On the 8 February 1882 Bedford School and Dulwich College played a match of rugby. Neither school knew at the time, that this would be the start of a remarkable tradition; a school rugby fixture lasting an unbroken 137 years so far, making it the longest-standing unbroken school fixture in the world. However, this fixture is about so much more than the game of rugby – it’s about a long-standing friendship, rivalry forged with mutual respect and a shared enduring heritage.
The passion of the last 137 years of history was evident on every level on Saturday 12 October when Dulwich hosted all 18 matches as part of their 400 anniversary celebrations.
It was quite fitting then for Dulwich to win the majority of the fixtures on their special day of celebration. This is not to say, however, that the boys did not try their hardest to spoil the party as the contests were fierce and passionate yet mutually respectful. In fact, no different to any other block fixture played against Dulwich.
The matches, staggered throughout the afternoon, really did light up what was a very dank and dreary afternoon on the weather front. The grand finale was the 1st XV match at 3:30pm which was billed as being the ‘showstopper’. The match started fast and was fairly evenly contested, but it was Dulwich who had a little more composure to score a couple of tries despite the desperate efforts of the Bedford defence. The defence was perhaps a little over eager at times, leading to a number of penalties against them, three of which were converted. By half time Bedford were down but certainly not out. Led magnificently by Michael Phillips on the pitch and Ryan Apps from the side line, there was a definite spark to the team that had only glimmered this season so far. A bit of self-belief and determination not to let the opposition breach their defensive line; known to most as ‘BS Dog!’.
The second half was a belter, particularly if you were a Bedford supporter. The players from the other senior teams started to gather and announced their arrival with spine tingling song. This passion in voice was in harmony with the passionate play on the pitch. The Bedford boys kept pinned the Dulwich team in their half, and any possession the opposition gained was met by an organised and determined defence that managed to heroically repel the opposition. Momentum was shifting and, finally, continued pressure led to a thoroughly-deserved try. Shortly after, some clever kicking, purposeful defending and a nice piece of individual skill, gave Bedford their second try. They were now firmly on top of the game and a third try looked likely, only to be halted on the Dulwich five metre line by the final whistle. The XV had turned a corner.
It was a very big effort from boys, parents OBs and staff to support all teams playing at Dulwich this weekend. The Rugby Club would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all involved in enabling us to support the 400th year anniversary celebrations of Dulwich College.
Selected reports from around the ground:
A super, well-contested game against a physically-large and well-organised team. The contested scrum held up well, the counter-rucking was effective, the boys stuck to plans well and there was some great tackling. The match was tighter than the score line suggests and the team showed great discipline and determination to gain a victory.
Couldn’t be prouder of the boys, they played out their skins. Some small mistakes cost us dearly but our attitude was exceptional and we were by far the better team. Some good work with the back line and a dominant scrum meant that we controlled possession and territory for much of the game. The boys could have shown their frustrations with the ‘rub of the green’ going against them but they chose to remain focussed on their game and were true ambassadors of the game.
An epic encounter, Bedford brought huge intensity with and without the ball. They demonstrated great composure in attack to score three tries against an organised and physical opposition defence. A hard fought and well-deserved win.
The boys played some quite brilliant rugby. The ball movement in the first half was breath-taking at times, and in very challenging conditions. Dulwich had a few athletic players who were hard to contain, particularly in the second half when the game started to break up. Both of Bedford’s tries were team tries, where every everyone made a positive contribution. The scoreline certainly didn’t reflect how competitive the game was and the boys should be proud of their performance.
Throughout the game, the Bedford team seemed to have an ability to ramp up the intensity when they needed to. Every time it looked as though Dulwich had a sniff of a comeback, Bedford would answer with another score to quickly reassert their dominance and settle the nerves. The boys carried hard and their support play was excellent. There were also some amazing bits of skill on show with a slippery ball.