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Dulwich ease into last 16

The Under 18 Daily Mail Cup holders, Dulwich College, continued their remarkable progress in this season’s competition with a fine 18-5 victory over Hurstpierpoint to earn themselves a place in the last 16.

Early tries form Neden and then Dom Fraser effectively saw the game looking over before it even began with Dulwich racing to a 15-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes as Neden converted Fraser’s try and then landed a penalty.

Hurstpierpoint looked stunned in the early stages as the Dulwich machine rolled on, looking for all the world like they might be ready to post another huge score.

The kicking game of the Dulwich backline plus the hard running of Obano and Ibuanokpe was causing serious problems, while Neden looked as though he could beat defenders for fun all game.

Indeed his try proved that, as some wonderful work from a kick return saw him arcing around the left hand side to score under the posts. The Hurstpierpoint defence were under serious pressure and giving away a lot of penalties, but ironically the penalties were helping them more than Dulwich.

With the away side so stretched in defence, the penalties were a welcome chance to reorganise, and for their openside flanker to earn a well deserved breather having made what seemed like hundreds of tackles in the opening period.

For all their possession though, Dulwich struggled to make it count in terms of points as the half wore on, with handling errors causing promising moves to break down all too frequently.

In fairness though, the temperatures were so low that solid handling was almost an impossibility, with players from both sides visibly cold with half time, unusually, an unwelcome break as both sides tried to stay warm.

Half time appeared to suit Hurstpierpoint better though, as they came storming out for the second half looking far more threatening than before. They looked to have understood that kicking to Dulwich was a bad option and took to running the ball back, with their full back and fly half in particular looking threating.

Dulwich are not odds on favourites to retain their crown for nothing though, and their defence is simply unbreakable at times, particularly with Dom Wroe-Wright snaffling ball at every opportunity.

It was from one such piece of opportunistic ball winning that Dulwich got their next points on the board as Neden seized on some broken field ball to go bursting into the opposition half, bobbing and weaving away like young Shane Williams, he stretched the defence to breaking point as they yielded a penalty.

Neden himself stepped up to knock it over and make it 18-0 to Dulwich, giving the home side a further boost as they then began to sting together their finest plays of the half.

Ibuanokpe was switched to number 8, a move which paid dividends soon after as he went surging into the away 22, only for more handling errors to spoil what looked like a potential try scoring opportunity.

Ibuanokpe continued to make ground, ably supported by Obano but to no avail, and it was Hurstpierpoint who made the final indent on the scoreboard through a lovely move from forwards to backs for the full back to race away into the corner.

It was a well deserved try after a much improved second half performance but Dulwich were the deserved winners though and always looked to have a few more gears to move into should Hurstpierpoint have threatened the scoreboard any further.

It would certainly take a brave man to bet against the men in blue to retain their trophy this year, their form has been simply magnificent this season, while their determination to succeed is clear for all to see.

Another impressive victory, another step on the way to glory, watch this space…

Man of the Match – Neden, Dulwich College

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