It is hard to imagine a more historic NatWest cup game than between the two schools who hold more records in this completion than any other
Dulwich’s three consecutive U18 Championships may never be beaten and Wellington College remain the only School to win the U15 and U18 competition in the same year.
These two schools play in the strongest circuit in the country and yet between them had lost only once all season. Unstoppable at Home, Wellington had ridden their luck en- route to the quarter finals with a last-play win at Colston’s in round 6. They had also recently endured two ‘friendly’ encounters with London Irish and Blackrock College which left them without 5 first choice starters, but with a seriously battle hardened team. Dulwich had chosen a different approach. They had rather cruised through their earlier rounds and with a comfortable win over a strong Hampton side in the last round, and home advantage their team was fresh and their confidence was high.
The San Siro of school rugby, Dulwich College is undoubtedly one of the schools that players dread going to the most. The atmosphere provides a daunting, but memorable experience for any team and the Dulwich supporters are brilliant in helping their team and acknowledged as the ‘16th’ man.
Dulwich won the toss and kicked off with the sun behind them and playing down the slope, but it was Wellington who had the better of the opening exchanges. In typical ‘Cup’ style the game was played at a frenetic pace with mistakes aplenty from both sides and few genuine scoring opportunities. Wellington chose not to take a comfortable 3 points from a penalty in front of the posts by kicking for touch and losing the resultant lineout, and when Dulwich found themselves in the same position 10 minutes later Lucas Wilson struck the ball beautifully off the tee to put the home team ahead. Wilson had an especially strong first half and imposed himself on the game with great authority. Playing 10 he has the strength of an 8 and regularly used it.
Back from the kick off Wellington’s pack drove play after play to win a penalty just a couple of yards in from touch. As the half-time whistle loomed Will Sinfield stepped up and matched his opposite number’s points with one of the biggest kicks of his 15 years. 3-3 after 35 minutes and it was anyone’s game as the chants rang out loudly from the assembled masses of black blazered supporters.
In a match like this is often a bit of magic that tips the balance and this was to come in the opening play of the second half. Wellington drove hard down the left hand touch and with great vision Sinfield saw his right winger with some space. He launched a howitzer from his boot, which Jasper Johnson took at full stretch four feet in the air. Johnson, who surely has some of the fastest feet and one of the meanest steps on the schools circuit, then beat two men to score in the corner. With Sinfield adding the all-important conversion Dulwich were now in ‘catch-up’ mode as, with the home team rule, they needed to score at least twice now to win.
Unfortunatley for Dulwich Wellington’s pack were controlling every play now. From the back-row Captain Jack Reid, Bertie Morgan and Albert Dwan roamed with a sense of authority, and Hooker, Tom Cunningham was immense at the breakdown. However, wave after wave of attacking mauls were met by solid and totally committed Dulwich defence. Their blind-side, ‘Olu’ was a colossus against the tide and always looked extremely dangerous going forward.
Wellington were distributing quickly now through the sweet hands of their 9, Jamie Miller who had the benefit of total domination at the scrum. With Dulwich committing two in an attempt to ‘control’ Wellington’s outstanding 12, Ross Hanekom, Ben Jordan put his pace to great effect running some exquisite lines and making numerous clean breaks. Recycling the ball cleanly the Wellington pack eventually scored from a driving maul. Dwan emerged from the bottom of the pile with the ball in hand, but this was a ‘team’ try.
When they did have the ball in hand Dulwich looked dangerous. Jake Fetherston ran superbly from deep on several occasions and was a constant threat, but there just wasn’t enough possession to count.
Miller scored Wellington’s third with a great piece of quick thinking to put the seal on a convincing win and to set-up a mouth-watering semi-final with the team who have put them out of the cup for the last three years, Warwick.
Warwick were beaten soundly by Dulwich earlier in the season but we all know what this Cup competition means to the Midland’s team and how they raise their game accordingly. Wellington may go to the Allianz as slight favourites but they will need all the support they can muster to get them through to that Twickenham final.
Full Time: Dulwich College 3-20 Wellington College
Report by Tom Picton.
You can see our summary of the NatWest Cup & Vase quarter finals, and a look at the semi finals match-ups here: NatWest Cup quarter final roundup.