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O'Flaherty hat-trick takes Dulwich College to Twickenham

10 March 2012

Dulwich to meet Old Swinford in Daily Mail RBS Schools final

St Joseph’s fall short in semi-final thriller

Dulwich College scrum-half Tommy O’Flaherty scored a hat-trick of tries to clinch a nerve-jangling 22-16 win over St Joseph’s College, Ipswich in the second Daily Mail RBS Schools Under 18 Cup semi-final at Broadstreet RFC near Coventry today.

But Dulwich still required some ferocious defence in the dying minutes to hold on for another narrow win, securing a trip to Twickenham Stadium on April 4 and a meeting with Old Swinford Hospital School from Stourbridge. OSH beat local rivals King’s School Worcester 20-3 in the opening semi-final.

Dulwich’s win was the latest in a series of narrow victories in the competition  including the quarter-final at Abingdon school where they progressed as the away team after the scores were level 17-17 at full time.

“The last three games have been very  close but the belief of the boys in their defence was outstanding,” said Dulwich coach Sam Howard.

“Fair play to St Jo’s they played the better rugby but our boys just tackled, tackled, tackled. They are a great bunch and their spirit has got us through a lot this year.”

Howard, a former Bedford and Exeter Chiefs fly-half, played at Twickenham for Cambridge University in a Varsity Match and is thrilled to be going back.

“I think we will go and enjoy the day. I think it’s every rugby player’s dream to play at Twickenham. These guys have got the opportunity and they thoroughly deserve it.”

O’Flaherty gave Dulwich the early initiative when he crossed for his first try from a line-out drive, but St Joseph’s were also lively in attack with blindside flanker Shaquille Meyers a constant menace for the Dulwich defence.

Two penalties from scrum-half Cameron Dobinson nudged St Joseph’s ahead by half-time and they extended their lead within a minute of the re-start.

Lock Jack Palmer ran out of defence, Meyers sustained the attack and replacement wing George Wacokecoke finished it with his first touch of the ball.

But the conversion was missed and Dulwich pulled to within a point when O’Flaherty sneaked over from a close range maul for his second try.

St Joseph’s captain Gabriel Carroll, one of four members of this season’s England Under 18 Clubs and Schools squad in the side, was driven over from a 50th minute line out but the conversion was missed which kept the door ajar for Dulwich.

A try from another line-out drive by replacement prop Josh Ibuanokpe and a conversion from full-back Jamie Whiteford put Dulwich back in front and O’Flaherty’s hat-trick try, from an arcing run after Antony Bray picked up at the base of the scrum, ensured that St Joseph’s required a converted try to reach Twickenham.

Despite a period of sustained pressure the Suffolk side could not break Dulwich’s resistance though there was one heart-stopping moment before the final whistle when Wacokecoke gathered a crossfield kick but he stepped into touch as he did so.

“We probably didn’t create enough from the chances we had,” said St Joseph’s coach Robyn Jones. “We struggled towards the end just to chase, which we have done well all season, and the task just proved a little bit beyond us.

“We knew they would be very tough. The key thing was going to be patience. We had seen them a couple of games previously and there were a couple of areas where we were going to target them.

“We did have a good go at them  but we probably didn’t attack it as well as we could have. When they didn’t defend the blindside as well as they could have we found it hard to attack it continuously.

“But I’m very pleased with the way the boys acquitted themselves. They can come off the pitch with their heads held very high.

“I’m very proud of them but disappointed because I felt that we had a second notch to give really.”