This weekend is the final weekend of the schools rugby this term, a weekend that will therefore be packed to the brim with emotion and passion, but a weekend with plenty to play for too.
From the last of the Schools Cup quarter finals, to huge Friday night games, a Saturday with unbeaten records on the line, and big statements to be made, it’s a weekend full of huge games.
More important though, it is the final time that most U6th will pull on their school shirt, a proud and emotional moment. Many of those shirts have more history behind them than any international or club side in the world. It is on the school playing fields where the game was invented and developed, and it is on those same school playing fields where players the nation over stride out this weekend.
For coaches it is a weekend where tapping into that emotion, or not tapping into it too much, is a key part of the job, so too making sure that for those leavers it is as special a day as possible. It is a topic that is explored in this week’s NextGenXV Podcast, where the guys also look at the top school coaches of the last decade and select their Limitless Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend.
Ten to Watch
Ultimately though the weekend is still about the rugby on the field and there are some wonderful fixtures this weekend, particularly in our final Ten to Watch of the term.
Bromsgrove v Warwick
One of the great school fixtures, these two usually top and tail their season against one another but this year this is the sole fixture after the season opener was cancelled in the wake of the death of The Queen. That only serves to whet the appetite even more for this one, a game between two sides with such rich recent rugby histories. Both have tested themselves this season, and both have had some good results mixed in with the odd defeat. Warwick’s record is probably slightly better, but in this derby game everything else goes out of the window, it’s about the day, the occasion, the emotion, and who can control it best to give their absolute best over the 70 minutes.
Cranleigh v Denstone College
This one is fascinating because Cranleigh have in many ways become the late stars of this season. Only three sides have beaten them, and even there two were by just a point and the other is one of the very best teams in the country, Trinity. This Cranleigh side is in top form. On the very best teams in the country though, Denstone College have already proved that they can mix it, becoming the first side not called Millfield to defeat Sedbergh since 2016. Indeed so good have Denstone been that only a stunning comeback from Ipswich in September has prevented them having an unbeaten season to date, they also reached the semi finals at the St Joseph’s Festival and only went out by a point. They are an outstanding side and victory on Saturday would cap an epic season, so too for Cranleigh though, for whom this would be one of their biggest scalps.
King’s Macclesfield v Finborough (Schools Cup Quarter Final) – Friday
By the time many read this, the identity of the other three quarter finalists in the Schools Cup will be confirmed. So King’s Macclesfield and Finborough know exactly the type of quality that they stand to be mixing it with if they win on Friday. Both have been immense this season, only Sedbergh have got the better of King’s Macclesfield who have had one of their greatest ever seasons, Finborough have, meanwhile, been arguably the story of the season. A small school in Suffolk with not huge rugby history behind them, they have built a team and a culture this year that is simply outstanding, Northampton School for Boys, Ipswich, Felsted, Bedford, and St Joseph’s College have all been bettered by them. Both sides will have this year etched in their memories regardless of Friday’s result, so special has the year been, but for the winners the dream goes on. We cannot wait.
Kirkham Grammar v RGS Newcastle
A massive game for both teams and their Daily Mail Trophy ambitions, both have a strong Top 10 finish on the cards if they can secure victory on Saturday. Kirkham Grammar School have been immense this year, unbeaten outside of the St Joseph’s Festival and with a victory over Clifton College in September the real highlight. RGS Newcastle will be a big test though, arguably their biggest since St Jo’s. Outside of St Jo’s only Sedbergh had beaten RGS up until this week, when on Wednesday they came up against an inspired Oakham side in the quarter finals of the U18 Schools Cup. Knowing RGS, that will likely inspire them ahead of this final push of the term on Saturday.
Radley College v Marlborough College
A classic schools rugby fixture on which to end the term for these two brilliant rugby schools. Radley are on a good run, having not lost since an early November outing against Kirkham Grammar School and they will be eager to finish off with a real flourish on Saturday. Marlborough College have been strong on an incredibly challenging circuit as well, defeating the likes of Bromsgrove and Sherborne, and even being the only side to so far defeat Trinity when they beat them on Day 1 at the St Joseph’s Festival. They will arrive with more energy than expected too, after the unfortunate abandonment of their Cup quarter final against Blundell’s in midweek due to injury.
Seaford College v Tonbridge
Two sides that offer so much and that are capable of brilliant rugby. Both will feel probably a decision or two shy of seasons that would be outstanding. On Saturday they have an opportunity to finish with some great memories, Tonbridge came oh so close to a defeat of Wellington College last time out and will be eager to put in a similar level of performance to finish the season off on Saturday. Seaford, after a topsy turvy first half of term, have been flying of late, winning four games on the spin, including that controlled performance in the rain and the dark against Hurstpierpoint College a fortnight ago. This should be a brilliant fixture with which to close the season.
Shiplake College v Pangbourne College – at Henley RFC, Friday
Shiplake College’s Friday Night Lights moves from Reading to Henley this year and they will be hoping that floodlights all remain in tact this time around as they once again take on Pangbourne College. These Friday night game are always incredibly special, and for this one to be the final game of the season only serves to make it even more special. Sam Beckett will have his charges excited for this one, it’s been a tough old run since mid-October for Shiplake, but when the Friday night lights shine, that all goes out of the window. It will be equally special for Pangbourne College too though, who have also had some tough outings since half term. Both sides are going to be going all out on Saturday on an occasion that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
The Judd v Skinners’ – Friday
Friday in Kent is going to be one of the great occasions in schools rugby as The Judd and Skinners’ go head to head for the 100th time in a fixture that is one of the biggest and toughest state school fixtures in the country. Indeed this season The Judd have been one of the toughest sides in the country, only Trinity and Brighton have got the better of them, few others have even come close. Skinners’ have been brilliant too though, and arrive on a three game win streak. In reality though this game is going to have nothing to do with form or the season past, and everything to do with history, emotion, and pride. Judd lead the head to head 53-35 over the 99 games to date, with 11 draws, the question on Friday is; will that gap be extended or narrow. Either way, it will be a day to be remembered.
Trinity v John Fisher
There are few better ways to end a season that a derby game, and this Croydon derby is going to be a cracker. Trinity are playing just 48 hours after their Cup quarter final against Harrow, and how they are affected by the outcome that (which is being played after the time of writing) could be crucial. They have been utterly brilliant this season unbeaten at the time of writing and with just this last game to go. John Fisher are going to be so determined to claim what would unquestionably be their biggest result of the season. They have already shown that they have the ability to stay mentally tuned in, their last gasp victory over St Benedict’s showed that, they will need every inch of that on Saturday.
Whitgift v Ipswich
A huge game on which to end the season for both sides, who have each put themselves through the ringer with some incredibly challenging fixtures this year. Whitgift have been decimated by injury, but in their last game, against Ipswich’s closest rivals, St Joseph’s College, they enjoyed a storming 50-7 victory. That’s a result made all the more interesting by Ipswich scoring 70 against the same opponent the week before. It suggests an even game on Saturday, and both sides will be itching to finish on a high, Ipswich just lost out to Stowe last time out, and will want to reverse that, while Whitgift will still be frustrated by that close defeat to Haileybury. With a tour to Dubai to come for Whitgift, they will want some real momentum. It should be a superb game of schools rugby on which to end the term.
Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar v St Olave’s Grammar
Dunottar v Claremont Fan Court – at Cobham RFC
Gosfield v USP College
Graveney v Harris Academy
KES Five Ways v KES Birmingham – at Bournville RFC
Lymm High v Cheadle Hulme
Reigate Grammar v Glyn – at Dorking RFC
Friday has so many brilliant fixtures that ought to provide great experiences for all involved in this final weekend of the season. At Dorking RFC, Reigate Grammar School and Glyn go head to head in what should be a very special game. Along the road at Cobham RFC Dunottar and Claremont Fan Court go head to head, while elsewhere Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar and St Olave’s Grammar meet, as do Graveney and Harris Academy.
Bourneville RFC hosts KES Five Ways and KES Birmingham, a game that should be outstanding, with Gosfield and USP College meeting elsewhere. In the North West, Lymm High School and Cheadle Hulme meet, two teams that have put in some wonderful performances.
Barnard Castle v Yarm
Berkhamsted v Dulwich College
Bishop’s Stortford College v New Hall
Bishop Vesey’s Grammar v Bloxham
Bradford Grammar v Churcher’s College – at Old Albanians
Bromsgrove v Warwick
Canford v Gordon’s
Cheltenham College v Taunton
Collegiate v Pate’s Grammar
Cranbrook v King’s Rochester
Cranleigh v Denstone College
Dartford Grammar v Gravesend Grammar
Dauntsey’s v Lord Wandsworth College
Dean Close v Christ College
Eltham College v Sevenoaks
Emanuel v Wimbledon College
Eton College v Bishop Wordsworth’s
George Heriot’s v George Watson’s College
Giggleswick v Ampleforth College
Glasgow High v George Heriot’s 2nd XV
Glenalmond College v Austin Friars
Grammar School at Leeds v QEGS Wakefield
Gresham’s v Framlingham College
Hampton v St John’s, Leatherhead
Hurstpierpoint College v Epsom College
Hutchesons’ Grammar v Balfron High
KES Stratford v Bablake & King Henry VIII
King’s Bruton v Wellington
King’s Canterbury v Eastbourne College
King’s College, Taunton v Blundell’s
King’s Ely v RGS Colchester
King’s Gloucester v Malvern College
Kirkham Grammar v RGS Newcastle
Magdalen College v St Benedict’s
Manchester Grammar v St Ambrose College
Merchant Taylors’, Crosby v Birkenhead
Merchiston Castle v Glasgow Academy
Mill Hill v Brentwood
Monkton Combe v Kingswood
Monmouth v Bristol Grammar
Morrison’s Academy v Dundee High
Nottingham High v Princethorpe College
Oswestry v Liverpool College
Portsmouth Grammar v Reed’s
Prior Park College v KES Bath
Queen’s College, Taunton v Wellington 2nd XV
Radley College v Marlborough College
Reading Blue Coat v Aylesbury Grammar
Rendcomb College v St Edward’s, Cheltenham
RGS Worcester v Wycliffe College
Robert Gordon’s College v Aberdeen Wanderers RFC
Roundwood Park v St George’s, Harpenden
Seaford College v Tonbridge
Solihull v Sir Thomas Rich’s
St Albans v Watford Grammar
St George’s College, Weybridge v Halliford
St Mary’s College, Crosby v The Leys (Schools Bowl Quarter Final)
St Paul’s v London Oratory
St Peter’s, York v Pocklington
Stewart’s Melville v Stirling County RFC
Stockport Grammar v King William’s College
Stockport Grammar 2nd XV v St Anselm’s College
Stowe v Merchant Taylors’
Strathallan v Bell Baxter High
Sutton Valence v Felsted
Trinity v John Fisher
UCS v St Columba’s College
Wellington College v Titans Academy
Whitgift v Ipswich
Wisbech Grammar v Culford
Woodhouse Grove v Crossley Heath
Saturday is an absolute beast of a day, a better ending to the season is hard to imagine, with top fixtures all around the country. There is a little bit of crucial knockout action too, in the Schools Bowl St Mary’s College Crosby and The Leys meet in the quarter finals, a massive game that takes The Leys on their biggest away trip of the season.
Another side travelling a long way this weekend are Bradford Grammar School, who have been wonderful this season. Usually at this time they would take on Colfe’s at Blackheath, however sadly that game could not go ahead this year, so instead it is a trip to Old Albanians, where Saracens train, and a game against Churcher’s College, which should be a wonderful occasion.
Nobody is travelling any further this weekend though than South Africa’s Titans Academy, who take onWellington College in what is going to be an absolute superb occasion on Bigside in front of what is certain to be an absolutely packed out crowd for the final 1st XV game of the season.
Another great occasion, and perhaps a window into some future interesting head to heads, is Canford v Gordon’s. Both have had some great moments this year, but this one will be particularly special as a few of Gordon’s ACE players, who just missed out in a thriller against Bishop Burton College in midweek in the ACE play offs, will be playing for the Gordon’s Saturday side (which is usually non-ACE). It makes it a tough challenge for Canford, but a great one for them to take on and one that perhaps could open the door in future for school vs ACE fixtures.
Merchant Taylors’ are another side really testing themselves in an admirable fashion in this final weekend, heading to one of the strongest sides in the country, Stowe. Stowe are coming off the back of a tight victory over Ipswich and are going to take some stopping, but what a brilliant opportunity for Merchant Taylors and a brilliant fixture with which to end the season.
Yorkshire sees some great head to heads, not least Grammar School at Leeds v QEGS Wakefield, two sides with plenty of great rugby history that will be eager to end on a high. St Peter’s York meanwhile host Pocklington, while Ampleforth College are at Giggleswick in what should be another cracker.
Woodhouse Grove are at home against Crossley Heath, while in the North East Barnard Castle will be full of confidence after their midweek Schools Plate quarter final victory over Solihull when they take on Yarm.
Solihull meanwhile look to bounce back and finish on a high as they welcome a Sir Thomas Rich’s side that are absolutely flying, they were named in our Limitless Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend this week after their victory over Northampton School for Boys last time out. It really should be a top game.
Not too far away, RGS Worcester are at home against Wycliffe College, while KES Stratford and Bablake & King Henry VIII go head to head. Bloxham are meanwhile looking to finish on a high after a gut-wrenching defeat to Haileybury in the Plate quarter finals on Tuesday, they are at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar.
Further to the South West, Dean Close welcome Welsh side Christ College, who have been simply outstanding this season. Meanwhile St Edward’s Cheltenham are at Rendcomb College meet, with King’s Gloucester hosting Malvern College in a game that should provide a great finish to the season.
Cheltenham College round up a really strong year with a good looking game at home to a strong Taunton School side, while King’s College Taunton host a Blundell’s side that will have a lot of pent up energy after Wednesday’s abandonment of their Schools Cup quarter final against Marlborough College after a nasty looking injury to one of their teammates. It has been a brilliant year from Blundell’s, and they will be keen for a positive note to end on. Also in Taunton, Queen’s College’s last fixture of the term is against Wellington School’s 2nd XV, their 1st XV are away at King’s Bruton.
Collegiate had a great midweek victory over Beechen Cliff, they now host Pate’s Grammar in a brilliant contest with which to end the season for both. Monkton Combe meanwhile welcome Kingswood, and Mike Baxter’s Prior Park College are in action at home against KES Bath, another game that should be a fantastic contest.
Monmouth had a fantastic quarter final victory in the Plate against Wimbledon College on Wednesday, they now welcome Bristol Grammar School in a fantastic final game of the term for both.
Back in England, Dauntsey’s welcome Lord Wandsworth College, while along to the South Coast Portsmouth Grammar finish off with a home game against Reed’s, who have been on a real hot streak towards the end of term.
Reed’s great rivals St George’s College Weybridge are at home against Halliford, a big end to the season for both. Across in Sussex there is a massive game as Epsom College head to Hurstpierpoint College. Both sides have had some big moments this season and will be keen for a grand finish on Saturday, Epsom in particular will be keen to bounce back from a tough defeat to RGS High Wycombe in the schools Plate quarter finals on Wednesday, Hurstpierpoint meanwhile are on a bit of a high after a close victory on Saturday.
Over into Kent, King’s Canterbury and Eastbourne College go head to head in a game that always has real resonance, not least this year after a strong season from both schools. King’s just missed out by a point against Worth last time out, while at the time of writing Eastbourne College are fully focused on their Schools Vase quarter final at Sutton Valence. Sutton Valence are also in action on Saturday, a massive game to follow that Vase quarter final as they welcome Felsted, who will be eager to finish in style. Dartford Grammar meanwhile welcome Gravesend Grammar, which should be a strong game.
London sees some huge games, not least Hampton v St John’s Leatherhead, two wonderful schools with some excellent performances at times this year. Hampton have been among the very best in the country and will want to round off the term in style, but St John’s have been in strong form of late and a strong result on Saturday would be the ultimate high to end on. Emanuel made our Limitless Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend last time out, they now host a Wimbledon College side looking to finish off on a positive after a tough outing at Monmouth in midweek in the Plate. Eltham College are hosting Sevenoaks, while St Paul’s and London Oratory go head to head in a London classic. UCS meanwhile are at home against St Columba’s College.
Hertfordshire is a busy place this weekend, Berkhamsted are looking to finish off another good season, they welcome Dulwich College, who are searching for a first victory and to end the season on a memorable note. St Albans have been fantastic again and are hosting Wotford Grammar to finish off, meanwhile Roundwood Park host St George’s Harpenden, with Mill Hill welcome Essex’s Brentwood, while New Hall are atBishop’s Stortford College.
Deeper into East Anglia Wisbech Grammar and Culford go had to head, whule King’s Ely welcome RGS Colchester and there is a huge game in Norfolk as Gresham’s welcome Framlingham College. Further North, Nottingham High School host Princethorpe College, which should be a strong game.
Further South again and West of London, Eton College finish off what has been an absolutely fantastic season when they welcome Bishop Wordsworth’s for what is always a wonderful private vs state game of rugby and a superb occasion. Along the road Reading Blue Coat and Aylesbury Grammar round things off with a game against one another, while St Benedict’s are on the road to take on Magdalen College.
Moving to the North West of the country, Stockport Grammar have a couple of sides taking on 1st XVs this weekend, their 1st XV take on the Isle of Man’s King William’s College, while their 2nd XV are hosting St Anselm’s College. Manchester Grammar host a St Ambrose College side that were superb in midweek, with Liverpool College heading to Oswestry and Birkenhead heading over to Merchant Taylors’, Crosby.
Scotland has a busy weekend, Merchiston Castle, fresh from their Schools Cup triumph at BT Murrayfield on Wednesday, are hosting Glasgow Academy, while Stewart’s Melville are up against Stirling County RFC and Strathallan welcome Bell Baxter.
George Heriot’s have a couple of sides up against 1st XVs, their 1st XV are hosting George Watson’s College in a massive game with which to end the term, meanwhile their 2nd XV are on the road at Glasgow High. Morrison’s Academy and Dundee High School take each other on, with Hutcheson’s Grammar hosting Balfron High.
One of the most special games of the day in Scotland though will surely be the season ending Anglo-Scots clash at Glenalmond College as they welcome English visitors Austin Friars. Robert Gordon’s College meanwhile face club opposition in the form of Aberdeen Wanderers.