Bromsgrove put in a sensational second half performance to beat defending triple champions Dulwich College 30-18 to win the U18 NatWest Cup.
It was always going to take something impressive to inflict a first ever NatWest Cup defeat on Dulwich College, and Bromsgrove provided just that, producing an excellently controlled and confident performance, with fly half and captain Luke White deservedly claiming the man of the match award after a stunning display.
For Dulwich it is a heartbreaking defeat. Director of Rugby Sam Howard spoke excellently after the game though, describing Bromsgrove as the ‘deserved winners’ and that ‘the best team on the day won’. Regardless of that, it will hurt, you only had to look at the Dulwich College faces after the game to see that, some were tearful, others looking in stunned disbelief, others were simply expressionless.
Howard was right though, on the day Bromsgrove were the better side, in many ways they were more ‘Dulwich’ than Dulwich. Controlling the game, playing the territory and tempo perfectly and using their drive and then taking their direction from their fly half. Dulwich, for their part, were too error strewn, perhaps trying to show too much that they are a side who are able runners as well as tacticians.
It should not be seen as a Dulwich failing though, for it was a Bromsgrove masterstroke and their plan was made even better after scoring an early try through second row Beck Cutting, with Luke White converting and then landing a penalty to take Bromsgrove 10-0 up after fifteen minutes, forcing Dulwich to chase the game right from the off.
Dulwich, as you might expect, hit back though, piling on some pressure of their own before fly half Jon Waugh, the architect of so much in this Cup run, coasted through underneath the sticks, converting himself to make it 10-7.
He followed that up with a penalty of his own to level the scores at 10-10 with a minute left to play in the half. However then came a moment that perhaps highlighted where Dulwich were going wrong. Straight from the kick off they tried to run, rather than wind the clock down, but conceded a penalty, allowing White to give his Bromsgrove team a 13-10 lead going into the break.
Waugh leveled it four minutes into the second half though, and when five minutes later Luke Bliss scored from the tail of a classic Dulwich maul to put them 18-13 ahead within ten minutes of the break, the sense was that perhaps Dulwich were about to put the squeeze on Bromsgrove.
It is what they did to Warwick last year and Northampton School for Boys the year before, but this Bromsgrove side were not about to allow themselves to be bullied out of the game, and proceeded to produce twenty-five minutes of superbly controlled and incisive rugby.
After trying and failing to set up their own dangerous maul a couple of times, White opted to aim for the posts with his next penalty, narrowing the gap to 18-16, before then returning to the corner with the next one.
This time Bromsgrove did get their maul going, and what a maul it is. We have seen it in action throughout the rounds, but here, when it counted it was just as good. Surging from just inside the 22 they forced Dulwich to collapse, and with advantage in hand, White sent across a pinpoint crossfield kick for left wing Cooper Bent to gather and score practically unopposed.
Watching White play it was hard to believe how Worcester could have let him go a few weeks ago but after a performance like that, one senses that he will not be without a club for long. Slotting the conversion from the touchline he put his side a try ahead at 23-18, and added to his own personal points tally that was to end at fifteen points.
With just a try’s advantage and just under ten minutes remaining though, the feeling was that Bromsgrove still needed another. They had been the better side and had executed perfectly, but if there is one thing that is known about Dulwich, it is that if you let them have a sniff of a chance, they will take it.
Substitute Blake Edwards provided that vital buffer for Bromsgrove though, the Gloucester U18, on the bench due to an injury that had kept him out of the previous two rounds, bounced one tackler before bursting past the next two to score.
The celebrations were wild and loud, for while there were still four minutes on the clock, Whiteâ€™s conversion would take the score out to 30-18, a twelve point lead, a surely insurmountable total.
So it proved, Dulwich managed to set up one last chance from a five metre scrum but trying desperately to score fast, the ball was spilled and the game was confirmed as Bromsgroves.
It was impossible not to feel for Dulwich, their success has heaped pressure on those in the shirt currently, who had performed brilliantly, beyond themselves maybe, to get to this point and deserve great praise even for that.
Bromsgrove though deserve the highest praise, they have returned to this competition in quite outstanding style and were truly magnificent. They have a team that knows their jobs and performs them well, and in White they have a schoolboy fly half of the highest order.
One dynasty might have come to an end today, but we could be another about to begin, Bromsgrove Director of Rugby, scarily from other schools point of view, pointed out after the game that his side had ‘nine l6th and two fifth formers in it’ and that he had imagined this year to be ‘developmental’. It seems that there is more to come from the West Midlanders, we cannot wait to see it.
U18 NatWest Cup Final Result: Bromsgrove 30-18 Dulwich College
Man of the Match – Luke White, Bromsgrove
You can see photos of the U18 NatWest Cup Final on our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/FifteenRugby
1. Harry Ferguson 2. Henry Walker 3. Harrison Fowke 4. Beck Cutting 5. Justin Clegg 6. Ben Schmermund 7. Joe Morrice 8. Tom Ford 9. Paolo Parisi 10. Luke White (c) 11. Cooper Bent 12. Alex Nisbet 13. Chase Edwards 14. Jonty Thornton 15. James Taylor.
Replacements: 16 William Lockhart 17 Nikit Khatin 18 Jack Weston 19 Williams Hands 20 Ben Tibbetts 21 George Wootten 22 Blake Edwards.
1. George Whichello 2. Richard De Rome 3. Andrew Baron 4. Luke Bliss 5. Charlie Dee 6. Tom Walting 7. Sam Younger 8. Tom Marchant (c) 9. Pierre Thompson 10. Jonny Waugh 11. Reece Pinnock 12. Ed Berry 13. Huw Roberts 14. Omar Malik 15. Anthony Nzegwu.
Replacements: 16 Olisa Ikezue-Clifford 17 Alex Holley 18 Ben Osuntokun 19 Ed Norris 20 Alec Bannister 21 Cameron Henderson 22 Chris Annous.