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Rugby Festival 2015

Live-Streamed Rugby Festival Cements its Place as Premier Schoolboy Event
This year’s National Schools Rugby Festival was once again a huge success and still remains the premier 15-a-side schoolboy Festival in the UK.
As always 16 of the strongest schoolboy sides battled it out over two action packed days of rugby with Hampton School crowned 2015 winners, lifting the De La Salle Trophy for the first time in their history.
From a St Joseph’s playing point of view, the results of the 2015 squad will read won 2, drew 2, lost 2; however, it was very much a tale of “if only” and “oh so close”.
The Saturday started with a comfortable three try win against the eleventh hour stand-ins, The Eastern Barbarians.  Unfortunately there were two extremely late withdrawals in Whitchurch (from Wales) and Skinners (from Kent). This team was predominantly an U17 team that was put together from local school and club players, backed in difficult circumstances by some very loyal St Jo’s fringe players.  
In the second game we were soundly beaten by Hampton School, who turned out to be the stand out team of the weekend, going on to win the Festival whilst conceding only one solitary try.
The third game of the Saturday was a make or break match against Solihull School, with the winners progressing to the cup competition. As it turned out, the teams could not be separated and the final scoreless draw saw Solihull through as they had scored more tries in the previous two games.
Whilst it was a disappointing end to the day for the squad, some reflection and an evening at Mr Kalbraier’s house soon perked the spirits up and the boys were up for attacking the plate competition on Day 2.  
The strength of the plate groups yet again confirmed the high standard of the entire competition with previous tournament winners QEGS Wakefield in the group with St Peter’s, Gloucester and Gordon’s School, Guildford.  
Despite coming out of the traps well in the first game against St Peter’s, a couple of lapses in concentration cost the home side dearly and the 12-7 loss left it all to do for the rest of the day if they were to make the plate final.
A few harsh words from the coaching team saw St Joseph’s produce both their best performance and result of the weekend against Gordon’s School, ending with a resounding 31-0 win; and with St Peter’s losing to QEGS it brought St Jo’s fate back into their own hands in the last game – very simply, a win would mean making the plate final.  Moment of the tournament for me came in this game when St Jo’s diehard and 15 year stalwart Jonny Renshaw crossed the try line! 
However, in the last match against QEGS, despite a valiant effort by the whole team, we could only manage a 7-7 draw.  This meant QEGS had won two and drawn one of their three games and they progressed to play Denstone College in the Plate Final.
Denstone went on to win this final 12-10 with QEGS kicker missing with the last kick of the game to tie things up. In the main final, as already alluded to, Hampton beat RGS High Wycombe 8-5.  Despite the scoreline, this was a very comfortable win for Hampton who were unquestionably the best side in this year’s Festival.
As well as the overall individual trophy winners, it has become an annual tradition to present our own three prizes for the St Joseph’s College squad.  This year these were as follows:
St Joseph’s Best Back of the Tournament – Jacob Dormer
St Joseph’s Best Forward of the Tournament – Luke Cerley                            
St Joseph’s Player of the Tournament – Ethan Hughes
The live streaming and professional commentary of the matches was another fantastic addition this year and we all look forward to the 30th Anniversary Festival in October 2016 (Saturday 15 and Sunday 16) and adding a few more aspects to the weekend to make it better still!
Finally a massive thank you to all the College staff, from teaching to grounds, catering to admin and everyone in between for their unwavering help and support – it was another brilliant effort by “Team Jo’s!”
Mark Patterson