Surprise challengers emerge in the Daily Mail Schools Trophy as St Benedict’s of Ealing contest four-way fight for silverware
St Benedict’s of Ealing are the surprise team in a four-way fight for the 2021 SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy.
The west Londoners are challenging three heavyweights of schoolboy rugby in Sedbergh, Clifton College and Millfield to win this national competition played under a merit table system by more than 100 teams over the autumn term.
Sedbergh had their lead cut when drawing 32-32 against Wellington College, on Wednesday, under lights at Broadstreet near Coventry.
Sedbergh, who host King’s Macclesfield on Saturday, lead on 6.27 merit points per game ahead of second-placed Clifton (6.17) and St Benedict’s (5.90) in third.
Clifton will strengthen their challenge if they overcome fourth-placed Millfield (5.50) while St Benedict’s host Croydon-based John Fisher.
St Benedict’s of Ealing are the surprise team in a four-way fight for the 2021 SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy
Victory for Millfield, who needed a last-minute try and conversion to overhaul Whitgift last weekend, would set up a likely title-decider at Sedbergh on Wednesday week (December 8).
For ‘Bennies’, a title chase gives the class of 2021 an opportunity to rival the school’s previous best teams, including the 1993 gang who lost in the final of the old Daily Mail Schools Cup.
The team has never previously finished in the top 10 of the Trophy, which started in 2013, but results have steadily improved in recent seasons under the guidance of Zoran Higgins, their director of sport, who previously coached at Hampton and Oakham.
An excellent opening against St John’s from Leatherhead, last Saturday put Bennies on course for a 34-14 win, their sixth success of the campaign.
‘Our first half was the best showing of rugby this season,’ reported Higgins who has recruited Sam Howard, who steered Dulwich College to success, as an assistant this autumn.
St Benedict’s are gaining a reputation for speedy rugby and their two lead players, No 8 Cathal Sheehan and centre Alex Gribbon, have both recorded sub 11secs for the 100metres.
Higgins added: ‘Everyone in the squad has worked hard to improve and we are beginning to get the results.
‘Like a lot of teams, it’s a pity we missed out last season due to the Covid interruption.’
However, in the ultra-competitive Trophy one defeat can end hopes. Epsom College lost their previously unbeaten record to Brighton College, 15-31, last weekend and are now 10th.
The competition continues to stage some classic contests highlighted by the Sedbergh-Wellington clash at Broadstreet.
Wellington fought back from a 20-7 deficit to lead twice in a brilliant finale. Sedbergh thought they had clinched the match when centre Ben Redshaw raced over only for their arch-rivals to level via a last-minute penalty from Rory Taylor. Hectic stuff in a schoolboy classic of all-out attacking rugby.
The Daily Mail Trophy Merit Table | The Schools’ Rugby Website (schoolsrugby.co.uk)