Rapid Harrow off to a flyer in title defence

Rapid Harrow off to  a flyer in title defence
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October 27, 2023
3 mins read

Champions will take some stopping after five wins from five.

Champions Harrow are setting the pace again at the halfway stage of the SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy.

‘Fast and furious as always,’ is the interim report from head coach James Melville after a perfect five wins from five.

Harrow are continuing the squad rotation policy which served them so well last year when they used 34 players in an undefeated campaign, and pipped Clifton and Trinity to the title.

This year Melville has taken a similar approach, giving as many players as possible an opportunity. ‘They’ve stood up very well to every challenge thrown at them,’ he said about his squad, who are led by England Under 18 captain Kepu Tuipulotu.

Melville added: ‘There’s a great togetherness within the group and after the successes at Rosslyn Park Sevens last season for both the Under 18s and Under 16s, plus last year’s Trophy win, the boys have adopted an excellent winning mentality.’

The chasing pack are led by Ipswich — who continue to build on a 14th-place finish last year — and Eton College, who are the busiest team in the Trophy and have won all seven of their matches.

The biggest surprise so far is that none of the previous champions, other than Harrow, are presently in the top 10. The ‘big two’ in Wellington (11th) and Sedbergh (22nd) need to get off to a strong start when matches resume after the half-term break.

Like Ipswich, other upstarts are trying to force their way up the table. Among the chasers are Solihull, who are on course for their best campaign since 2015.

The Birmingham-based school are unbeaten in five games for 12th place. For coach Brett Richmond, the two stand-out wins came against King Edward’s School and Old Swinford Hospital, the state boarding school in Stourbridge.

‘They were probably the most pleasing performances,’ said Richmond. ‘We knew we had to be at our best to defeat a strong Swinford team and we pulled out all the stops to play with great intensity and precision.’

Solihull edged the ‘Battle of Birmingham’ in a 24-19 victory against King Edward’s School.Led by captain Harry Pemberton, Solihull have a hard-working pack, featuring lock Sam Harding and hooker Ted Clarke.

Johnson’s coaching team has been bolstered by the help of two former pupils, Coventry centre Will Rigg and former Ireland Under 20 Conor Joyce. ‘They have been fantastic additions to our coaching team and give us great experience of the sport at a very high level,’ added Richmond.

The Trophy, organised by the schools management system, SOCS, is played over the autumn term by more than 140 school teams from across England.

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