As we tick into the second month of the school's rugby season, everyone has a fair idea of where one another stands, making the fixtures even more exciting as the big head to heads become even more identifiable.
There is also the matter now of 1st XVs balancing their Saturday and Cup commitments as the Champions Trophy, Schools Cup, and Schools Vase start to become ever more challenging.
There are some huge fixtures coming up this weekend, and indeed a few that could reflect some of those future Cup ties, assuming sides can get past some very strong opponents in the meantime, such as St Peter’s York v QEGS Wakefield, two sides fighting near the top end of the Daily Mail Trophy.
Bedford v Dulwich College
This could be a real classic, Dulwich is playing some fantastic stuff this year, and Bedford is coming off some superb wins, but they have not been at their convincing best of the last couple of years. Their defence has been absolutely resolute though, and against a fearsome looking Dulwich College backline, that could be key. Bedford have won this fixture the last couple of times the two have met, but expect this one to be much closer indeed. Home advantage could aid Bedford, but Dulwich probably arrive the more battle-hardened. This could easily be one of the games of the weekend.
Prediction: Dulwich College
Blundell’s v Bryanston
Two sides that have made it through to the last 16 stage of the Champions Trophy and will be looking for a significant victory ahead of next week’s fixtures. A few years ago Bryanston would have expected to come away with a handsome victory in this one, but not so now. Over the last few years Blundell’s have been the stronger, advancing to the semi final and quarter final stages of the Champions Trophy over the last two seasons. Both have some important fixtures under their belts already though this season, so have a decent amount of belief heading into this, Blundell’s are favourites but expect Bryanston to put up a fight.
Denstone College v Kirkham Grammar School
Kirkham launch into the first of four games in seventeen days on Saturday when they make the trip to Denstone College. So far they are unbeaten and looking just as formidable as over the last few years, however in an early season triangular they did slip up to Sherborne, so that could be seen as an opening for Denstone College, who are in a strong run of form themselves. They may have lost to Oakham on the opening weekend, but since then they are unbeaten and looking good. Kirkham are a tough nut to crack though, and their 1st XV is certainly putting in the miles around the country in a way that they have not done before.
Eton College v Epsom College
Ever since an opening day defeat to RGS High Wycombe, Eton College have been in a strong vein of form, beating Radley, Abingdon, and Stowe. Historically though, this would be the toughest game of the lot, a fixture against an Epsom side that reached the 2015 Champions Trophy final and last year’s semi finals. Life has been a little tough this year for Epsom though, with two defeats from three. However those two defeats have come against two sides that are playing some seriously good rugby, Dulwich College and Cranleigh. With that in mind, expect Epsom to come out all guns blazing against Eton on Saturday.
Prediction: Epsom College
Hampton v Canford
Canford started the season with a real bang, beating Millfield 18-5. They have only played once since though, beating Portsmouth Grammar, meaning that little is still known about them. What is known is that beating Millfield was no fluke, they had a brilliant side last year, packed with young players, and clearly they put together a performance that fulfilled that promise. Hampton will be another tough test though, particularly away from home, and Canford will need to be at their best to maintain the excitement generated so far. Hampton have had an up and down start, losing three and winning two, so will view Saturday as a chance to make sure that they start getting some momentum ahead of half term.
Harrow v St Paul’s
This is a real schoolboy classic between to big names in the school world. Big spending Harrow will head in as favourites, with two impressive wins to their name this season having beaten Dulwich College and Schools Cup champions Warwick. It is that Dulwich College result that gives the biggest indication of which way this will likely swing, Harrow were 22-10 winners against them, while St Paul’s lost 43-12. Do not write St Paul’s off completely though, they have some hugely impressive wins this season, having beaten Marlborough College, RGS High Wycombe, and RGS Guildford in reasonable comfort and are certainly the more battle hardened of the two. Harrow are arguably one of the very best in the country though, it seems.
Kingswood v Bishop Wordsworth’s
Bishop Wordsworth’s reached last year’s U18 Schools Cup final with a team packed full of L6th years pupils, but their start to this season, while good, has been somewhat difficult to read. They lost narrowly to Sherborne before beating Millfield’s 2nd XV and having a very strong first round Cup win (rumour has it they may have reached a century), which makes it hard to say exactly where they stand, though the suspicion must be that they are in good health. Kingswood, by contrast, a very definitely in good nick. They are unbeaten this season with four from four, including a good Champions Trophy win against Marlborough College this weekend. They will really take the fight to Bishop Wordsworth’s, especially at home, so expect a really strong game of rugby in the South West.
Prediction: Bishop Wordsworth’s
RGS High Wycombe v Berkhamsted
Three wins and three losses for RGS suggest some inconsistencies on their part but overall a good team. What is maybe most relevant though is that they are two from two in their last couple of games, suggesting that they are in good form. Berkhamsted are going to be an interesting opponent, they had three good wins in a row up until last week but were then given a bit of a mauling by Sedbergh. How they respond to that will probably be key to this game, if they are determined to right the wrongs of that day and accept that Sedbergh will do that to many more this year, then they have then potential to put in a huge performance, it their heads are down, RGS is a tricky place to visit and they could take advantage.
Prediction: RGS High Wycombe
St Peter’s York v QEGS Wakefield
This could be arguably the game of the weekend. Both are unbeaten, St Peter’s with four from four, QEGS with three from three, both have strong records in recent years, St Peter’s with two top 5 finishes in the Daily Mail Trophy in a row, QEGS reaching last year’s Schools Cup quarter finals and losing by just two points to the eventual champions, Warwick. Between them they have faced Woodhouse Grove three times this years, St Peter’s winning 24-14 and 27-20, and QEGS winning 33-20. Those results suggest that QEGS may just hold the upper hand, but by a mere handful of points, so expect a really tight game that honestly could go either way.
Prediction: QEGS Wakefield
Warwick v Wellington College
Another absolute monster of a game, the Schools Cup champions against the Daily Mail Trophy champions, two of the strongest schools rugby programmes in the country going head to head. Wellington College are five from five so far this season, including passing fifty against both RGS High Wycombe and Tonbridge, they are in truly terrifying form. Warwick have won two and lost two, with narrow defeats to Whitgift and Harrow. That Whitgift defeat maybe gives the biggest pointers ahead of this game, for Whitgift also gave Wellington College their toughest assignment of the season. Whitgift beat Wariwck 27-26 and lost just 24-20 to Wellington, which suggest that Wellington College are the narrow favourites here, but that it will be a very tight game indeed.
Prediction: Wellington College
As if those ten mouth-watering fixtures were not enough, the exciting rugby extends far and wide this weekend with a countless number of fixtures worth paying really close attention to.
One that particularly stands out as a game that really hangs in the balance is Abingdon v Sherborne, two sides that a well matched and will likely be trying to play some attractive, expansive rugby.
There will be plenty of excitement over in east London as the unbeaten Campion, who is in seriously good nick, take on New Zealand tourists, Palmerston North Boys High School. It is going to be by far the toughest challenge of the season to date for Campion though, Palmerston beat Millfield 40-26 in midweek.
Moving to the South West there is a real schoolboy classic as Clifton College play hosts to Marlborough College, while high flying Dean Close welcome an in-form Bloxham to town.
Durham is the latest side charged with the task of dealing with an utterly rampant Sedbergh side, right now it seems as though anyone simply keeping the score down is doing a good job. Over in Yorkshire Woodhouse Grove v RGS Newcastle promises to be an absolutely fascinating encounter. Pocklington v Barnard Castle ought also to keep a fair few pulses racing.
There ought to be a cracking contest in Hertfordshire are Haileybury and St Albans repeat last year’s County Cup final.
Cranleigh’s flying start to the season faces a test as they travel to a Hurstpierpoint College side still buoyed by the defeat of Brighton College. Having beaten Brighton themselves though, Cranleigh will surely head in full of confidence of maintaining their fantastic start.
There are a couple of cracking derby games out in Reading as Reading Blue Coat host Reading School, and The Oratory host the London Oratory, it should be a hotbed of bragging right come the close of play.
Tonbridge will be desperate to get things back on track when they travel to Radley College, it will not be easy though, Radley has been playing some nice stuff.
One side that has been playing some truly outstanding rugby are the unbeaten Cheltenham College. They have been outstanding so far, and travel to Rugby School full of confidence. Having picked up a good win at Uppingham last weekend and appointed a new Director of Rugby though, expect Rugby to be more than up for the challenge on Saturday.
Rugby’s opponents last week, Uppingham, face a tough trip to local rivals Stamford, who are enjoying an absolutely superb season so far. Among their victims have been both Oundle and Stowe, who also meet on Saturday in a game that is usually excellent value.
There is also some U18 Schools Vase action on Saturday as Sutton Valence host St Lawrence College in London & South East A. It is the first Round 3 tie of the competition, and the winner will face either Dartford Grammar School or Sevenoaks in Round 4, which is effectively the regional semi final.
There are a decent number of fixtures on Friday too, beginning in the afternoon as Hayes welcome Harlequins, not the famous South West Londoners, but Harlequins club of Pretoria, South Africa.
There are then four fixtures under the lights on Friday, as Caterham host Colfe’s, while Shiplake Collegemake the trip to Halliford, and King’s Rochester welcome St Dunstan’s.
Perhaps the game of the day though will be in Kent, where Judd will host Skinners’.
Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures (predictions in bold):
Bedford v Dulwich College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Blundell’s v Bryanston (Daily Mail Trophy)
Denstone College v Kirkham Grammar School
Eton College v Epsom College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hampton v Canford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Harrow v St Paul’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Kingswood v Bishop Wordsworth’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS High Wycombe v Berkhamsted (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Peter’s, York v QEGS Wakefield (Daily Mail Trophy)
Warwick v Wellington College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Abingdon v Sherborne (Daily Mail Trophy)
Ampleforth College v Hymers College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bedford Modern v Hitchin Boys’
Bishop Stortford College v Mill Hill
Bishop Vesey’s GS v KES Stratford
Bradford GS v Birkdale
Brentwood v Richard Hale
Brighton College v Trinity (Daily Mail Trophy)
Bristol GS v King’s College, Taunton (Daily Mail Trophy)
Campion v Palmerston North BHS, New Zealand
Cardinal Vaughan v Wisbech GS
Christ’s Hospital v Sevenoaks
Churcher’s College v Lord Wandsworth College
Clayesmore v Exeter School
Clifton College v Marlborough College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Colston’s v Taunton
Cooper’s Coborn v QES, Barnet
Dame Allan’s v Yarm (Daily Mail Trophy)
Dartford GS v New Hall
Dauntsey’s v KES Southampton
Dean Close v Bloxham (Daily Mail Trophy)
Durham v Sedbergh (Daily Mail Trophy)
Edinburgh Academy v Kelvinside Academy
Emanuel v Reigate GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Felsted v Eltham College
Fettes College v Strathallan
Grammar School at Leeds v St Ambrose College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Gresham’s v Wymondham College
Gunnersbury v Tiffin
Haileybury v St Albans (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hereford Cathedral School v Christ College
Hurstpierpoint College v Cranleigh (Daily Mail Trophy)
KCS Wimbledon v Northampton School for Boys (Daily Mail Trophy)
KES Birmingham v Malvern College (Daily Mail Trophy)
King’s Bruton v Downside
King’s Canterbury v Reed’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
King Henry VIII, Coventry v Ellesmere College
Langley Park v Wallington CGS
Leicester GS v Nottingham HS
Liverpool College v Lymm HS
Llandaff Cathedral v Rendcomb College
Loretto v Dundee HS
Loughborough GS v King’s Worcester (Daily Mail Trophy)
Magdalen College v St Edward’s, Oxford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Merchant Taylors’ v UCS
Monkton Combe v Prior Park College
Mount St Mary’s College v Ashville College
Old Swinford Hospital v Adams GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oratory v London Oratory (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oundle v Stowe (Daily Mail Trophy)
Pocklington v Barnard Castle (Daily Mail Trophy)
Portsmouth GS v Pangbourne College
Princethorpe College v Bablake
Radley College v Tonbridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
Reading Blue Coat v Reading School (Schools Vase)
RGS Colchester v Bishop’s Stortford HS
RGS Worcester v Solihull (Daily Mail Trophy)
Robert Gordon’s College v Merchiston Castle
Rugby v Cheltenham College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Rydal Penrhos v AKS Arnold
Seaford College v Eastbourne College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sir Thomas Rich’s v Monmouth (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stamford v Uppingham (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Anselm’s v Manchester GS
St Benedict’s v Worth (Daily Mail Trophy)
St George’s College, Weybridge v Wimbledon College (Daily Mail Trophy)
St John’s, Leatherhead v RGS Guildford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stewart’s Melville v Glasgow Academy
Stockport GS v Cheadle Hulme
Sutton Valence v St Lawrence College (Schools Vase)
Trent College v Worksop College
Warminster v Bristol Cathedral School
Wellingborough v King’s Ely
Wilmslow HS v Wirral GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Windsor Boys v Latymer Upper
Woodhouse Grove v RGS Newcastle (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wycliffe College v King’s Gloucester
Caterham v Colfe’s
Halliford v Shiplake College
Hayes v Harlequins, Pretoria (South Africa)
Judd v Skinners’
King’s Rochester v St Dunstan’s