This extraordinary game of rugby saw both sides commit everything physically. Millfield came out on top as 17-13 winners, but Dulwich College deserve immense praise for their spirited fightback.
We have come to expect this sort of thing in the Champions Trophy, although with the scores at just 3-0 to Dulwich College at the break there was a sense that perhaps we were in for one of the less spectacular games in this tournament’s short but spectacular history.
That said, it was a half of immense tension as both sides sized each other up, Millfield had the early territory but could not convert it into points. Dulwich then picked up the territory later in the half as they began to ease into that classic Dulwich style of playing the territory and trusting their lineout, which eventually paid dividends as Ralph Wellock was presented with the chance to put his side ahead just a few minutes before the break.
This sort of titanic tussle should have been expected really, after all this was Dulwich College, NatWest Cup runners up and the winners in the three years prior to that, and Millfield, the reigning Champions Trophy and St Joseph’s Festival champions. A fierce contest was always on the cards.
Millfield came out firing in the second half though, probing in the corner for a good five minutes or so before driving over through their fly half, Andrew Nurse, after eight minutes of play to score the first try of the game.
That seemed to give Millfield the confidence to really grab the game by the scruff of the neck, and if there was one man who epitomised that, it was blindside flanker Gabriel Oghre, who has a stunning game. It is not just that his carrying is tremendous, he is a ball of muscle with the footwork of a back, and a fleet-footed one at that, it is the sheer quantity of his carrying that impressed. Time after time he was the man driving forward, to the point where it seemed that every other carry was him. His work in defence was stunning too, with some big tackles and superb turnovers. It was an excellent performance, all the more so as his side were without skipper Josh Bayliss, the England U18 international.
Midway through the half, Millfield conjured an opportunity for their second try as Carling sliced through the Dulwich midfield before surging into opposition territory and releasing full back Harry Close, who used his pace to run away for a superb score to take the game out to 10-3.
A third swiftly followed down the left wing, and all of a sudden Millfield looked home and dry at 17-3 ahead with just seven minutes remaining.
We should all have known better. This is the Champions Trophy, the spectacular is the norm, and this was Dulwich College, for whom giving up is a term applied to other people.
We saw it time and time again in last year’s NatWest Cup with Dulwich, and indeed in years gone by, they keep coming at you. So they did here, first through an opportunistic scrum half try to narrow the gap to 17-8.
With only two minutes to play the job still seemed a stretch too far but Dulwich still believed, and almost instantaneously they were away in the right hand corner. In a matter of minutes 17-3 had become 17-13, and now suddenly all of the momentum was with the hosts.
Unfortunately for Dulwich, it was not to be, a knock on then ending the game. That was symptomatic of Millfield’s defence though, which was so ferocious in the tackle and at the breakdown that they could force errors and turnovers with regularity.
Certainly it is an area that few teams will be able to compete with, that and the ability of their backs to conjure an opening when it matters. They are, as ever, a side that few will fancy playing, and even fewer will manage to beat.
Their back to back title hunt remains on, and one of the mightiest opponents in the way has been slain.
Full Time: Dulwich College 13-17 Millfield
Photos of the game can be seen here: Dulwich v Millfield