Dulwich College won their second Daily Mail Cup in a row yesterday, beating Northampton School for Boys 27-17 in a game with all of the intensity and quality that befits such an occasion.
The victory elevates them to join the likes of Whitgift, Oakham and Bradford Grammar as back to back Daily Mail Champions, making them true schoolboy greats, with the great Colstonâ€™s side of the â€˜90â€™s the standard bearers with six in a row.
Dulwich went into the game as strong favourites having gone through their entire regular season unbeaten and demonstrated their quality by going 10-0 up in the opening 20 minutes through a Hector McKimm try, converted by Dom Fraser, and an early Fraser penalty.
Inside the ground there was a feeling that NSBâ€™s dreams of glory were already dashed, such was the urgency that Dulwich had come out with. However whether it be through Dulwich relaxing or NSB being sparked into life, the men from Northampton came rocketing back into the game through a try from their number 7, Oliver Hartfield.
Hartfield was easily their best performer on the day, and with Conor Bullivant converting his try, NSB were suddenly right back in it. NSB, aware of the strength of Dulwichâ€™s kicking game, had been defending with Bullivant at full back (rather than his usual fly half) and it began to pay off as he received plenty of ball in hand.
However it was at full back for Dulwich College where the games outstanding piece of skill came from; Ali Neden collected the ball wide on the left hand side, just inside the NSB half, and after jinking past a couple of defenders he dinked a delightful chip through for Baba Ajisebutu to dot down. Fraser slotted the extras on the stroke of half time to give the holders a 17-7 lead, and once again it seemed that Dulwich were going to pull away.
As the remarkably mature Fraser said after the game though:
â€œWhenever there was a penalty or a try we always seemed to just let off, we never capitalised on our position, we just kept letting them back in.â€
So it proved again when shortly into the second half Bullivant landed a penalty to edge NSB a little closer into the game. It led to a spell of play where NSB really took the game to Dulwich, something that NSB coach Mark Lee had specifically planned for:
â€œWe thought they tired in the semi final, and I think to an extent they tired again today, so we deliberately said that in the middle third we would up the tempo through tap penalties and trying to break the game up.â€
All day though, and indeed all season, Dulwichâ€™s driving maul had caused all sorts of bother to the NSB defence. In the first half it had led to McKimmâ€™s try and with twenty minutes to go they set up for another driving maul, with McKimm once again controlling things at the back.
Working as a cohesive unit the Dulwich pack simply marched their NSB counterparts backwards for McKimm to flop over once again. Fraser converted from the narrowest of angles to put his side 24-10 up.
Once again though, despite building a comfortable lead, NSB fought their way back into contention, once again through the superb Hartfield, whom Mark Lee could not have been more glowing in his admiration for:
â€œIt is a real shame that we will lose Olliver Hartfield who I thought was the outstanding player today, and has been for the whole season.â€
Bullivant continued his faultless kicking display to leave his side just a converted try short, however some ill discipline in the forwards yielded Fraser another shot at goal with just ten minutes left to push Dulwich further out, a shot that he inevitably converted.
Nerves then appeared to set in for Dulwich College as NSB began to lay siege on their defence. A more inexperienced side may have yielded, however the confidence and belief that Dulwich had through already having a title in their locker was palpable even from the stands as they threw their bodies into defensive duty.
Fly half Ed Parsons received a yellow card with just minutes to go for a cynical infringement, but it was the sort of yellow card that your teammates thank you for, the sort that buys time and eases the pressure.
Eventually though Dulwich snaffled the ball and held on to it to win the game, sparking some jubilant celebrations both on the field and of it.
It was a magnificent team effort, typified by the work of the outstanding Dom Wroe Wright at openside and captain, it was no coincidence that when he was forced off through injury the pressure on the Dulwich defence increased, such is the amount of work that gets through for the team.
For NSB it was a heartbreaking way for it to all end, but regardless of the result it was a proud day for them and everyone associated with the school, as old boy Courtney Lawes said on twitter: â€œCup or no cup you lads have achieved something no other state school has and done us all proud!â€
For Dulwich though a place in the history books beckons, and unbeaten season topped of by back to back Daily Mail Cup wins is a magnificent achievement and they were more than worth champions.
Final Score 27-17
Man of the Match: Dom Wroe Wright (Dulwich College)
Hector McKimm (2)
Dom Fraser (3)
Dom Fraser (2)
1. Beno Obano 2. Billy Mostyn 3. Jeremy Reason 4. Hector McKimm 5. Patrick Stuff 6. Felix Maddison 7. Dom Wroe-Wright (c) 8. Josh Ibuanokpe 9. Toby Anthony 10. Ed Parsons 11. Baba Ajisebutu 12. Dom Fraser 13. Joe Charnley 14. Jo Akinlotan 15. Ali Neden.
Replacements: 16. Dom Fernandez 17. John Winter 18. Dami Adebayo 19. Funsho Olalaye 20. George John 21. Ben Henderson 22. Anthony Murray.
Northampton School for Boys
Oliver Hartfield (2)
Conor Bullivant (2)
1. Ben Ibrahim 2. Aaron Cort 3. Oliver Dancer 4. David Oâ€™Rourke 5. Tom Galliano 6. Tom Hammersley 7. Oliver Hartfield 8. Jacob Conner 9. Harry Sanderson 10. Conor Bullivant 11. Julian Fitton-Swan 12. Rotimi Segun 13. Jack Spittle (c) 14. Conor Jeffcoate 15. Ned Buckler.
Replacements: 16. Kurt Jenkins 17. Jacob Martin 18. Will Staniford 19. Zak Forscitt 20. Cieran Eeles 21. Kieran Isaac 22. Callum MacKay.