- Cup holders Dulwich College and Hampton School both hoping to book Twickenham place
- Semi finals to be broadcast live on RFU.com
Photo: Capture the Event
It may have been many people’s idea of the perfect final but the saying goes you have to beat the best to win any trophy and that is the billing for Saturday’s (March 2) all-London semi final in the Daily Mail RBS Schools Under 18 Cup.
Cup holders Dulwich College will meet first-time U18 Cup semi finalists Hampton School at Broadstreet RFC near Coventry, and the Dulwich coach, Sam Howard, said: “While paying every respect to the other two teams in the semi finals, I would be surprised if the winner of this match does not win the final.
“We are unbeaten this season and Hampton have lost once – to us in the regular fixtures – and it should be a good game between two really good teams chasing a place at Twickenham.”
The winners of Saturday’s eagerly awaited contest, which can be seen live on RFU.com, will meet the winners of the second semi final between Warwick School and Northampton School for Boys in the final at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, March 23.
Dulwich College’s centre Dominic Fraser knows already what it is like to win a final, having kicked all his team’s points in last year’s 15-8 victory over Old Swinford Hospital at the Home of England Rugby.
Fraser was on similar form in this year’s quarter final – watched by his older brother Will, the Saracens flanker – when he scored a try, conversion and penalty to ease Dulwich into a 10-0 lead at home to Sherborne in London SE21. Dulwich eventually won 20-10.
Howard played Premiership rugby for Bedford as a fly half, and was the captain of the Dulwich first XV in 1995 that included two future England international forwards: No.8-to-be Nick Easter in the second row and a 16-year-old Andrew Sheridan at No.8 before his Test service as a prop. There are currently eight Old Alleynians playing in the Aviva Premiership.
This year’s team is unbeaten in the regular season, only the sixth time this has happened in over 100 years of rugby. The only loss was to Millfield in a 40-minute match at the St Joseph’s Festival.
Fifteen of the 22 players for the semi final joined the school as 11-year-olds, five came from prep school at 13-plus and two joined two years ago: leading try scorer and prop Beno Obano (who lives in Dulwich) and Fraser, whose brothers attended the school.
The team is captained by Dom Wroe Wright, while ‘Big Josh’ Ibuanokpe is a prop in the England U17 squad, having started his rugby with Dulwich in the U12s’ E team.
“We won against Hampton in the last 16 of the Cup last year and I think their director of rugby Zoran Higgins has more videos of us than anyone in his library,” said Howard, who coaches the team with Simon Thomas.
“The schools are rivals because of their London location, it is true, but at the same time a lot of the boys know each other and have mutual friends living around the capital, and that adds to the great atmosphere around this match.
“Several of our players have been through a semi final before so they know what to expect but it was all new for most of us including me last year and this year there is still an air of excitement and nervousness which is exactly what you want.”
Clash of styles
Hampton director of rugby Zoran Higgins looks after the team alongside David Mobbs-Smith, who on Sunday will switch to being head coach of the London & South East women in their divisional match against the Midlands.
The Hampton team has conceded one try in their six Cup wins over Salesian College, Lord Wandsworth College, RGS Colchester, St. Paul’s School Barnes, Whitgift School and Truro School.
England U18 prop Alex Lundberg is captain with fly half Tom MccGwire as vice captain, while Niall Barry represents USA U18. Two members of Saturday’s starting line-up joined in the sixth form; the rest have been at the school since leaving primary or prep school.
“It’s going to be a fantastic game to watch and maybe a clash in styles,” said Higgins.
“Dulwich are all about a big, driving game and they kick a lot of ball whereas we tend not to, and our school has always been known for an expansive game.
“Having said that, I have been seen as a ‘catch, drive and kick’ coach. I would say I’ve tried to make sure the boys are trained in all the facets of the game and we can execute any style proficiently.
“Dulwich haven’t lost in a fully-fledged 70-minute XVs match for two years and we are looking forward to the challenge.
“We do feel we can beat them. We won a pre-season match in 2011-12 and though we lost in the Cup last January (2012) it was by one score. This year we lost 25-14 but we ‘won’ the second half 8-3 and on a heavy pitch in wind and rain I saw enough from our boys to make me think we can turn that around in better conditions.”
Of the London ‘derby’ occasion, Higgins agreed with Howard that it added an extra excitement to this meeting in the Midlands. “It’s a shame it hasn’t ended up as an all-London final,” said Higgins. “There would have been a bumper Saturday crowd at Twickenham, maybe a record attendance for the schools cup.
“I think each school would have said we didn’t want to face the other at this stage.”
Hampton’s well known old boys include Simon Amor, former England Sevens captain, and Premiership players Rob Hoadley, Andy Beattie and Seb Jewell.
After reaching the final of the Daily Mail RBS U18 Vase at Twickenham in 2009, the school with a TW12 Twickenham postcode were knocked out of the Cup competition in the last 16 in 2010, 2011 and 2012, losing narrowly on each occasion.
Hampton have 1,100 students but with boys offered a free choice between rugby, football and rowing – all two-term sports – the numbers playing rugby in each age group vary, from 36 in this year’s Under 13s to 52 in the 15s.
Daily Mail RBS Schools U18 Cup semi finals, Broadstreet RFC and broadcast live on RFU.com:
March 2, 2013:
Dulwich College v Hampton School, 11am
Warwick School v Northampton School for Boys, 1pm
Daily Mail RBS Schools U18 Vase semi finals, Broadstreet RFC and broadcast live on RFU.com:
Felsted School v St Ambrose College, 11am
Plymouth College v Yarm School, 1pm.
Finals Day, Twickenham, Saturday March 23. Live on RFU.com:
U15 Vase – 11am
U15 Cup – 12.30pm
U18 Vase – 2pm
U18 Cup – 3.40pm