There is a difference between top class school teams and top class pro teams. You see to be considered a great Club or International side you must be able to sustain success, to show over and over again that you are better than your rivals. This is why for instance Saracens are not considered a great team for winning the league last year but Leicester and Wasps have had periods of greatness, they won repeatedly.
It is why on the 19th May, in the Heineken Cup Final, if Leinster win they will be remembered as one of the great club sides for their three wins in four years. Ulster on the other hand would be remembered as worthy winners, but a one off, a sign of the overall strength of Irish provincial rugby. A good team no doubt but not a great.
At school it is different, a player generally has only two years available to them in the 1st XV, so greatness cannot be defined solely by longevity, it has to be defined by more immediate terms. Results, attitude, and player recognition.
Dulwich College this year, in my opinion, moved toward greatness. Looking simply at results to begin with we can already see what looks like a pretty good side, Played 27, Won 24. Digging deeper and looking at the matches these results came in, it becomes clear that they are more than good, they are very good. Dulwich 1st XV entered two competitions this season, The St Joseph’s Festival and the Daily Mail Cup, they won them both.
Losses came only against Tonbridge, Whitgift and Epsom College, all good rugby schools in their own right. This though is where attitude becomes a factor, Dulwich lost to Whitgift on 19th November, eighteen days later they played again in the Daily Mail, Dulwich won 25-11 despite only getting 3 points on the board last time out.Â That attitude served them well as they came through tight games in the sixth round and the quarter final as they pushed toward the trophy.
So what of player recognition, the third of the 3 attributes to a great school side. Dulwich had three players in their Daily Mail Cup winning side with representation: Prop Beno Obano who played for England Under 18, fellow front row and youngster Josh Ibuanokpe, and England U16 flanker Jeremy Reason. What excites me though about this Dulwich side is that these players are all available to them next season too – Dulwich College have been given that all too rare commodity in schoolboy rugby, the chance for sustained success.
More exciting for Dulwich is that next season there could be more players gaining recognition – provided they sustain that collective and individual attitude of a will to win and to improve. Ed Parsons is one of very few Lower 6th starting outside halves, and will have learned Â more from the man with the Fellaini hair, Tommy O’Flaherty, about game management in that Cup final than he may well have done all season – do not be surprised to see more from him.
Dominic Wroe Wright is another who cannot be far off the scouts radar. The Openside’s insatiable desire to tackle, throwing himself at people’s ankles in a manner that would make even Lewis Moody wince, was for vast periods of that Twickenham display, the difference between the sides.
Dulwich are halfway to greatness as a school side, they have all 3 of the attributes for greatness, all they now need is to put that into practice and do it again this season coming. Two years is all you get in School 1st XV rugby, make them both count and you earn the right to be recognised as one of the best.