Dulwich College showed the heart, grit, and determination of champions to defeat RGS High Wycombe in the U18 NatWest Cup semi final at Allianz Park.
The victory, a gutsy 7-3 effort, takes them to their third Schools Cup final in a row, offering them the chance of back-to-back-to-back titles, the first time a side has ever done so since the rule changes in the late nineties.
It was a game that RGS High Wycombe dominated for the large part but Dulwich used all of that title winning experience to the full as they simply refused to a panic and defended for their lives.
For fully twenty minutes at the end of the game they were camped inside their own 22, where a succession of superb tackles and masterful turnovers, from John Winter, Funsho Olaleye, and captain Felix Maddison in the back row in particular, helped to keep their try line unbreached.
The only sour note for the champions were yellow cards for Dulwichâ€™s Maddison and Dom Fernandez, while Josh Ibuanokpe ended up seeing red after the referee issued him with a second yellow card â€“ a somewhat unfair reflection on what was not a dirty game by any means.
RGS had the better of the first half and would have scored were it not for outstanding cover tackles from Ibuanokpe and Fernandez for Dulwich, leaving the only score at the break an RGS penalty from fly half Ben Wood.
Dulwich are renowned for their brilliant tactical play and their outstanding maul, but it was actually their counter attacking threat that was proving most dangerous in the early parts of the game.
However it was that outstanding driving maul, the fulcrum of their back-to-back titles, which was to prove the ultimate weapon for them early in the second half.
They set up from a five metre lineout and drove hard at the heart of the RGS pack, who were powerless to do anything other than haul it down â€“ and with that the referee went under the sticks for a penalty try, giving Ali Neden an easy conversion to give the champions a 7-3 lead.
From there though it was a case of experience, determination, and absolute trust and faith in each other that was the key for Dulwich College as they defended with a rarely seen intensity.
Ibuanokpeâ€™s second yellow, for which we understand he will not miss the final, came with just ten minutes left on the clock â€“ making the Dulwich resistance even more impressive, almost as impressive as Director of Rugby, Sam Howardâ€™s, admirable restraint at what must have felt like a doubly hard situation given the card count.
It was one of the most truly spirited performances that you are likely to see at this level of rugby, in a game that was played at an intensity that is equally rarely matched.
RGS High Wycombe will return home tonight absolutely gutted, they were superb at times, and captain Ross Neal in particular had a cracking game, however ultimately they would have to doff their cap to what was simply an outstanding defensive display from Dulwich College.
So to a third Schools Cup final in a row then for the Champions, where their opponents will be Warwick, who beat Durham 20-15 in the first semi final of the day.
Will they be able to make it three titles in a row? Well, on the back of that defensive display it would be hard not to back them â€“ after all, if you cannot cross their whitewash, beating them becomes an almighty task.
Final Score: RGS High Wycombe 3-7 Dulwich College
RGS High Wycombe
1. Oli ButlerÂ 2. Andrew BurnettÂ 3. Will GavinÂ 4. Will TallÂ 5. Fred OwenÂ 6. Rahat ChoudhuryÂ 7. Paddy HarlowÂ 8. Alex MurphyÂ 9. Owen BennettÂ 10. Ben WoodÂ 11. Jordon CouplandÂ 12. Ross NealÂ 13. Jake BantonÂ 14. Louis PowÂ 15. Max Roddick.
Replacements: 16. Greg SpeakmanÂ 17. Tom MurphyÂ 18. Joey SpeedÂ 19. Jack StathamÂ 20. Tom PearceÂ 21. Mike HemmingsÂ 22. Sam Spargo.
1. Dom FernandezÂ 2. Omar NasirÂ 3. Josh IbuanopkeÂ 4. Hector McKimmÂ 5. Tom MarchantÂ 6. John WinterÂ 7. Funsho OlaleyeÂ 8. Felix MaddisonÂ 9. Pierre ThompsonÂ 10. Matt BeeseÂ 11. Anthony NzegwuÂ 12. Jacopo De SimoneÂ 13. Jo CharnleyÂ 14. Omar MalikÂ 15. Ali Neden.
Replacements: 16. Andrew Baron Â 17. Luke Bliss Â 18. Charlie Dee Â 19. Sam Younger Â 20 Dan Britt Â 21. John Waughy Â 22. Ed Berry.