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Dulwich College and Warwick are all set to challenge for history in the U18 NatWest Cup Final

When Dulwich take on Warwick in the U18 NatWest School Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday it will be a true battle for history.

Dulwich are looking to become the first side since the great Colston’s side of the mid to late nineties to win three Schools Cups in a row, while Warwick are looking to become only the second side, Wellington in 2008 were the other, to lift both the U15 and U18 trophy in the same year.

Should Dulwich win it will be a truly remarkable feat – this team has never lost an U18 NatWest Cup game, ever.

They joined the tournament for the first time in the 2011/12 season and promptly won it. They then followed that up with victory and an unbeaten season in 2012/13, and now – for the third year in a row – they find themselves in the final again.

It took an extraordinary defensive performance to get here though, beating RGS High Wycombe 7-3 at Allianz Park in the semi final despite being down to thirteen men for much of the game and spending almost the entire last twenty minutes camped on their own try line.

It was a champions performance of epic proportions. It is hard to describe without it appearing to take something away from Dulwich, but nobody in their camp would disagree – RGS High Wycombe should have won that game. However they ultimately did not deserve to – that is how defensively brilliant Dulwich were and how spirited and determined they were. The emotion at the end of the game said it all.

This remarkable third visit to Twickenham is not just a feat of high playing standards though, it is one of high coaching standards too. Head Coach Sam Howard is one of the most meticulous around, his decision to organise two fixtures at Allianz Park ahead of the semi final demonstrating just that, while a word must also go to forwards coach Simon Thomas – orchestrator of that incredible maul that has almost literally blasted other teams off the park, it is almost unplayable.

Warwick have some pretty high coaching standards too, Mark Nasey may have played down his side’s chances in the early rounds but the fact is that they are at Twickenham and deserve to be. Looking over the past couple of year’s their record is actually incredible, if not quite on a Dulwich scale.

Last year his side lost narrowly to Northampton School for Boys in the semi final, with many of that side still there today, while the U15s won their version of the tournament.

That their U15s are in the final again, and the U18s have stepped up one from last year to reach the final in a brilliant feat. It is also a triumph of playing determination and coaching excellence. Warwick perhaps have an unfair reputation as a good but not great rugby school – yet looking at the Cup record over the last two year’s it reads like one of the very best, it suggests a depth of resources that is far in excess of what they have. One can only praise the players and coaches for that.

Should they manage to lift both the U18s and U15s trophies it will be an outstanding achievement, but even if they achieve just one it is still outstanding. Frankly, reaching both finals is outstanding – not that Warwick will see it that way.

For some, like full back Will Stride, it is an extraordinary opportunity – he won the U15 Cup last year and is in the U18s as an U16 this year, with a chance for a second trophy in a row. Extraordinary.

His battle at full back with Ali Neden could be game defining. On the big open space at Twickenham these two gifted runners will be begging the respective fly halves to kick to them. Neden provided the magical moment of last year’s final through just that reason, it would be no surprise to see similar from either full back.

It’s up in the forwards where the big game changing moments will happen though, and what intrigues us is the potential clash between Warwicks captain, Joe Blake, at openside, and his opposite number Funsho Olaleye.

Blake needs to introduction, you do not become the captain of a top side without being an inspiration, like Dulwich’s Felix Maddison, but more than that is appetite for work is awesome.

Olaleye was simply sensational in the semi final, it is maybe unfair on Maddison and John Winter to single Olaleye out but his ability to get over the ball was as impressive as it was necessary. He will be a real thorn in Warwick’s side and Blake will need to shackle him.

Both of these sides are already going to be talked about at as having achieved impressive things, but Saturday is all about history and being talked about forever as schools rugby history makers.

It is all set to be a very, very, special day.

U18 NatWest Schools Cup Final: Warwick School v Dulwich College, Twickenham Stadium, 15.40pm

Stats:

Warwick:

Section: Midlands A

Best Schools Cup Run: Winners, 2007.

2012/13 record: Lost 13-10 in the semi finals to runners up Northampton School for Boys.

Head Coach: Mark Nasey

Captain: Joe Blake, Openside

Star Man: Harry Bassett, Scrum Half

One to Watch: Will Stride, Full Back

Semi Final in a sentence: Fast out of the blocks before spirit & determination held off a Durham fightback.

2013/14 NatWest Cup Results:

Semi Final: 20-15 v Durham

Quarter Final: 12-5 v Stowe

Round 7: 22-22 v Stamford (Progressed as highest try scorers)

Round 6: 46-7 v Bloxham

Round 5: 31-31 v Solihull (Progressed as highest try scorers)

Round 4: 44-6 v Princethorpe

Round 3: 50-0 v North Leamington School

Round 2: Bye

Dulwich College:

Section: London & South East B

Best Schools Cup Run: Winners in 2013 and 2012

2012/13 record: Winners, beating Northampton School for Boys 27-17 in the final.

Head Coach: Sam Howard

Captain: Felix Maddison, Number 8

Star Man: Ali Neden, Full Back

One to Watch: Funsho Olaleye, Openside

Semi Final in a sentence: Outstanding defence in the face of yellow cards and an RGS onslaught, plus a try from that maul.

2013/14 NatWest Cup Results:

Semi Final: 7-3 v RGS High Wycombe

Quarter Final: 19-10 v Lymm High School

Round 7: 15-5 v Trinity

Round 6: 22-7 v The Judd

Round 5: 41-32 v Felsted

Round 4: 32-0 v Eltham College

Round 3: 36-7 v Chislehurst & Sidcup

Round 2: Bye

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