It’s ACE Finals week, with Cheltenham Tigers RFC playing host to seven play off fixtures over two days to finish off the ACE League Season.
Tuesday sees the 9th, 11th, and 13th place play offs take place, before Wednesday’s action sees the build up to the big final, with the 7th, 5th, and 3rd place play offs taking place through the day ahead of the ACE League Final at 4.30pm, Beechen Cliff v Hartpury College.
It is the second time that these two have met in the ACE League final, back in 2018 Hartpury College won 26-20 in a cracker of a game. Beechen Cliff backed that up in 2019 with another final, going down 31-23 to St Paul’s Catholic College, one of only two times the ACE title has not gone to Hartpury, the other being in 2016 when Exeter College beat Gosforth Academy.
Hartpury have simply been a machine in this competition, which stretches back to 2008, winning all but those two and never losing a final. The predictability might occasionally have become tiresome, were it not for the fact that consistently Hartpury have been so brilliant.
Beechen Cliff have been brilliant too though, both sailed through their Phase Two groups, Beechen Cliff with 14 out of 15 points available, Hartpury College with the full set. Back in October they met in the Phase One groups, Hartpury won that one but it was oh so tight, 33-28.
That bodes well for an epic contest on Wednesday, could Beechen Cliff claim a maiden title at the third attempt, becoming the first side to beat Hartpury in a final in the process? Or will Hartpury College add yet more silverware to their extensive collection to cap another utterly superb season?
Wednesday’s action begins with Stourport High School v City of Oxford College at 10.30am in the 7th place play off, two sides that could so easily have been rocked by their affiliate pro sides, Worcester Warriors and Wasps, going under but instead thrived. When they met a month ago it was a thriller, ending 43-35 to City of Oxford, something similar would be a great way to kick off Wednesday’s action.
In the 12.30pm kick off it’s the 5th place play off as Leicester Tigers affiliates Brooksby Melton College take on 2016 champions Exeter College. Both have been superb this year and will meet for the first time this season in this one.
Then at 2.30pm the final game before the final takes place, Bishop Wand v Gosforth Academy in the 3rdplace play offs. Gosforth are former finalists, while Bishop Wand, in their former guise as St Paul’s, won the title in 2019 and this year were the closest of anyone outside of the final to claiming a spot.
Tuesday Play Offs
The week’s action begins with the Division 2 play offs, all three games will be the first ACE fixtures against a side outside of their own North/South conference this year for those involved. The 13th place play off kicks us off at 11.30am, Oaklands College v SGS Filton College, two sides that have gone very deep before.
At 1.30pm the 11th place play off takes over, Yorkshire’s Bishop Burton College up against Harlequins’ Gordon’s in a game that should see plenty of thrills.
Then at 3.30pm is the 9th place play off with Myerscough College, so unfortunate not to reach Division 1 after the league split after half term, up against Truro College.
Finals Week Fixtures
Oaklands College v SGS Filton College – 11.30am (13th Place Play Off)
Bishop Burton College v Gordon’s – 1.30pm (11th Place Play Off)
Myerscough College v Truro College – 3.30pm (9th Place Play Off)
Stourport High v City of Oxford College – 10.30am (7th Place Play Off)
Brooksby Melton College v Exeter College – 12.30pm (5th Place Play Off)
Bishop Wand v Gosforth Academy – 2.30pm (3rd Place Play Off)
Beechen Cliff v Hartpury College – 4.30pm (ACE League Final)
Final Round Results & Standings
Brooksby Melton College 0-38 Beechen Cliff
Stourport High 21-24 Bishop Wand
|3||Brooksby Melton College||1||0||2||1||5|
Exeter College 31-32 Gosforth Academy
Hartpury College 36-5 City of Oxford College
|4||City of Oxford College||1||0||2||2||6|
Myerscough College 18-12 Bishop Burton College
|2||Bishop Burton College||1||0||1||2||6|
Truro College 26-24 SGS Filton College
|3||SGS Filton College||0||0||2||2||2|