The Weekend Review: Issue 3 – Editor’s blog, Dulwich say farewell to a legend

Once again I would like to start this week’s blog with a quick thank you to you all for singing up to our newsletter, Fifteen Rugby: The Weekend Review.


If you could share it and encourage others to sign up it would be greatly appreciated, every sign up goes a long way towards keeping Fifteen Rugby able to continue covering and promoting schools rugby.


As the term heads towards the close we will be saying farewell to a few teams for the season this weekend, though the majority finish up next weekend. There is also a rather special farewell though at Dulwich College this weekend.


Director of Rugby Sam Howard takes charge of his last game for the school on Saturday, away at Epsom College, before he moves to Eltham College after the Christmas holidays.


Howard’s tenure at Dulwich has to go down as one of the great periods in schoolboy rugby. He took a side with a good rugby pedigree, which had had some outstanding sides in the mid nineties, some of whom he was a part of, and turned them into the school of this generation. The Colston’s of this decade, and done without bringing in a big stock of imports.


They reached four NatWest Cup finals in a row (or Daily Mail Cups as the first two were), winning the first three, against Old Swinford Hospital, Northampton School for Boys, and Warwick respectively.


They also picked up a St Joseph’s Festival title along the way, and won the Daily Mail Trophy the year before it became an official competition, going undefeated in that same season, 2012/13.


Great coaching has been at the heart of this success. Yes, the players have been good, and yes they have been bright and able enough to respond to the coaches wishes, but their winning ways have been built on commitment, rock solid organisation in defence, and supreme game management. That and a superb maul.


Every player that takes to the field knows exactly what their job is and their role requires. That is not to say that they have not had the players to play off the cuff at times, Tommy O’Flaherty, Ali Neden, and Reece Pinnock are just a few of the superb runners that they have had, only that they have been able to eke the very best from their resources by being so well drilled, prepared, and coached.


It is telling that in this great run of success, just two players have gone professional, Beno Obano at Bath and Josh Ibuanokpe at Harlequins, together they formed one of the great schoolboy propping partnerships. O’Flaherty has flirted with the higher echelons too, particularly in 7s.


What that demonstrates though is that Dulwich’s strengths have been as a collective, their teamwork, commitment, and game management have been their key traits. Even this year, with a side that is perhaps not quite as strong as others have been, they have been able to eke out wins against the mighty Wellington College and St Joseph’s Festival winners Hampton. That game management and ability to come up with a plan to be an opposition remains.


The run of success is quite astonishing when one thinks about it. The lower sixth formers in last year’s NatWest Cup final side were only in their first year at the senior school when they first won the title in 2011/12. That is an astonishing run of success.


Of course it has not all been Howard, the players obviously deserve huge credit and without them nothing could happen, but also the rest of the coaching staff, in particular Simon Thomas, who looks after the forwards. The famous Dulwich maul is his baby, and given that their forward domination has been one of their key strengths of the last few years, his role must not be overlooked.


Howard is the main man though, and it is hard to imagine this his departure will not be a tough one for Dulwich to overcome. For Eltham College interesting times lie ahead, what can he bring to their rugby? Could they begin to start challenging higher up the food chain that they have been?


The future is certainly intriguing, but as Saturday’s games draw to a close, schools rugby fans, and Dulwich College supporters in particular, can be forgiven for indulging in a few thoughts of the past.




One other thing that I wanted to touch on in this week’s blog was next week’s Varsity Match. Or rather, Jamie Roberts’ presence in it. Isn’t it refreshing and exciting to see a current international playing in the biggest University game once again.


One of the great shames of professionalism and the rise of academies, in my view, is the weakening of University rugby and, in particular, the Varsity match. The days of Rob Andrew turning out for Cambridge and Stuart Barnes for Oxford are long gone, but can you imagine turning out for the Varisty match now and seeing George Ford and Owen Farrell opposite one another, wouldn’t that be brilliant?


So many Academy players are also doing University degrees, what if rather than A League on a Monday night, they were able to play BUCS league for their University on a Wednesday. I for one would like to see that, and it would surely invigorate University rugby.


Another piece of great news in this year’s Varsity Match is the presence of Will Wilson at openside for Oxford, the man who led Wellington College to one of their greatest seasons last year is the only fresher starting for either side.


It ought to be a great sporting occasion, as ever, and hopefully the rugby lives up to it.



Angus Savage


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