The Champions Trophy second round begins on Tuesday 10th October, and six of the biggest names in the competition are in action for the first time.
After first-round byes, the three former champions, Millfield, Bedford, and Tonbridge, all enter the fray for the first time, along with 2015 finalists Epsom College, the prestigious Eton College, and arguably the top rugby school in the country, Wellington College, who are entering their first knockout U18 competition since 2009.
Bedford v Kingswood (Tuesday 14.30)
2015 champions and 2016 finalists, Bedford, will kick the round off on Tuesday when they host Kingswood. Bedford has started the season well, with some excellent wins, but probably without the flair that we have seen over the last few years, but was particularly impressive v Dulwich on Saturday. They host a Kingswood side that is positively bubbling with confidence, particularly are their 22-3 win at Marlborough College in the first round. Bedford will start as favourites, with a record in this tournament like this, how could they not, but Kingswood will be more than up for the challenge.
Berkhamsted v Dulwich College (Tuesday 17th, 14.30)
This will likely be the last tie of the round, barring any unexpected delays elsewhere. Berkhamsted has had a decent start to the year, though their rough treatment at the hands of Sedbergh last week will have been hard to get over. Dulwich College is playing some stunning rugby this year, perhaps nowhere more so than in their 43-12 defeat of St Paul’s in the opening round, but defeat on Saturday will have been a blow. Berkhamsted enjoyed a strong opening round of their own though, beating Radley College 32-17 away from home. This should be a cracking Cup game, with both sides going all out.
Bryanston v Eton College (Wednesday, KO TBA)
Eton College was one of the lucky ones to receive a first-round bye, but they have been impressing on the field elsewhere this season. With some excellent results under their belt, they will travel to Bryanston full of confidence, although Saturday’s narrow loss v Epsom will have hurt. Bryanston may not be the force they once were, but they are playing some good stuff this year and were involved in arguably the tie of the round in round 1 when they beat a good Bristol Grammar side 47-37. In front of their home fans again, and against the most well-known school in the country, they will want to put on a show.
Epsom College v Blundell’s (Tuesday, 14.30)
It is hard to believe that for the third year in a row Epsom College will host Blundell’s in the Champions Trophy. The only surprise is that it is not later in the tournament given previous quarter and semi-final clashes. Blundell’s must be sick of their trip along the M4, twice before they have made the journey, twice before they have been involved in an absolute thriller, twice before they have lost. Can they make it third time lucky? Possibly, Blundell’s are off to arguably a better start than Epsom this year and enjoyed a good 18-7 win at Sherborne last round, another side that loves this competition, but Epsom College showed their mental strength to secure a 12-10 win against Eton on Saturday. Certainly, in terms of history, this is the tie of the round.
Grammar School at Leeds v Wellington College (Thursday, 13.30)
Fascinating tie. On paper Wellington College are firm favourites Grammar School at Leeds were on top form for a 38-24 win over Oakham, last year’s semi-finalists, in the previous round, however, the recently lost to RGS Newcastle, who were given a bit of a lesson by Sedbergh, aside probably on a par with Wellington. Do not be completely blinkered by all of that though, this is a potentially tricky tie for Wellington. A long trip from Bracknell to Leeds is a baptism of fire in this competition, and they will face a side determined to make a spot of history. Throw into that a few absentee players due to import rules and the pressure of a first-ever Champions Trophy tie, this is no done deal but it is a mammoth task for Grammar School at Leeds. Could Wellington win the competition at the first attempt?
RGS Guildford v Bromsgrove (Wednesday, 14.30)
Two sides that enjoyed excellent first-round wins, RGS beating Caterham 38-0, and Bromsgrove seeing off Monmouth 34-5. This is Bromsgrove’s first year in the competition, transferring from the Schools Cup, where they won back to back titles in 2015 and 2016. They will be keen to have a really good crack at this, and will certainly fancy their chances on Wednesday. RGS a no easy nut to crack at home though, as they showed in a truly dominant performance against Caterham in the opening round. Expect Bromsgrove to come out firing though, they will be desperate to make a big mark in their first year.
St John’s, Leatherhead v Tonbridge (Tuesday, 15.30)
St John’s were the last side to reach the last 16 after their first-round game was delayed by a week. What a treat it turned out to be though as they turned in the performance of the round to beat King’s Canterbury by a stunning 61-14 margin. Their reward? A home tie against the reigning Champions, Tonbridge. It is a hellish assignment, but one that St John’s have some historical reasons to draw optimism from, they beat Tonbridge at the same stage two years ago. Tonbridge meanwhile has had a tricky old start to the season, but after an opening-round bye, you fancy that they will be going all out in this one. As reigning champions, they will be bursting with pride and passion and a determination to do themselves, the jersey, and last year’s side proud.
Stowe v Millfield (Wednesday, 14.00) Millfield Was invited to attend the Boishaai 150th Birthday Festival.
Another huge Champions Trophy tie. Stowe’s reward for an impressive 47-17 opening round win against St Albans is a fiendish game at home to the 2014 champions, Millfield. Both sides have endured up and down starts to the season, with some strong wins alongside some defeats that they would probably not have been anticipating. What is for sure is that both sides have an outstanding rugby history, indeed Millfield is arguably the most famous rugby school in the country, and are unquestionably right up there with there in the top ten or so at the moment. Both sides will fancy that if they can get a win, they could go very far.
The fact that this is just a 32-team tournament means that this tournament moves on at a real pace, with the teams all playing over the course of this round for their quarter-final places. There will be a decent wait until then due to half term, with the quarterfinals scheduled to take place on the week of the 6th November, with a two-week break ahead of the semi-finals, with the final taking place on Wednesday 6th December at Allianz Park.
Champions Trophy Round 2 Fixtures:
Bedford v Kingswood
Berkhamsted v Dulwich College
Bryanston v Eton College
Epsom College v Blundell’s
Grammar School at Leeds v Wellington College
RGS Guildford v Bromsgrove
St John’s Leatherhead v Tonbridge
Stowe v Millfield
Round 2 – w/c 9th October
Quarter Finals – w/c 6th November
Semi-Finals – w/c 20th November
Final – Wednesday 6th December