- The SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy has now reached the halfway stage
- Cheltenham-based side Dean Close made the top 10 for the first time ever
- England under-18 players Matty Jones and Freddie Thomas are impressing
A school more renowned for its hockey is forging a path in this season's SOCS Daily Mail Schools Trophy.
Cheltenham-based Dean Close has made the top 10 of this national merit-table based competition for the first time.
As the Trophy reaches the half-term break, Dean Close are in sixth place chasing champions and leaders Sedbergh, Wellington, Clifton, Epsom and Cranleigh.
Five wins from five, including RGS Worcester, Bloxham and Sir Thomas Rich's, has showcased the emerging talent of two England under-18 players in scrum-half Matty Jones and lock Freddie Thomas who was part of the national summer trip to South Africa.
Freddie Thomas (in background) has impressed this season for Dean Close
Both are in Gloucester's Premiership academy which is linked to the school.
Three ex-pupils in Archie Benson, Josh Gray and George Barton are full time at the Kingsholm club this season.
The trio helped Dean Close into 14th place in last season's Trophy and the strong form has continued this autumn where the top points scorer is James Humphreys, son of Gloucester's director of rugby, David, the former Ireland fly half.
'The rugby has gradually grown stronger and stronger over the last few years.
'We were more known for our hockey but now the rugby is gaining attention,' explained head coach Andrew Stanley.
Dean Close, who have won national titles at hockey, are chasing fifth-placed Cranleigh, who capped an unbeaten first-half of term by overpowering Berkhamsted in a match staged at Saracens' Allianz Park, 31-3.
Matty Jones (pictured) breaks out for Dean Close and has won plaudits for his season's form
Sedbergh, who are seeking a third successive title, have added another significant scalp by defeating Blackrock, the top Irish school, in a special one-off match, 26-23.
Second-placed Wellington have also reached the half-term break by playing some excellent rugby in claiming the prestigious St Joseph's Festival title last weekend.
A 19-5 win over Kirkham GS in the final concluded a weekend return of seven out of seven, including a 19-0 success against last year's winners RGS Newcastle. Prop Will Hobson scored tries in the final.
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