The final weekend of November is upon us, and for some that makes it the penultimate games of what has truly been a remarkable season.
The excitement is enormous, and not just among the players but among whole school communities as we near the close of the term.
There are some huge games over the weekend, including some fantastic Anglo-Irish fixtures as two of the very best in England go up against two of the finest from the other side of the Irish Sea, with Kirkham Grammar School hosting Northern Ireland’s Ballymena Academy on Friday night and Clifton College hosting legendary Republic of Ireland school, Blackrock College, on Saturday afternoon in front of the NextGenXV live streaming cameras – and you’ll be able to watch that one live below and on our YouTube Channel.
That is so far from the only action though, as Angus Savage and Will Roberts discussed on this week’s NextGenXV podcast. The whole fixture list looks tantalising and some top sides with unbeaten records are going to have to be at their very best to hold on to them in some fantastic looking fixtures.
It’s also a chance for teams that have had harder seasons to start a grandstand finish and head into Christmas with a spring in their step. Putting a spring into our step in midweek were Sedbergh and Wellington College, who on a freezing night at Broadstreet RFC put on a magnificent game of rugby, which you can relive below:
Ten to Watch
To the weekend’s rugby though, and as ever we begin with out Ten to Watch, and this week it has a real international flavour to it, with teams from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland all in the list.
Barnard Castle v Durham – Friday
A second massive North Eastern derby in the row for Durham as they take on a Barnard Castle side that is in fantastic form, unbeaten since half term and having scored fifty last week. Durham might not have had the same sort of November, going down to RGS Newcastle and Woodhouse Grove, but their performance in the Richard Metcalfe Cup against RGS last week should surely fill them with confidence ahead of what should be an absolute epic against Barnard Castle, who themselves are going to be floating on a cloud of confidence.
Bedford v Harrow
A mighty task for Bedford this as they welcome the unbeaten Harrow to their magnificent 1st XV pitch. Harrow are flying, unbeaten and looking like one of the very best teams around, indeed they are currently 3rd in the NextGenXV Schools Rugby Table and just a whisker off top spot. However they may have half an eye on tasks upcoming, not least a huge Cup quarter final against another giant of the season, Trinity, and Bedford have a mighty home record, only unbeaten Oakham have bettered them on home soil. Bedford are also a seriously good side, they have had some outstanding results against some top side this year, so any slip up from Harrow and you can be sure Bedford will pounce.
Brighton College v The Judd
This is absolutely fascinating. In a normal year you would say that Brighton are clear favourites here but this year it’s anyone’s guess. Brighton have had their ups and downs this year but have found form at just the right moment because The Judd are a real threat. Having arguably one of their greatest ever seasons, they lost their unbeaten record in the Cup in midweek but in reality it was perhaps their greatest display of their quality yet as they ran the holders, Trinity, so close, just missing out 24-22. To keep Trinity that close, closer than anyone bar Millfield at St Joseph’s this year, is a mark of their quality. They will be itching to go out and show that again on Saturday against another giant in Brighton College, Brighton will meanwhile be itching to go out and prove themselves.
Clifton College v Blackrock College, Ireland – Live Streamed
The most exciting fixture of the season? Very possibly. Clifton College are arguably the best side in England, top of the NextGenXV Schools Rugby Table and absolutely flying. Blackrock College meanwhile are one of the best in Ireland this year, as ever, and are arguably the most recognisable name in global school rugby. Name a famous Leinster and Ireland international of years gone by and there’s a fair chance that they went to Blackrock. NextGenXV will be live streaming this one (see above) and you can check out the full preview of the game here: Clifton College v Blackrock College. It is not to be missed, two of the top sides in global school rugby going head to head.
King’s Macclesfield v Sedbergh
Another belter. King’s Macclesfield are unbeaten and having the sort of season that dreams are made of, they are into the Schools Cup quarter finals and loving life. This though will be their toughest test as they welcome schools rugby giants Sedbergh, who have only lost once this season and have beaten the likes of Whitgift, Ipswich, Wellington College, and, thrillingly, Blackrock College. On Wednesday on the NextGenXV live stream they dug in superbly for an excellent 21-13 victory over Wellington College in tough conditions at Broadstreet RFC and will be feeling buoyant. Yet perhaps in there lies the opportunity for King’s Macclesfield to claim the result that would truly make this one of their greatest ever seasons; Sedbergh will have to make changes, a three day turnaround after a game like that necessitates it. They will still be incredibly strong, one only had to watch their 2nd XVs performances against Wellington (also live streamed here on NextGenXV, see below) to recognise that, but perhaps it might just open the door a crack for King’s Macc.
Kirkham Grammar v Ballymena Academy, Northern Ireland – Friday
Another massive game on a weekend that is just so exciting. Friday afternoon is going to be a huge occasion at Kirkham Grammar School, who have put together a season of incredible quality. In just seven regular season games they have scored over fifty on four occasions, more importantly though they drew with Hartpury College and are the only side to have defeated Clifton College, an absolutely epic performance that was captured by NextGenXV and you can see below. They have risen to ever test, and on Friday comes another in the form of one of Northern Ireland’s very best, Ballymena Academy. Like Clifton v Blackrock, it will be all about the occasion, an international schoolboy fixture of the highest order. Ballymena would love to come across and claim such a huge scalp as Kirkham, and it would say a huge amount about rugby in Northern Ireland if they did. It’s going to be fascinating to see it unfold.
Rugby v Warwick
A bit of a classic schools rugby fixture this one, and a Warwickshire derby to boot. Rugby School aren’t having their easiest season results wise and yet when you really look at it only Oakham and Stowe have been anything close to comfortable against them, and they are two of the very best in the business this year. Elsewhere it has been only a handful of points separating them from their opponents, and among those they have beaten are Schools Cup quarter finalists Marlborough College. Warwick’s season feels like on that has quietly built, and oddly it was in defeat where they made the most headlines, coming just ten minutes from an historic victory over Sedbergh a fortnight ago. They backed that up last week with an impressive display against NSB and will be heading to Rugby feeling buoyant with confidence ahead of what should be a fantastic game of rugby on Old Bigside.
Stamford v Oakham
Speaking of games that should be fantastic, how about the derby between Stamford and Oakham. Oakham are into the Cup quarter finals, are unbeaten, and having an absolutely magnificent season, but Stamford are a very tough side to beat, especially on home turf against a big rival. You only have to look to their opening game of the season and a narrow victory over Stowe, whom Oakham know all about after their tight Cup victory. Oakham’s record this year sees them start as favourites, but do not be surprised if Stamford pull off something special. This one should be an absolute cracker.
Stewart’s Melville v Edinburgh Academy (Scottish Schools Cup SF)
To Scotland and the Scottish Schools Cup semi finals, where the teams are competing for a trip to Murrayfield in early December for the final. This one really is fascinating as well, not least because just a fortnight ago they met at Edinburgh Academy, with Stewart’s Melville winning 17-10. With that in mind Stewart’s Melville must fancy their chances, and yet Edinburgh Academy are going to be doubly determined after that defeat and will have a bank of knowledge to build on from it. Both have had such similar seasons to date, it feels as though this one is on a knife edge.
Strathallan v Merchiston Castle (Scottish Schools Cup SF)
Another massive semi final, and another in which the two protagonists met just a fortnight ago. Strathallan hosted Merchiston for that one as well, with Merchiston coming away with a 33-12 victory. That puts Merchiston in the hot seat as favourites but do not write Strathallan off, they have had some great results and are building something special. Merchiston themselves know only too well how quickly things can turn around, the week before beating Strathallan they had lost to George Watson’s, two week’s later in the quarter final stage of the Cup they met Watson’s again, and beat them well. This one will be very special.
Calday Grange Gramar v Lymm High
Hartpury Bulls v Millfield
Latymer Upper v UCS
Turing House v St Richard Reynolds
As well as Barnard Castle v Durham and Kirkham Grammar v Ballymena Academy, Friday has plenty of other excitement as well, not least Hartpury College v Millfield, a massive fixture that would have been part of out Ten to Watch were it not that it is likely to be the Hartpury Bulls (U17) side and Millfield are likely to be fielding a similar one. Nonetheless, it is a massive occasion and a great opportunity to see what the future might hold between these two absolute legends of school rugby.
Elsewhere, Calday Grange host Lymm High in what should be another top game, while in the South East Latymer Upper welcome UCS and St Richard Reynolds are at Turing House.
AKS Lytham v Hutton Grammar
Altrincham Grammar v Stockport Grammar
Bablake & King Henry VIII v Loughborough Grammar
Bancroft’s v RGS Colchester
Bedford Modern v Campion
Bishop’s Stortford College v Gresham’s
Bishop’s Stortford High v St Edmund’s College, Ware
Bolton v Birkenhead
Bradford Grammar v Harrogate Grammar
Bromsgrove v Marlborough College
Cathedral School, Llandaff v Wellington School
Cheltenham College v Sherborne
Christ’s Hospital v Churcher’s College
Claremont Fan Court v City of London Freemen’s
Colfe’s v St Olave’s Grammar
Coopers’ Coborn v Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar
Culford v Langley
Dame Allan’s v Newcastle School for Boys
Dundee High v George Heriot’s (Scottish Schools Plate SF)
Eastbourne College v Caterham
Ellesmere College v St Anselm’s College
Eltham College v Skinners’
Emanuel v KCS Wimbledon
Eton College v Dulwich College
Exeter v Colston’s
Fettes College v Loretto
Glasgow High v Strathallan
Hampton v Cranleigh
Hayes v Skinners’
Hutchesons’ Grammar v George Watson’s College
John Fisher v St Benedict’s
KES Southampton Triangular: KES Southampton, Ryde, Warminster
KES Stratford v Wellingborough
Kingswood v QEH
Lancaster RGS v Cheadle Hulme
Maidstone Grammar v Dartford Grammar
Manchester Grammar v Wilmslow High
Merchant Taylors’, Crosby v Kirkham Grammar 2nd XV
Morrison’s Academy v Knox Academy (Scottish Schools Bowl SF)
Mount St Mary’s College v Stonyhurst
Old Swinford Hospital v King’s Worcester
Oundle v Uppingham
Portsmouth Grammar v Bishop Wordsworth’s
Princethorpe College v KES Birmingham
Queen’s College, Taunton v Plymouth College
Radley College v Tonbridge
Ratcliffe College v Nottingham High
Reed’s v Merchant Taylors’, Northwood
Rendcomb College v Clifton High
RGS Guildford v Abingdon
RGS High Wycombe v St Edward’s, Oxford
Robert Gordon’s College v Dollar Academy
Sir Joseph Williamson’s v Gravesend Grammar
Sir Thomas Rich’s v The Crypt
St Albans v Mill Hill
St Paul’s v The Oratory
St Paul’s 2nd XV v Fulham Boys
Taunton v King’s College, Taunton
The Leys v Norwich
The Perse v Samuel Whitbread Academy
Trent College v Solihull
Truro School v Mount Kelly
Wallington County Grammar v Wimbledon College
Watford Grammar v Richard Hale
Whitgift v Haileybury
Wirral Grammar v Scarisbrick Hall
Wisbech Grammar v Worksop College
Woodhouse Grove v Hymers College
Worth v Gordon’s
Saturday’s action is as comprehensive as it is exciting, with one of the fullest fixture cars of the season. Among the many huge games is Cheltenham College v Sherborne, a fantastic fixture between two sides that are capable of brilliance. The NextGenXV live stream last Thursday saw Cheltenham take on Sir Thomas Rich’s, and though they lost they demonstrated just what a top notch outfit they are, Sherborne will need to be at their best.
Playing with huge confidence at the moment are Marlborough College, who have reached the Schools Cup quarter finals. On Saturday they face a side that knows all about a strong Cup run, Bromsgrove, the two time champions. It should be a cracking match on Saturday. So too should a big derby in Northamptonshire,Oundle v Uppingham, neither side has had the season that they would have wanted but on Saturday they go head to head in a fixture that has real resonance in both schools and that both will see as an opportunity to inject real excitement into the end of their seasons.
Another huge game sees Hampton v Cranleigh, there have been times where this has been a season defining game, but while Hampton are right up there with the top sides this year, Cranleigh aren’t quite on that level so far but a victory on Saturday would have them making real headlines ahead of a sevens season that they have always loved. A fixture that has a very special place on the calendar.
One game that really jumps off the page is Radley College v Tonbridge as the two have already met. That was in early October at Tonbridge, who won 22-14, now Radley are at home and buoyed after a strong performance against Kirkham and a victory in their derby against Abingdon. Tonbridge though have demonstrated week after week that they are a top side, growing with each game, a double over Radley would leave them feeling very good about their season.
Samuel Whitbread Academy will be feeling very good about life after a midweek victory over Richard Hale in the Vase, which of course they are recent champions of. They travel to The Perse on Saturday who are also feeling confident after their Derby win over The Leys, it should be a top game. Richard Hale meanwhile, will want to get back on the horse quickly in what ahs been a wonderful season when they head to Watford Grammar on Saturday.
RGS Guildford are another side that are having a season of dreams this year, beating some top names in schoolboy rugby. On Saturday they face another big name in the form of Abingdon, and would love to continue this wonder season, Abingdon though would love to arrest that momentum though and claim a major victory of their own.
Whitgift had a tough outing at Millfield last week, and face a confident opponent in the form of Schools Plate quarter finalists Haileybury on Saturday. Haileybury would love to topple a side of Whitgift’s stature, but Whitgift are going to be hugely determined after last week and will be eager to get this final section of the season off to a perfect start.
Whitgift’s neighbours John Fisher have a huge game against St Benedict’s, a fixture with real history behind it, while another top state side, Campion are at Bedford Modern, who are having a brilliant season. Look out too for a massive all state school fixture between two rising stars, Hayes and Skinners’.
At the other end of the spectrum, Eton College v Dulwich College is a massive game. Dulwich have struggled this year, but a victory against a high-performing Eton College side would be the perfect way to gear up for the end of the season, for Eton a strong finish would add to what has been a good year.
There are some massive games in Yorkshire too, where Bradford Grammar v Harrogate Grammar looks like an absolutely superb game, two sides that have been playing some glorious rugby this year. So too does Mount St Mary’s College v Stonyhurst, with Mount St Mary’s looking to keep momentum up ahead of their key Schools Vase games as they look to keep their title defence up.
Also in Yorkshire, Woodhouse Grove host Hymers College, a fixture that always has the capacity to entertain, while in the North East Dame Allan’s and Newcastle School for Boys go head to head.
In Scotland the knockout games continue, Dundee High School host George Heriot’s in the Plate, while in the Bowl Morrison’s Academy host Knox Academy. Elsewhere, Glasgow High host Strathallan 2nd XV, while Fettes College and Loretto go head to head and George Watson’s College head to Hutchesons’ Grammar.
Back in England and the North West in particular, a strong Wirral Grammar School side head to Scarisbrick Hall, while Manchester Grammar welcome Wilmslow High and a confident Lancaster RGS welcome Cheadle Hulme.
Stockport Grammar are meanwhile at Altrincham Grammar, with AKS Lytham hosting Hutton Grammar and Birkenhead travelling to Bolton. Merchant Taylors’ are in action against Kirkham Grammar School’s 2nd XV.
Ellesmere College welcome St Anselm’s College, and further south KES Stratford are hosting Wellingborough with Bablake & King Henry’s welcoming Loughborough Grammar.
Old Swinford Hospital and King’s Worcester go head to head in a huge game, while KES Birmingham head to Princethorpe College, Nottingham High travel to Ratcliffe College, and Solihull are over in Nottingham at Trent College.
In the South West the very much in form Sir Thomas Rich’s are host The Crypt, who are also playing some good rugby, while in Taunton there’s a big derby as Taunton School host King’s College Taunton. Fellow Taunton side Queen’s College are at home against Plymouth College.
Collegiate head to Exeter School, while Clifton High are at Rendcomb College, and QEH travel to Kingswood. Meanwhile Truro School host Mount Kelly and over in Wales Cathedral School Llandaff welcome Wellington School.
Heading from the south west towards London, there is a massive game just off the M4 as RGS High Wycombe welcome St Edward’s Oxford, while in the capital there are some great fixtures. St Paul’s have a 1st XV facing The Oratory and a 2nd XV facing Fulham Boys, two great fixtures, meanwhile Emanuel host KCS Wimbledon and Eltham College are in action against Skinners’.
St Olave’s Grammar are heading to Colfe’s, with Schools Plate quarter finalists Wimbledon College heading to Wallington County Grammar. Meanwhile City of London Freemen’s are at Claremont Fan Court.
East of the capital Bancroft’s host RGS Colchester and Coopers’ Coborn welcome Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar, while in Bishop’s Stortford Gresham’s take on Bishop’s Stortford College and Bishop’s Stortford High host St Edmund’s College Ware.
Suffolk sees Culford host Langley, while in Cambridgeshire The Leys host Norwich and Wisbech Grammar host Worksop College, St Albans meanwhile host Mill Hill in Hertfordshire.
South East of London Eastbourne College and Caterham go head to head, while Maidstone Grammar host Dartford Grammar and Gravesend Grammar head to Sir Joseph Williamson’s.
Worth welcome Gordon’s for what should be a good game, so too Churcher’s College’s trip to Christ’s Hospital, while on the South Coast Portsmouth Grammar welcome Bishop Wordsworth’s, and KES Southampton host a triangular with Ryde and Warminster.