The second round of the U18 Schools Cup takes place this week, and after a thrilling first round, there is plenty to get our teeth stuck into.
With the Vase now being effectively a separate tournament, the Cup runs effectively a round light compared to previous years, meaning that we are already at a very meaningful point of the tournament – each section is effectively playing regional quarter-final fixtures already.
What does that mean in practical terms? It means big games, and now that we are beyond the first round there is no safety net of the Plate to fall into, this is genuine knockout rugby now.
King’s Macclesfield v Calday Grange – Wednesday
Manchester GS v Wilmslow HS – Wednesday
Merchant Taylors’ v Sir John Dean’s – Wednesday
Stockport GS v Stonyhurst College – Wednesday
Altrincham Grammar and Sir John Deane’s drew 37-37 in the opening round, with Sir John Deane’s progressing through to face Merchant Taylors’. What is for sure is that the winner of that eventual game against Merchant Taylors’ will meet the winner of King’s Macclesfield v Calday Grange Grammar, a game that ought to be a cracker. On the bottom half of the draw, there is real strength, Wilmslow High School often reach the latter stages but face a tough trip to the in-form Manchester Grammar, while Stockport Grammar host the always tricky Stonyhurst College, one time teachers of former England full-back Iain Balshaw.
Barnard Castle v Carmel College – Wednesday
Hymers College v St Peter’s York – Wednesday
QEGS Wakefield v Hartlepool 6th form College – Wednesday
RGS Newcastle v Durham – Wednesday
This is a real brute of a section with some seriously tough fixtures, RGS Newcastle v Durham perhaps being right at the top. The two have already met this season, with RGS running out winners, but expect an almighty battle. The winner of that will play the winner of Barnard Castle, the Cup legends, against Carmel College. All bar Carmel College have reached the Cup final before. Another to have reached the final, several times, is QEGS Wakefield. They host Hartlepool 6th form College and the winner will face either Hymers College or St Peter’s York, who is also in red-hot form.
Bloxham v Northampton School for Boys – Wednesday
Norwich v St Joseph’s College – Tuesday
Oundle v Royal Hospital School – Tuesday
Stamford has already secured passage to the third round courtesy of a second bye after their first-round win over Uppingham. Their third-round opponents will either be Oundle or Royal Hospital School and having already beaten Oundle, Stamford must be feeling good. The top half sees Norwich host St Joseph’s College, St Jo’s have traditionally tried to rest players ahead of their Festival, but to do so against Norwich would be a huge risk. If they emerge from that a tie against either the in-form Bloxham or a Northampton School for Boys side that beat them last weekend awaits. Another tough section.
Sandbach v Warwick – Wednesday
Solihull v Rugby – Wednesday
Half of the Round 3 sides are already known in this section with Newcastle Under Lyme and KES Five Ways both progressing. Solihull thought they were joining them but the late entry of Rugby School now means that they have a tough fixture to get through before any chance of thinking about KES Five Ways. Awaiting Newcastle Under Lyme will either be Sandbach or last year’s champions, Warwick, who put 50 points on their opponents in the first round and are looking good.
London & South East A
Campion v Felsted – Wednesday
Emanuel v Wimbledon College – Wednesday
Hampton v Tiffin – Wednesday
KCS Wimbledon v Whitgift – Wednesday
A full fixture list in London & South East A, and a belter of a fixture list too. Former semi-finalists, Hampton, host Tiffin after a stunning first-round win. Below them Emanuel host Wimbledon College after pulling off a cracking first round result by beating former champions St Benedict’s. Last year’s semi-finalists, Felsted, are looking good again but face a huge task in travelling to the unbeaten Campion, a side that takes real pride in giant-killing. The winner of that one faces a game against either the 2010 and 2011 champions, and one of the best sides around this year, Whitgift, or their hosts, KCS Wimbledon.
London & South East B
George Abbot v John Fisher – Wednesday
Maidstone Grammar v Judd – TBC
Skinners’ v Eltham College – Wednesday
Worthing College v Churcher’s College – Wednesday
Judd reached last year’s quarterfinals and have started off in fine fashion this year, beating Tonbridge in a Saturday fixture and impressing in their first-round game in this competition. They face an away game at Maidstone Grammar, who is full of confidence after a 59-0 opening round win. Next up would then be a fixture against either local rivals Skinners’, or the fast-rising Eltham College. In the top half George Abbot face a daunting prospect in the form of John Fisher, while in the same half Worthing College, who scored 59 points in their opener, host Churcher’s College.
South West A
Abingdon v Bishop Wordsworth’s – Tuesday
RGS High Wycombe v Sir Thomas Rich’s – Wednesday
Another section in which half of the third round sides are already confirmed, with Portsmouth Grammar and Dean Close, both through with second-round Byes after absolutely barnstorming first round performances. The two remaining fixtures are about as heavyweight as anything in this entire second round. Playing for the chance to face Portsmouth are Abingdon, as a side capable of challenging almost anyone, and Bishop Wordsworth’s, who reached last year’s final with a side made up of mainly L6th pupils. Playing to face Dean Close is RGS High Wycombe, one of the most successful sides in this proud competition’s 30-year history, or Sir Thomas Rich’s, whose form over the last few year’s earned them a first-round bye. What a pair of games.
South West B
Exeter v King’s College, Taunton – Wednesday
Truro v Ivybridge CC – Wednesday
South West B has one third round fixture already confirmed as Canford, who are among this year’s dark horses but are yet to play a game due to a walkover and a bye, hosting Colston’s, the most successful side in the tournament’s history, who enjoyed a second-round bye after a nail-biting 1-point win in their opener against Downside. The top half of the draw is much fuller, with Truro, fresh from a thumping first-round win, facing Exeter Chiefs affiliates, Ivybridge Community College, and Exeter School, who had a first-round walkover, hosting King’s College Taunton.