Dulwich College demonstrated that once again they are serious contenders in the NatWest Cup as they eased to a 32-0 4th Round victory over Eltham College.
The holders and back-to-back champions scored five tries on their way to victory, and while they may be playing down their cup chances this year others are beginning to wonder.
Peering through the notoriously unreliable crystal ball, ahead to the eight potential quarter finalists, it all looks incredibly competitive. There is no stand out side like Dulwich were last year, but the overall level of the eight is likely to be higher on average.
It seems that there will be little to choose between the sides and with Dulwichâ€™s Cup winning experience, both on the pitch and on the touchline, they are likely to feel quite confident about their chances in those high-pressure final rounds.
Of course to get there they must first negotiate London & South East B, beginning with a fixture against Felsted, who progressed last week after a 42-10 victory over Coopers Coburn.
On the evidence of this fixture against Eltham though, Dulwich will be firm favourites.
Eltham actually began the game rather well, with Elliot at outside centre getting through plenty of barnstorming ball-carrying. However Dulwichâ€™s defence saw this period out expertly, indeed despite the five trys it was Dulwichâ€™s defence that was perhaps the most impressive aspect of their play, certainly they appeared just as pleased, if not more so, with the â€˜nilâ€™ as with the 32.
Having weathered that early Eltham pressure, Dulwichâ€™s response was exceptional. They began to build some heavy pressure of their own an had soon taken the lead after moving the ball wide for their full back Ali Neden to whizz away to score â€“ a phrase that seems to be becoming synonymous with any Dulwich report.
If mentioning Ali Neden scoring is becoming synonymous with a Dulwich match report, then one thing that is already firmly synonymous is mention of Dulwichâ€™s brutal rolling maul.
It was to be that rolling maul that created Dulwichâ€™s next score a few minutes later, in typical fashion they absolutely charged to line as an eight, with captain Felix Maddison the lucky man to be at the tail of the maul, dropping to the ground to seal the five points as the maul sped across the line.
A third try was added before the half was up, this time through Josh Ibuanokpe, the most decorated player currently in schoolboy rugby by our reckoning. Ibuanokpe was both the creator and scorer of this one, first setting up the momentum with a bruising carry before a cheeky offload to Fernandez set up the chance for Ibuanokpe to cruise over at the next phase.
A Neden conversion left the score at 17-0 going into a break, with Dulwich in control. That said, Eltham had shown the ability, and ambition, to attack. It was only Dulwichâ€™s highly aggressive defence and ruthless breakdown work that had prevented them from gaining any real momentum.
An early second half penalty from Neden extended Dulwichâ€™s advantage but it was the next fifteen minutes that were to effectively seal the game for the away side.
Eltham went through probably their strongest period of the game following that Neden penalty, with Elliot again standing out for them again, they pressed and pressed at the Dulwich line, twice coming within inches of scoring, but Dulwich simply refused to concede.
It was impressive stuff, with the back row trio of Winter, Marchant, and Maddison particularly impressive with their extraordinarily high tackle count and expert, and pressure relieving, breakdown work.
It was to be Maddison who made the difference at the other end again too, once again finding himself as the beneficiary of that all powerful rolling maul. Nedenâ€™s conversion stretched the lead to 27-0 confirming the Dulwich victory, if that brilliant first half and exceptional second half defence had not already done so.
That was not the end though, the champions still had won final trick up their sleeve as they marched into the Eltham 22, moving the ball from one side to the other before Reese Pinnock raced away down the left wing to dot down in the corner, giving his side a 32-0 lead and the game.
Eltham left the field disappointed but should take heart from the fact that they actually attacked rather well but just happened upon a defence that was almost possessed in its determination not to concede.
As for Dulwich, whisper it, they are mounting quite a challenge right now. Yes, they might have lost to Whitgift at the weekend, but that will count for little come the New Year, just ask the 2011/12 champions.
This NatWest Cup is set to become incredibly competitive as the rounds go on.
Final Score: Eltham College 0-32 Dulwich College