Dulwich College moved a step closer to fulfilling their dream of retaining the Daily Mail Cup today with a 20-10 quarter final victory at home against Sherborne.
Fifteen first half points fromÂ Dom Fraser,Â allied to a try fromÂ Hector McKimmÂ gave the home side a commanding 20-0 half time lead before two late Sherborne tries left a few hearts in mouths on the touchline.
It did not take Dulwich long to trouble the scorers, going 3-0 up through a penalty from the boot ofÂ Dom FraserÂ after just two minutes. Sherborne responded well though and began to disrupt the Dulwich game plan, creating an unusually scrappy few minutes for the home side.
The Sherborne backs were looking threatening, and you could see how the confidence in their play had risen further following that outstanding last 16 victory over Marlborough, and in the opening few minutes the likes ofÂ Coulson, BuckÂ andÂ HumphreyÂ were looking dangerous.
However Dulwichâ€™s big brute of a pack soon began to take control.Â Jeremy ReasonÂ andÂ Beno ObanoÂ were causing no end of trouble fro Sherborne at the scrum, and that platform gaveÂ Dom FraserÂ the opportunity to have a run at the Sherborne defence.
With his older brother Will in attendance,Â FraserÂ was in inspired form for Dulwich, perhaps motivated by his brotherâ€™s rise to the England squad. He took the opportunity to smash through the defence with both hands and surged into the 22.Â HumphreyÂ held his nerve at full back though and refused to by theÂ FraserÂ dummy, making a try saving tackle.
It did not take much longer for Dulwich to get their first try though as firstÂ IbuanokpeÂ and theÂ ObanoÂ punched holes in the Sherborne defence following a scrum ten metres out. The ball then made its way toÂ FraserÂ who, despite becoming held up in a maul, showed great strength and determination to wriggle free and drive over for the try.
FraserÂ converted and followed that up with a penalty shortly after as they strove to take advantage of having the strong wind at their backs. Their giant pack was beginning to take control of the game, and from a driving maul they marched deep into the Sherborne 22.
As Sherborne flocked to halt the momentum Dulwich moved the point of attack as they sentÂ Hector McKimmÂ crashing over.Â FraserÂ added the extras to bring the score up to 20-0 at the break.
The opening of the second half appeared to be crucial; Sherborne desperately needed to assert themselves with the wind now at the backs, while Dulwich knew that if they played their usual controlled game that the match was theirs for the taking.
Sherborne certainly looked brighter than they had during the first half, withÂ CoulsonÂ beginning to have a real impact on the game. Dulwichâ€™s defence was simply outstanding though as they consistently managed to turn over Sherborne ball and mount attacks of their own.
As the light faded and temperatures dropped both sides butchered golden opportunities to score as the battle of the breakdown began to leave tired bodies strewn across the pitch.
Dulwichâ€™s captain,Â Dom Wroe-Wright, came off as his injury flared up after a few weeks out of action, while Sherborne began to crank up the pressure with about twenty minutes to go.
A glorious cross-field kick fromÂ CoulsonÂ saw Sherborne cross over on the right hand side.Â CoulsonÂ fell short with the conversion but the try was enough just to let thoughts of a comeback enter Sherborne minds.
A further try, this time on the left touchline, saw those thoughts begin to enter Dulwich minds too as Sherborne began to really pile on the pressure, aided by the strong wind.
CoulsonÂ this time, agonisingly, hit the crossbar but the momentum was there for Sherborne, if not the time.
It is a testament to Dulwich though that in this final few minutes of play they were able to defend with such heart and accuracy to prevent Sherborne from creating any more scores.
The game finished 20-10, and though Dulwich may not have played well in the final fifteen or twenty minutes, their defence was outstanding, and the opening hour of the game saw them produce some magnificently powerful and controlled rugby â€“ the sort of rugby that is tailor made for knockout competition.
For Sherborne it is a heartbreaking defeat but they can take heart from their performances in the earlier rounds and for their excellent finish to the game.
Dulwich meanwhile are just one game away from a return to Twickenham now and a chance to claim a glorious back to back Daily Mail Cup triumph. If they play as they did in the first half, it will be hard to see who can get in their way when the sides meet for the semi finals at Broadstreet RFC on the 2ndÂ March.
Dom FraserÂ was our man of the match for an outstanding display in the first half particularly; he was almost possessed in his determination to get his side into the semi-finals.Jeremy ReasonÂ had yet another outstanding display, he controlled the scrum and was a constant thorn in Sherborneâ€™s side in and around the breakdown.
By Angus Savage