Three weekends into the season often sees an exeat for a number of schools and that is the same story this year, with a shortened fixture list on the cards.
That is not to say that it is not still a busy and exciting weekend though, far from it. This weekend features a number of games that could well prove to be among the games of the season, plus one very special game between Wellington College and Whitgift in memory of Seb Adeniran-Olule.
Abingdon v Eton College
This is a massive game for two sides that know that a win will be huge in terms of setting them up for what lies ahead. Eton arrives at this one off the back of a strong win over Abingdon’s local rivals, Radley College, while Abingdon enjoyed a narrow win over Berkhamsted in their opener. You can see a more detailed preview of this game here: Abingdon v Eton College.
Brighton College v St John’s Leatherhead
This is a huge game for both teams. Brighton last week surprisingly lost to Hurstpierpoint and having lost to Cranleigh the week before they will be hurting, and desperate to get things on track with a first victory of the season. St John’s are going to be tough opponents though, they opened their season with a win at Wimbledon College before losing to Cranleigh last week. Interestingly, both sides lost to Cranleigh by identical scores, suggesting that Saturday’s game is going to be seriously close.
Prediction: Brighton College
Bristol Grammar School v Kingswood
This should be a really excellent game. Kingswood has had the better start, winning two from two, while Bristol has one win and one defeat. However Bristol’s defeat was only by a point, and to a good side, Sir Thomas Rich’s. Perhaps more useful for a contrast is that both have beaten KES Bath, and by very similar margins, suggesting a close game on Saturday. Home advantage could perhaps prove important in such a tight one.
Prediction: Bristol Grammar School
Bromsgrove v Hampton
This is a big game between two sides with a lot of success over the last few years. They have started the season in similar fashion, winning one and losing one each. The tough thing for Hampton is that their defeat was last week and was a pretty comprehensive 33-0 defeat to Whitgift, while Bromsgrove’s loss was a tight one against the reigning Schools Cup Champions, Warwick, on the opening weekend. That probably suggests that Bromsgrove are the slight favourites, but this is anything but clear cut – expect a huge game right at the top level of school rugby.
Epsom College v Cranleigh
Cranleigh is two from two with wins over Brighton and St John’s and is looking as formidable as anyone. They will be desperate to keep that going away against an Epsom side who are potentially vulnerable after the defeat to Dulwich College last weekend. Potentially is the key word there though, for knowing Epsom, they are far more likely to be focused and clinical about righting that result and getting back on track with a win, which sets up for a classic encounter on Saturday.
Harrow v Dulwich College
This is a fascinating game and one that is likely to tell us a lot about the fate of these two teams. Harrow has been magnificent for a couple of years and have started off well, putting a lot of points on Norwich before beating the Schools Cup champions, Warwick. Dulwich has started well too though, they held Wellington College close, a result that looks more impressive each week, and followed that up with that win over Epsom College last week. A win here would tell us that this really is a top Dulwich team, a strong win for Harrow, and they could be classed as challengers to Wellington.
Judd v Tonbridge
This is a fascinating one for us. Judd was excellent last year as they reached the Schools Cup quarter finals, and they have started this season in fine fashion too, they have three wins from three and are yet to concede a point. Tonbridge, on the other hand, had a strong start with a win over Eastbourne College on the opening weekend, but suffered a shock heavy defeat to Wellington last week, 65-7. Saturday is likely to be all about how they respond to that, and knowing them that means they are going to come out firing. It is going to be very interesting though, Judd is not a pushover and are a tricky side to be facing, particularly coming off the back of that loss. The home side will be absolutely gunning for a historic upset.
Stamford v Stowe
Stamford is one of the hardest places to go in schools rugby, it is not so long ago that they were unbeaten at home for five years. They have started with a bang this year too, thumping Leicester Grammar and then beating Oakham at Oakham, another tough task. Stowe will be a tough nut to crack though, they may have lost to Cheltenham last week but they opened their account with a win over Marlborough and found some real try scoring form in the Champions Trophy against St Albans. This should be a cracking game of rugby.
St Edward’s, Oxford v Clifton College
After a win against Rugby School last week, ending a years unbeaten run, St Edward’s have drawn a few nods of approval. Against another impressive team on Saturday though, things will be tough. Clifton have started the season well, beating Monmouth and Bryanston, but they will know that with big test to come later in the season, they must keep building that momentum. St Edward’s will pose a challenge, and after last week will be confident, but Clifton ought to be favourites.
Prediction: Clifton College
Wellington College v Whitgift
This game is about so much more than rugby. The game will support the Sebastian Adeniran–Olule Charitable Fund, which has been established to provide educational and sporting opportunities for boys who wouldn’t normally be able to access them. Seb was a pupil of both schools before his tragic death, by which point he was a Harelquins player, and donations to the fund and bids on the raffle for the game can be made at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=sebadeniran-olule
As for the game itself, it should be outstanding. Wellington College are absolutely flying, with three wins from three including humblings of RGS High Wycombe and Tonbridge. Whitgift ought to be a big test though. They beat Hampton handsomely last weekend, and though they lost the weekend before, they put in a strong shift up front against Sedbergh.
Prediction: Wellington College
Around the Grounds
Those ten games are far from the only big ones this weekend though, with some brilliant games going on elsewhere. Blundell’s v King’s College Taunton could prove to be one such game, while in Yorkshire Bradford Grammar School v Stonyhurst College is massive.
There are some interesting games as defeated teams in midweek look to bounce back, St Albans will be really hoping to get back on track against Aylesbury after a tough defeat in the Champions Trophy to Stowe. Expect a reaction though, as their second half performance there suggested a resilient and determined group, similarly Caterham, who travel to London Oratory.
Bryanston v Downside will be very interesting, Bryanston may have lost to Clifton last week but they ran them impressively close and ought to take great heart from that. However, Downside was absolutely sensational last week and will be set on giving everything for victory against a side they narrowly lost to last year.
Moving north, Durham v St Peter’s York looks an interesting game, St Peter’s have been among the best around for a couple of years and will be keen to stay there this year. King’s Macclesfield hosts one of the toughest visitors around in QEGS Wakefield, while Woodhouse Grove, another top side, host the ever competitive Pocklington.
The outstanding Kirkham Grammar School are, meanwhile, at home to Sir Thomas Rich’s, a game that should be fascinating.
In the midlands Oundle host Haileybury in a game that really could go either way. Oundle may be two defeats from two, but they have played some tough old fixtures, as have Haileybury, and this should be a cracker.
There are loads going on in the South East, with Canford’s trip to Portsmouth Grammar one to keep an eye on. After their defeat of Millfield, each Canford fixture becomes even more noteworthy. Reed’s v Hurstpierpoint College is also worth keeping a close eye on, can Hurstpierpoint maintain their emotional high after that stunning win over Brighton College, or will there be a hangover?
RGS Guildford, fresh from that brilliant Champions Trophy win over Caterham, host Wimbledon College, who will also be full of beans after digging deep for a draw in their local derby last week against KCS, so this should be a really excellent clash between two sides on song. St Benedict’s have started the season quietly well, they host St George’s College Weybridge one Saturday.
One of the biggest games of the weekend is RGS High Wycombe v St Paul’s. It is almost impossible to call, RGS have had a hard start to the season to read, getting soundly beaten by Wellington College before beating Eton College, and then suffering a fairly commanding loss to Millfield. St Paul’s meanwhile have beaten Marlborough but lost to Epsom, and in pre season they beat Rugby. It all suggests a cracking game on Saturday.
There are just two fixtures on Friday night, but they look mouth-watering. Both are Anglo-Welsh fixtures, and both are massive.
Millfield, fresh from that thumping win over RGS High Wycombe, host Coleg Sir Gar, in a battle between sides used to be right at the top end of the school game on either side of the border. The other games see Monmouth take on St Peter’s Gloucester, two sides who are also no strangers to the upper echelons of the school game, St Peter’s having once won the U18 Schools Cup, and Monmouth only a couple of seasons ago were one of the very best around.
Schools Rugby Fixtures – Saturday 23rd September (predictions in bold):
Abingdon v Eton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Brighton College v St John’s, Leatherhead (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bristol GS v Kingswood (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bromsgrove v Hampton (Daily Mail Trophy)
Epsom College v Cranleigh (Daily Mail Trophy)
Harrow v Dulwich College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Judd v Tonbridge
Stamford v Stowe (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Edward’s Oxford v Clifton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wellington College v Whitgift (Daily Mail Trophy)
Ashville College v Silcoates
Aylesbury GS v St Albans (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bedford Modern v QES, Barnet
Birkdale v Queen Ethelburga’s
Blundell’s v King’s College Taunton (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bradford GS v Stonyhurst College
Brentwood v Robert Clack
Bryanston v Downside
Calday Grange GS v Cheadle Hulme
Campion v Trinity (Daily Mail Trophy)
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v St Dunstan’s College
Christ College v Plymouth College
City of London Freemen’s v Reading Blue Coat
Cooper’s Coborn v St Olave’s GS
Cranbrook v Maidstone GS
Crossley Heath v Audenshaw
Dauntsey’s v KES Bath
Dundee HS v Dollar Academy
Durham v St Peter’s, York (Daily Mail Trophy)
Ellesmere College v Wilmslow HS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Emanuel v Tiffin (Daily Mail Trophy)
Exeter v QEH
Glyn v Isleworth & Syon
Giggleswick v Rydal Penrhos
Grammar School at Leeds v RGS Lancaster (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hereford Cathedral v Cokethorpe
Hymers College v Mount St Mary’s College
Kent College v Gravsend GS
KCS Wimbledon v Berkhamsted (Daily Mail Trophy)
KES Southampton v Clayesmore
King’s Canterbury v Eastbourne College (Daily Mail Trophy)
King’s Ely v Wisbech GS
King’s Macclesfield v QEGS Wakefield (Daily Mail Trophy)
King’s Rochester v Ashford
Kirkham GS v Sir Thomas Rich’s
Langley v The Leys
Langley Park v Dartford GS
Latymer Upper v UCS
London Oratory v Caterham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Leicester GS v King Henry VIII, Coventry
Loughborough v Bishop Vesey’s GS
Merchant Taylors’ v Manchester GS
Millfield 2nd XV v Bishop Wordsworth’s
Mill Hill v Haberdashers
Monkton Combe v King’s Bruton
Newcastle School for Boys v Sedbergh 2nd XV
Northampton School for Boys v Solihull (Daily Mail Trophy)
Old Swinford Hospital v Trent College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oundle v Haileybury (Daily Mail Trophy)
Pangbourne College v Bloxham
Pate’s GS v Malvern College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Portsmouth GS v Canford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Princethorpe College v Lawrence Sherriff
Ratcliffe College v Bablake
Ravens Wood v Eltham College
Reed’s v Hurstierpoint (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS Guildford v Wimbledon College (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS High Wycombe v St Paul’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Royal Hospital School v RGS Colchester
Seaford College v Lord Wandsworth College
Skinners’ v John Fisher (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Ambrose College v Kirkham GS 2nd XV
St Benedict’s v St George’s College, Weybridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Columba’s College v Wellingborough
St Joseph’s College v Norwich
Stockport GS v Wirral GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stewart’s Melville v RGS Newcastle
Strathallan v Balfron HS
Wellington School v West Buckland (U18 Vase)
Woodhouse Grove v Pocklington (Daily Mail Trophy)
Worksop College v Nottingham HS
Millfield v Coleg Sir Gar
Monmouth v St Peter’s, Gloucester