This weekend was the weekend of the close game in the world of schools rugby, it seemed.
An astonishing number of big games went right down to the wire and were decided by just a handful of points. In a week where schools rugby has had to come out swinging, it was a perfect example of how competitive and enjoyable schools rugby can be.
In the interests of trying to be balanced though, it should be noted that a couple of games at least had to be ended early due to injury, including Wellington College v Millfield and KCS Wimbledon v St George’s College, Weybridge. We wish the injured players, and those from other games, a speedy recovery.
That certainly should not detract from what was a truly wonderful weekend of school rugby though.
Cheltenham College’s stunning start to the season just continues to roll on. They travelled to Abingdon and secured a mightily impressive 41-11 victory. That makes it four from four and the prospect of stopping them looks tough.
Woodhouse Grove has had a brutally tough run of games to kick off the season, and they had another on Saturday with their trip up to Barnard Castle. That battle-hardening start paid off though as they secured an impressive 21-10 victory.
We said before the start of Dulwich College v Brighton College that the result of this one would probably tell us a lot about the respective positions of these two sides in the school's rugby pecking order this year. We certainly learned plenty, mainly that these are to very strong sides that are almost inseparable. Dulwich took the win by a slender margin, 29-26, but it was a game that could have gone either way. By claiming another big scalp though, Dulwich is proving once again that they are a threat to anyone.
Hampton v RGS High Wycombe is usually a cracking example of school rugby a really close game. This one was less close than others have been, but nonetheless, t said a lot about RGS’ abilities and their mental strength to come away from a tough place to play with a good 35-17 victory.
A fortnight ago Hurtpierpoint College beat Brighton College is a surprise result at the time. The following week Brighton beat St John’s Leatherhead. It was therefore a game of real interest when Hurstpierpoint hosted St John’s on Saturday. As expected it was a close game of rugby and a real spectacle, St John’s emerged victorious with a six point 28-21 margin of victory that will send them in to Tuesday’s Champions Trophy encounter with King’s Canterbury full of confidence.
The exciting and tense fixtures in our Focus On group of games just kept on coming on Saturday as Marlborough College and Sherborne played out an absolute thriller. The sides shared 59 points with the away side, Sherborne, just emerging victorious, 31-28. An incredible game of rugby.
To another equally close and tense, if lower scoring, game of rugby over in Rutland. Bedford headed to Oakham’s Doncaster Close with an unbeaten start to the season but has not played a huge amount of rugby. Having just been knocked out of the Champions Trophy, Oakham would have been reeling and that showed in their resolute defence and determination. Unfortunately for them, Bedford had the exact same attitude, winning 9-3 in a game that while perhaps one of the purists, was a real example of quality defence.
Along the road, Oakham’s great rivals Uppingham, welcomed Rugby School to their Leicester 1st XV field. Rugby had been beaten well by Oakham the previous week and a tight game was expected. So it proved, but with Rugby bouncing back in impressive fashion for a 28-17 win. After a tough start to the year, it was a much-needed result for Rugby.
Prior to the weekend, Wellington College v Millfield was one of the most keenly anticipated games, two schools rugby greats going head to head. What emerged was a game described by both camps as immensely physical, with a serious Wellington College injury in the first half, and a further serious Millfield injury in the second causing the game to be finished early. Millfield opened the scoring before Wellington bounced back for a 14-7 first-half lead, but in the second it was a different story. Wellington played some of their best rugby of the season, a season that has been stunningly impressive already. They scored three tries in fifteen minutes for a 31-7 lead before the game’s unfortunate premature ending.
So to our final Focus On the game, and what a cracker it was, Whitgift v Warwick. Ahead of the game it seemed likely to be a good one, Whitgift has competed hard against some of the best in the country already this year and Warwick are the reigning Schools Cup champions. It certainly did not let us down as the two sides laid down everything. They were virtually inseparable, but Whitgift just managed to squeak ahead with a 27-26 victory, a fine win and a really important one of them to close out, especially given that at one stage they were 19-0 down. A brilliant comeback.
Around the Grounds
There were some stunning games and performances all around the country on Saturday, perhaps none more so than from Sedbergh. They made their first big away trip of the season to Berkhamsted. Sedbergh was expected to win, but Berkhamsted is a decent side and would have certainly hoped to make life difficult. What emerged was a stunning performance from Sedbergh, claiming an eye-popping 73-9 win.
Blundell’s were almost as impressive against Truro with a mightily impressive 53-3 victory, while New Hall also impressed. They were 12-0 down to St Albans early on but bounced back for a superb 50-19 win.
Things were closer in the Midlands, where Princethorpe College claimed a narrow and exciting 29-27 win at Bedford Modern. City of London Freemen’s showed plenty of character for a 24-14 win over Shiplake College.
In Scotland there were some cracking games. Merchiston Castle were stunned by Strathallan, losing a close game 19-17, while Stewart’s Melville won an equally close one at Dollar Academy, 23-21.
Durham and Seaford College both put on a show, Durham beating Hymers 55-0 and Seaford wrapping up a 48-8 win at Emauel. Dean Close capped a fine week with a 38-12 win at KES Bath.
Colston’s are looking really impressive this year, they won 41-24 at King’s College Taunton. Sir Thomas Rich’s put in a strong performance for a 21-15 win at King’s Worcester. In a cracking encounter in the North East, Wilmslow HS saw off Lymm HS 20-12.
Stamford’s stunning start to the season continues as they put Oundle to the sword for a 42-12 victory, they seem in superb form this year. St Paul’s, meanwhile, bounced back from their Champions Trophy loss to Dulwich College with a 22-16 win at RGS Guildford.
The Kirkham Grammar School bus continues to rumble on as they saw off RGS Lancaster 55-5, it was far closer in Newcastle though, where RGS Newcastle beat Grammar School at Leeds 10-6. Ampleforth Collegewere on fire, beating Yarm 48-0.
Bromsgrove continue to quietly go about their business, they won a really tough encounter at Solihull 28-17. Unfortunately Friday’s game between KCS Wimbledon at St George’s Weybridge was abandoned due to injury before a valid scoreline could be recorded.
Schools Rugby Weekend Results – Saturday 30th September:
Abingdon 11-41 Cheltenham College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Barnard Castle 10-21 Woodhouse Grove (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dulwich College 29-26 Brighton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hampton 17-35 RGS High Wycombe (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hurstpierpoint College 21-28 St John’s, Leatherhead (Daily Mail Trophy)
Marlborough College 28-31 Sherborne (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oakham 3-9 Bedford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Uppingham 17-28 Rugby (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wellington College 31-7 Millfield (Daily Mail Trophy)
Whitgift 27-26 Warwick (Daily Mail Trophy)
Adams GS 5-29 KES Stratford
Bablake 41-22 Leicester GS
Bedford Modern 27-29 Princethorpe College
Berkhamsted 9-73 Sedbergh (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bishop’s Stortford HS 12-33 St Columba’s College
Blundell’s 53-3 Truro
Brentwood 10-57 Skinners’
Caterham 15-32 Reed’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Christ’s Hospital 24-12 St Benedict’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Churcher’s College 7-22 Portsmouth GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
City of London Freemen’s 24-14 Shiplake College
Colfe’s 18-29 Sutton Valence
Denstone College 32-14 King’s Macclesfield (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dollar Academy 21-23 Stewart’s Melville
Durham 55-0 Hymers College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Eltham College 22-7 Sevenoaks
Emanuel 8-48 Seaford College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Exeter 12-24 Plymouth College
Glasgow Academy 43-14 Glasgow HS
Hitchin 12-20 UCS
Judd 45-24 Cooper’s Coborn
KES Bath 12-38 Dean Close
King Henry VIII, Coventry 45-7 Wrekin College
King’s College, Taunton 24-41 Colston’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
King’s Worcester 15-21 Sir Thomas Rich’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Latymer Upper 5-31 QES Barnet
Lymm HS 12-20 Wilmslow HS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Manchester GS 35-0 Bolton
Merchant Taylors’ 19-5 Magdalen College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Merchiston Castle 17-19 Strathallan
Monmouth 31-24 Bristol GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Northampton School for Boys 37-5 St Joseph’s College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Norwich 30-18 RGS Colchester
Nottingham HS 6-24 Bradford GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oratory 22-0 KES Southampton
Oundle 12-42 Stamford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Pate’s GS 16-12 The Crypt
QEGS Wakefield 31-12 Loughborough (Daily Mail Trophy)
QEH 10-28 Taunton
Queen’s College, Taunton 52-0 West Buckland
Queen Ethelburga’s 20-17 Welbeck
Ravens Wood 13-27 Langley Park
Reading Blue Coat 28-7 Aylesbury GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS Guildford 16-22 St Paul’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS Lancaster 5-55 Kirkham GS
RGS Newcastle 10-6 Grammar School at Leeds (Daily Mail Trophy)
Royal Hospital School 12-19 Campion
Sandbach 43-19 Cheadle Hulme
Sir Joseph Williamson’s 36-20 Chislehurst & Sidcup GS
Solihull 17-28 Bromsgrove (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Albans 19-50 New Hall
St Ambrose College 3-12 Stockport GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Tiffin 30-8 Haberdashers’
Wallington CGS 10-27 Dartford GS
Windsor Boys 12-41 Mill Hill
Worth 14-5 Reigate GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Yarm 0-48 Ampleforth College (Daily Mail Trophy)
KCS Wimbledon v St George’s College, Weybridge – Abandoned
Still to Come:
Ashville College v Birkdale
Bell Baxter v Fettes College
Hereford Cathedral v St Edward’s, Cheltenham
KES Birmingham v Cokethorpe (Daily Mail Trophy)
London Oratory v St George’s, Harpenden
Mount St Mary’s College v Ratcliffe College
Trinity v Gunnersbury