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Incredible Dulwich go “back to back to back”

Dulwich College ran in an incredible eight tries to win their third Schools Cup in succession, beating Warwick by an incredible 53-5 scoreline.

“Back to back to back” was the chant after that brutal semi final against RGS High Wycombe and it was to be proved right in the most emphatic of styles here at Twickenham.

There was, frankly, almost nothing that Warwick could do about it, the passion for the shirt and for each other that Dulwich College had was simply outstanding, from the moment the referee’s whistle went it was an onslaught.

Singling out individuals after a performance of such brilliance from Dulwich is a thankless task but praise of the highest order must go to Anthony Nzegwu. Few score hat-trick’s at Twickenham, let alone as a schoolboy, so Nzegwu’s day will will live long in both his memory and everyone’s that was watching.

Time and time again though this season we have come back to one name when covering Dulwich College, that of their full back, Ali Neden.  Once again he was simply outstanding, even topping his performance in last year’s final, with Sam Howard saying that “he deserved a try”. Never a truer word has been spoken, Neden’s hands were behind at least three of the eight scores and it was his running that continually created space.

The absolute hub of this performance though was Felix Maddison, Dulwich College’s captain and number eight, his passion was truly inspiring. This writer was privileged enough to be in the tunnel as the teams prepared to enter the fray, what was said deserves the sanctity that the tunnel should have, but the content had us ready to go out and do battle for him.

Speaking to him after the game his passion for the shirt was astonishing, almost forcing him to tears “our passion for this shirt is what makes us different to other teams”, he said, how right he is.

That was actually perhaps at it’s most obvious early on in the game, which in reality is when this game was won. Outside centre Jacopo de Simone was sin binned for a slightly dangerous tackle just over ten minutes in. Conventional wisdom says that teams should concede seven points when down to fourteen men, Dulwich scored twelve and conceded none.

The first came from their dogged flanker Funsho Olalye, before Nzegwu scored his first of the day with a scorching run down the left touchline.

That series of points when a man down seemed to really knock the stuffing out of Warwick and fill Dulwich with confidence as for the first time in three finals they realized that they were going to be able to show the world their running game that has so often been overlooked by those of us on the other side of the white line.

Back to fifteen men a third try shortly followed, through Maddison himself with half an hour on the clock. Some brilliant play from Neden and Thompson saw the ball bobbling around in the in goal area and like any good back row, Maddison was there to pounce.

That took the score to 17-0 at the break, and frankly it could have been even more. As Director of Rugby Sam Howard said “we should really have been up by more at half time”.

It did not take long after the break for that to change though. The famous Dulwich maul had been well shackled by Warwick in the first half but it was to pay dividends in the second half as Tom Marchant went crashing over from one of Forwards coach Simon Thomas beautifully constructed mauls.

Another was soon to follow as a spillage from a rare Warwick attack saw Nzegwu break clear for his second  from deep inside his own half – probably the one that will stand out in his mind – bringing the score out to 34-0 following a Neden penalty.

Warwick did hit back though through James Ainsworth though, although by this stage it was more about pride and making sure that the scoreboard did not read nil at the end.

Nzegwu was in again for his hat-trick shortly after though, although this one he’ll be thanking his forwards and that brilliant maul for as they absolutely sucked in all of the defence, allowing Pierre Thompson to release Nzegwu to simply walk it over.

That took things out to 39-5 and suddenly it was all about the record books up in the press office as people started searching for the highest scorelines in Schools Cup finals.

As the clock wore down there was an inevitable slowing in the score-rate however there was still time for Dulwich to grab another couple of tries before the day was out. First Omar Malik went crashing over before John Waugh followed suit shortly after, both of which were converted by Neden to take the score beyond the half century to 53-5 at the final whistle, making it the second highest ever score in a Schools Cup final, behind Bradford Grammar Schools 74-17 victory over RGS Guildford in 1993.

Warwick should not be too disheartened though, they have been excellent all season and it has to be said that this was almost a freakishly good performance from Dulwich. Having won the U15s Cup, and done the same last year, there are special days to come from this Warwick side.

For Dulwich though the “back to back to back” dream is realised, quite literally for three of them, Josh Ibunaokpe, Jo Charnley, and John Winter were all collecting their third winners medals today.

They are the finest Schools Cup side since Colston’s great side of six in a row, and in the modern era this achievement simply has to rank alongside that. Dulwich’s three victories have been achieved with minimal imports and with a high turnover of players.

Could it possibly become back to back to back…to back? Let’s just let them enjoy this one first.

Warwick

15 William Stride  14 Carrick Waldron  13 Bryn Grantham  12 John Anderson  11 Devon Berrington  10 Henry Stride  9 Harry Bassett;  1 Jake Byrne  2 William Priestly  3 Oliver Matthews  4 Harry Fitzpatrick  5 Joshua Fox  6 James Ainsworth  7 Joe Blake (captain)  8 Matthew Riley.

Replacements: 16 Jim Bliss  17 George Nellany  18 James Allen  19 Harry Abell  20 Noah Thorne  21 Jamie Shillock  22 Jordan Ainslie.

Dulwich College

15 Ali Neden  14 Ed Berry  13 Jacopo de Simone  12 Jo Charnley  11 Anthony Nzegwu  10 Matt Beese  9 Pierre Thompson;  1 Josh Ibunokpe  2 Omar Nasir  3 Dom Fernandes  4 Hector McKimm  5 Tom Marchant  6 Funsho Olalye  7 John Winter  8 Felix Maddison (captain).

Replacements: 16 Andrew Baron  17 Charlie Dee  18 Luke Bliss  19 Sam Younger  20 John Waugh  21 Dan Britt  22 Omar Malik

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