A fourth NatWest Schools Cup in a row remains a possibility for Dulwich College as they beat Trinity 21-16 to reach the quarter final stage of this yearâ€™s competition.
This remarkable school fro South East London have never lost a game in the competition having won the tournament at the first time of asking in 2012 and every year since, and that winning habit served them well in what was a very tough encounter in front of a large Trinity crowd.
Trinity are an immensely strong side this year, with two England internationals, several county & academy players and a couple of Lambs too, though England wing Gabriel Ibitoye was absent for this one, but Dulwichâ€™s courageous defence and tactical nous were too much.
That was how this victory was built â€“ make your tackles and put the ball in the right place â€“ on a cold and windy day that had earlier been plagued with heavy rainfall, it was an ideal game plan.
Trinity came oh so close though, a late flurry and a baying crowd giving the champions a very uncomfortable final few minutes. Indeed had a few more balls gone to hand, particularly in the first half, Trinity might well have squeezed through.
The home side started the stronger, a crowd several hundred strong making for a classic Cup atmosphere and driving their side on. That inspiration soon helped Trinity secure a penalty, from which George Jackson gave his team a 3-0 lead.
Jackson just fell short with a second a few minutes later before the moment of the match came on the quarter hour mark as Dulwich College speedster Reece Pinnock scored one of the tries of the tournament to date.
Coming off his left wing, Pinnock arrived wide on the right to collect the ball still in his own half before unleashing an unstoppable burst of pace that saw would be tackles grasping at fresh air as Pinnock raced away into the right hand corner.
Fly half Jonny Waugh, one of the top men on the field, added a tough conversion to make it 7-3, the first of his eleven point tally.
Dulwich were falling foul of the referee at the breakdown though, allowing Jackson to narrow Trinityâ€™s deficit to just a point, leaving the scores at 7-6 when the half time whistle blew.
With the wind at their backs in the second half Dulwich were happy to put in deep kicks and force Trinity to play from deep. One such phase of play following 12 minutes of stalemate saw Dulwich secure lineout ball deep in the Trinity 22. Anyone who has followed Dulwichâ€™s Cup runs over the last few years knows that that usually means just one thing â€“ a try â€“ such is the potency of their maul.
So it proved as eventually from beneath a pile of bodies Charlie Dee emerged with the ball over the Trinity try line. Waughâ€™s conversion hit the post but five minutes later he was back again to collect three points via a clinical drop goal, giving his team a 15-6 lead with just over fifteen minute left.
A Waugh penalty then extended that lead to 18-6 and the sense was that that was probably the game. Trinity, however, had other ideas.
First fly half Charles Fatoma charged over after some well worked play, leaving his side seven points behind with just minutes remaining. The pressure was on though, they needed more than a converted try as Dulwich would have gone through as the away side in the case of a draw, and that task was made harder as in their desperation they allowed Waugh to bang over another penalty to stretch the lead back out to ten points at 21-11.
Still Trinity kept raising their game though, buoyed by their relentlessly positive support and with seconds remaining they were rewarded with a try through Nathan White. Such was the haste required that they neglected the conversion, hoping to set up for another try with a simple conversion to give them the win, however the refereeâ€™s watch was against them as he blew his whistle before the restart to leave the final score at 21-16.
It was a spirited final few minutes but a deserved victory for this remarkable Dulwich College side.
This might well emerge to be the toughest Cup to win since their 2012 triumph, yet their ability to win these all or nothing Cup games is quite brilliant. They know their strengths and they are one of the most organised sides around, whilst in the likes of Pinnock they have enough magicians to make something out of nothing when required.
They will now be entered into tomorrowâ€™s quarter final draw, live on www.englandrugby.com at 12.15, along with Oundle, who qualified last week, Dauntseyâ€™s, who beat Sherborne 13-11 yesterday, and the winners of todayâ€™s other three last sixteen ties, Lymm High School, Wilmslow High School, and Hampton, while two last sixteen ties remain to be played, St Josephâ€™s College v Whitgift and Bromsgrove v Stamford.
It is a tough group of schools, but on this evidence, few will fancy facing Dulwich College.
Full Time: Trinity School, Croydon 16-21 Dulwich College
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