As we edge towards half term, the big weekend fixtures keep on coming in on the school's rugby circuit.
After a week of intense Champions Trophy, Schools Cup, Plate, Vase, and Bowl action, the teams return to the usual Saturday block fixtures this weekend.
As always though after a midweek like the one just gone, there is an air of unpredictability for sides heading into the weekend, how will teams react following wins or losses in midweek, how fresh are the players, have injuries been picked up?
Canford v Blundells
This game ought to be a fantastic game of rugby, Canford has been in superb form with a victory over Hampton last weekend and a highlight win against Millfield. In Blundell’s they face one of the form sides around though. Blundell’s were in unbelievably good form in midweek to knock one time finalists, Epsom College, out of the Champions Trophy, and in some style, 31-7. They have been pulling up trees wherever they have gone so far this season and could well prove to be Canford’s toughest test to date. It should be fascinating.
Cheltenham College v St Edward’s Oxford
Cheltenham are perhaps one of the most in form teams in the country. They have won five out of five, have not conceded more than two tries in a single game, and a scoring plenty of points themselves. Victory on Saturday will seal an unbeaten half term, and while next half is tougher, should they win on Saturday they will surely be eyeing the possibility of stretching it through the season. Teddies will not roll over though, they have beaten some big names including Clifton College and Rugby, and have only lost to Haileybury. Cheltenham might start as favourites, but Teddies will make them work hard for it, they have kept a clean sheet in half of their games this year, so any slip ups and Teddies will pounce.
Prediction: Cheltenham College
Clifton College v Bristol Grammar School
A cracking local derby fixture this one, and with the potential to be a good game. Clifton are playing some really good stuff this year, winning four of their five games and that loss was by just three points. Bristol Grammar on the other hand are not quite punching with the same force that they were last season, losing four of their six games so far. However they will still arrive at this game absolutely brimming with confidence after they secured a quite brilliant 64-0 win over King’s College Taunton in their last fixture.
Prediction: Clifton College
Epsom College v Harrow
Epsom College got a really important win in a close game against Eton College last weekend, but that work was undone slightly when knocked out of the Champions Trophy in midweek by Blundell’s. Injuries are plaguing them, and a fixture against high flying Harrow is not what you would necessarily ask for in those circumstances. Nevertheless, Epsom are always hard to crack and will test Harrow across the park. Harrow are used to being tested though, they are unbeaten this season and have some big scalps in the likes of Warwick and Dulwich, and they are coming off the back of a thumping win against St Paul’s.
Haileybury v Stamford
Always a popular fixture, this should prove to be an excellent game of rugby. Haileybury are absolutely hurtling in off the back of two stunning wins 68-5 against Oundle and 72-5 against St Albans. Stamford will be on another level though, and arrive off a couple of pretty handy wins themselves, 42-7 over Uppingham and 42-12 at Oundle. That difference in the Oundle scorelines perhaps gives an indication as to where the favourites tag might lie, but Stamford head into this unbeaten. It is going to be close, and it seems likely to be a cracking game of rugby alongside that.
RGS High Wycombe v Brighton College
Two sides that will both be heading to the St Joseph’s Festival next week and who will both, as they always do, have title ambitions there. This will therefore be a great form indicator ahead of that, but much more than that it is a huge game in its own right as both sides seek to get a few headline wins under their belts to make sure their seasons have a healthy feel about them heading in towards half term. Both sides have lost more than they have won this season, just, but both have incredibly touch fixture lists. Brighton maybe arrive with more confidence though, having beaten Trinity handsomely last time out, while RGS lost a tight one to Berkhamsted.
Prediction: Brighton College
Sedbergh v Barnard Castle
A signature schools rugby fixture between two of the most famous names in schoolboy rugby. Between them they could probably name an entire England side of household names that have passed through their schools. In recent times Sedbergh have held the upper hand, and judging by their sublime form so far this season, they do so again. Week after week they seem to put sides to the sword, and even last week with 14 men for most of the game against Durham they came away with a healthy win. Barnard Castle arrive with back to back defeats, but pride will count for plenty in such an historic fixture, so expect a big performance.
Sherborne v Bryanston
This is a really interesting fixture, and three or four years ago it would likely have been seen as one of the games of the season. It may not be that right now, but do not be fooled, this is still a huge game of rugby, and one with the potential to be a fantastic game. Sherborne are in slightly better form so far, but while Bryanston have lost more than they have won, those defeats have been in tight games. Both sides have shown they score points, too, so this could have the potential to be a bit of a high scoring thriller.
Stowe v Bromsgrove
This should be another great game of rugby. Both sides are coming off really good Champions Trophy wins in midweek, Bromsgrove beating RGS Guildford 37-22, with Ollie Lawrence on fire, while Stowe, despite three defeats on the bounce, claimed a headline 19-12 win over former Champions Millfield. Overall on form you would think that Bromsgrove have the edge, only reigning Schools Cup champions Warwick have beaten them, but at home and with a morale boosting victory under their belt, Stowe will be a really tough outfit to get past.
Wellington College v Bedford
Another game between two sides that have been competing right at the very top end for years. Bedford made everyone sit up and take notice with a really impressive performance against Dulwich last weekend, only to then be knocked out of the Champions Trophy in midweek against a hugely spirited Kingswood side. Wellington College meanwhile are looking utterly formidable, unbeaten this season and with some truly outstanding scorelines too. They have an injury crisis though, with at least five frontline players out, and probably more. Bedford have the capacity to take advantage of that, though they have injuries of their own, but can they bounce back quickly enough from midweek? Perhaps more realistically, can anyone break down this Wellington College machine before half term?
Prediction: Wellington College
Campion return to action on Saturday following their first defeat of the season in midweek against Felsted. They host St George’s College Weybridge, who will surely be fully prepared for a strong Campion backlash given their performances prior to that loss.
Another high flying side that sometimes go a little under the radar are Downside, they are having a superb season and can expect a strong crowd at home to King’s College Taunton.
There is a massive game in the northeast as Durham host Ampleforth College. Both are coming off the back of defeats, but two more different defeats there could not be. Durham gave Sedbergh what was, in Sedbergh’s own words, their toughest test of the season last weekend, while in midweek Ampleforth found themselves knocked out of the Vase by Ripon Grammar. These are two huge names in school rugby, and a classic match would be fitting of the occasion.
Another pair of huge names is Eton College and Dulwich College. Both sides experienced defeat last weekend, Eton narrowly at the hands of Epsom College, and Dulwich against a supremely well performing Bedford side. So far this season Eton have the better record, but the sense is that Dulwich might have been playing the better rugby, that question will be settled come Saturday afternoon though.
Judd v RGS Guildford is another fixture that really catches the eye. Both have been playing some really good stuff this season. Judd has claimed some headline scalps, including Tonbridge, and though RGS maybe have not got that same level of scalp to their name, they have been playing some equally good stuff. Saturday's game should be an exciting and expansive game between two sides really having a good crack at things this season.
Colston’s are having their best season in many a year. After the glory years of the nineties and early 2000s, Colston’s have not quite been the same force, but this year they are putting together a really fine set of results. They are unbeaten so far, including a narrow Cup win over Downside, the same Downside described above as being high flying. They travel this week to KES Bath a side capable of bursting the bubble at their best, but they will need to be at their best to stop this particular Colston’s crop.
Berkhamsted v Felsted ought to be a great game of rugby. Felsted is on fire at the moment, unbeaten, including a strong win over Campion in the Cup in midweek, a side that had beaten everyone before them, including Palmerston North from New Zealand. Berkhamsted is a strong side though and will cause problems. They may have been heavily defeated by Sedbergh, but the way they bounced back to beat RGS High Wycombe last week showed magnificent ability both mentally and physically, and was a true mark of their class, earning them a spot in our Top 5 School Teams of the Weekend.
Stockport Grammar School v Lymm High School is always a good fixture to keep an eye on, two schools that regularly seem to punch above their weight, so to Eastbourne College v Reed’s in the South East.
One fixture that intrigues us Whitgift v Sutton Valence. Whitgift is performing well this season and is undoubtedly favourites, however Sutton Valence are performing really well this season, albeit against a lower standard on average than Whitgift. How they fare against a top side like Whitgift will be really interesting.
There is a big game in the North B section of the Schools Bowl on Friday as Emmanuel College host Gateshead College.
In the Daily Mail Trophy there are a couple of crackers as Monmouth make the trip to Malvern College and St John’s Leatherhead, just three days after their superb Champions Trophy win v Tonbridge, host Trinity.
Outside of those competitions Queen Ethelburga’s, who were in action at Allianz Park on Sunday, host Ermysted’s Grammar.
The biggest game on Friday though is surely Abingdon’s trip up to one of the strongest 1st XVs in the country, Kirkham Grammar School. It will be a tough trip, but it will also be one of Kirkham’s toughest to date, so it should make for a top game of rugby.
Images via: Richard Papworth, Simon Hipwell, Fifteen Rugby Archives.
Schools Rugby Weekend Fixtures – Saturday 14th October (predictions in bold):
Canford v Blundell’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Cheltenham College v St Edward’s, Oxford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Clifton College v Bristol GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Epsom College v Harrow (Daily Mail Trophy)
Haileybury v Stamford (Daily Mail Trophy)
RGS High Wycombe v Brighton College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sedbergh v Barnard Castle (Daily Mail Trophy)
Sherborne v Bryanston (Daily Mail Trophy)
Stowe v Bromsgrove (Daily Mail Trophy)
Wellington College v Bedford (Daily Mail Trophy)
Adams GS v Ellesmere College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Altrincham GS v St Ambrose College (Schools Vase)
Berkhamsted v Felsted
Bloxham v Pangbourne College
Campion v St George’s College, Weybridge (Daily Mail Trophy)
Cheadle Hulme v Liverpool College
Chislehurst & Sidcup GS v Whitgift 2nd XV
Christ College v Wellington School
Colfe’s v Reigate GS
Crypt v KES Stratford
Dame Allan’s v RGS Newcastle
Downside v King’s College, Taunton
Durham v Ampleforth College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Eastbourne College v Reed’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Eton College v Dulwich College
Exeter v Mount Kelly
Framlingham College v RGS Colchester
Glyn v Wallington CGS
Grammar School at Leeds v Bradford GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Gresham’s v The Leys
Halliford v City of London Freemen’s
Kent College v Ashford
Hurstpierpoint College v King’s Canterbury (Daily Mail Trophy)
Hymers College v Ashville College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Judd v RGS Guildford
KES Bath v Colston’s
King Edward VI Camp Hill v KES Birmingham
King Henry VIII, Coventry v Hereford Cathedral
Langley Park v John Fisher
Magdalen College v Portsmouth GS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Maidstone GS v Sir Joseph Williamson’s
Manchester GS v Kirkham GS 2nd XV
New Hall v Bishop’s Stortford College
Norwich v Brentwood
Old Swinford Hospital v Sir Thomas Rich’s (Daily Mail Trophy)
Oratory v Wellington College 2nd XV
Perse v Bishop’s Stortford HS
QEGS Wakefield v Crossley Heath (Daily Mail Trophy)
QEH v Prior Park College
Reading Blue Coat v Churcher’s College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Rugby v Trent College (Daily Mail Trophy)
Rydal Penrhos v Stonyhurst College
Skinners’ v Emanuel (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Columba’s College v QES Barnet
St Dunstan’s College v St Olave’s GS
St George’s, Harpenden v Watford GS
St Lawrence College v Cranbrook
St Paul’s v London Oratory (Daily Mail Trophy)
St Peter’s, Gloucester v Bishop Vesey’s GS
Stockport GS v Lymm HS (Daily Mail Trophy)
Taunton v Dean Close
Truro v Plymouth College
Wellingborough v Bablake
Wells Cathedral v Milton Abbey
Whitgift v Sutton Valence
Wilmslow HS v Sandbach
Wimbledon College v Tiffin (Daily Mail Trophy)
Worksop College v King William’s College
Wycliffe College v Monkton Combe
Wymondham College v King’s Ely
Emmanuel College v Gateshead College (Schools Bowl)
Kirkham GS v Abingdon
Malvern College v Monmouth (Daily Mail Trophy)
Queen Ethelburga’s v Ermysted’s Grammar
St John’s, Leatherhead v Trinity (Daily Mail Trophy)