood when they travel to The Crypt on Saturday. Wycliffe College, who are looking for a return to form after missing out to King’s Gloucester and The Crypt, and face a Monkotn Combe were on form against Prior Park and will want to continue that. In Devon, meanwhile, Mount Kelly and Exeter School go head to head in a big fixture.
Along the South Coast KES Southampton welcome Embley and Portsmouth Grammar travel over to Churcher’s College, meanwhile Lord Wandswoeth College are hosting St George’s College, Weybridge.
Surrey sees Reigate Grammar look to continue their brilliant start to the season against a Caterham side that has had an equally outstanding start to the season. Over to Kent, where King’s Canterbury host Cranbrook and King’s Rochester welcome Ashford. One of the biggest games though is going to be Hurstpierpoint College’s trip to Skinners’, Skinners’ are absolutely flying this season but Hurstpierpoint will be a stiff test, they have been going well too.
Elsewhere, St Oalve’s Grammar welcome a confident Gravesend Grammar, with Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar at Sir Joseph Williamson’s, and Dartford Grammar at Wallington County Grammar.
One of London’s biggest games is going to be Reading Blue Coat’s trip to St Paul’s. Last weekend our live cameras took in a brilliant performance from Reading Blue Coat, which you can see below, and now they face a St Paul’s side that started the season brilliantly before defeat to a strong Eton side, they will both be pumped for Saturday.
The side that St Paul’s really made their mark against was Wimbledon College, and they now host a John Fisher side that are also looking for their first victory, making Saturday a must watch encounter. Elsewhere look out for Maidstone Grammar looking to recover quickly when they head to Eltham College, while Cardinal Vaughan are hosting St Richard Reynolds and Halliford head to Tiffin.
Another to keep an eye on is London Oratory v Reed’s, both have faced KCS Wimbledon in tight games, London Oratory just losing theirs and Reed’s just winning theirs, suggesting a tight contest. Latymer Upper meanwhile host Cedars, while there’s a tough trip for Emanuel to Campion.
St Benedict’s were so good last year and have started well this year, they will be looking for more when they welcome Hertfordshire opposition in St Albans, who have started exceptionally themselves. Next week they face Mill Hill, who have also started well and will be after more on Saturday against St George’s Harpenden. They missed out last week after an excellent performance from Richard Hale, who are at home again this week against Coopers’ Coborn. Elsewhere, Watford Grammar welcome Haberdashers’, while UCS are hosting QES Barnet.
Further East, RGS Colchester host a Royal Hospital School side looking for a quick return to form after a tricky outing last weekend, while in Norfolk Norwich will be feeling confident after last week’s victory over St Joseph’s, they welcome Bishop’s Stortford College. Along the road Langley are hosting Suffolk’s Culford, while Wisbech Grammar welcome King’s Ely. Back in the Midlands Loughborough Grammar host Bishop Vesey’s Grammar.
Up in Scotland things are fairly quiet, just two further fixtures to mention – although they are two cracking fixtures, Stewart’s Melville v Dollar Academy and Edinburgh Academy’s trip to Strathallan, who were earlier in the week named as one of those three new entrants at the St Joseph’s Festival this year.