The Alleynian, December 1921
Dulwich College v. Bedford School.
Played at Bedford, October 22nd. Result: Bedford 3 goals 1 try; Dulwich, 2 goals 2 tries.
Of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest, as the poet has pointed out, are these: “It might have been.” One can think of at least a dozen sentences beginning with “if” which help to take the sting out of this defeat by two points. If Thomas had been playing; if Faletti had converted that try of his; if we had been playing on our own ground, as it was our turn to do, only our ground was too hard and so the match had to be shifted to Bedford; if we had had another five minutes; and, above all, if O’Brian had not tried to drop a goal when we were right on their line and must have scored in next to no time. . . . Well, that’s enough to be going on with.
We kicked off up the hill at 3.37, and began to press, the forwards hooking the ball in their Merchant Taylors’ style. But our outsides were slow and stereotyped. We could have done with a Cazalet at this point to sell the dummy once or twice. However, we continued to press, except for one occasion on which their right wing got off and was well stopped by Corbin. Walker tried to dash in in the corner, but was smothered by his wing. Faletti made a fine tackle, and then, at 3.42, five minutes after the start, there was some scrambling play on the right, and Rix followed up and touched down near the corner flag, too far out for Faletti to convert. (Dulwich, 3).
You could almost see the team taking a deep breath and saying to themselves: “This is too easy. I hope these fellows are going to make the game interesting. It’ll take all the fun out of it if we win by about seventy points.” And just at that moment the Bedford three-quarters got going, and their right wing scored in the corner. Time, 3.45. The try was not converted, but it should not have happened at all. (Dulwich, 3; Bedford, 3).
We now had six minutes of give-and-take play, our team always looking as if they were just going to do something worth writing home about, but never quite bringing it off. Rix put in a good kick, but the Bedford back returned into touch in our twenty-five with a splendid punt. Walker tackled his wing vigorously. There was a free kick to Bedford, and then their three-quarters were off again, and the right wing ran round behind the posts. It is easy, of course, to be critical from the touchline, but it really did seem as if somebody might have squelched him or at least prevented the ball getting to him. Time, 3.52. Dulwich, 3; Bedford, 8. In other words, we had to score twice to get ahead—always a bad position to be in.
Stark headed a forward rush after the re-start, and our pack began to settle down to business. They got the ball several times, but it simply travelled across the field with hardly a yard gained, till it got to Corbin, when he was penned up on the touchline and could do nothing. Wakeley kept us attacking with a neat kick—he was ever so much better at scrum-half than he had been on the previous Saturday in the centre; and Rix picked up beautifully from the feet of their forwards and reached the Bedford fifteen yards. Bedford returned to near half-way, where an unrehearsed drama took place, owing to the referee not seeing that the flag was up for touch. The ball went across to the Bedford left wing, who scored a very fine try. It was hard luck that he should have to be called back. After this our forwards made another rush, assisted by Faletti, who played a fine, sound, veteran game all through. Davison tackled their right wing just as he punted, and the ball trickled into touch in our twenty-five. There was a scrum in our twenty-five, and then, with the best combined movement of the day, the Bedford centres got it out to the left wing who inside-passed to his centre, who handed on to the other centre, who scored a great try near the corner-flag. As it turned out, this was the deciding moment of the game, for the very difficult kick went over the bar between the posts, and Bedford were now thirteen points to our three. If this kick had failed, as one would have expected from the position, the match would have been a draw. Time 3.5.
The Bedford back misfielded the kick-off, and a scrum was formed in their twenty-five. The ball came out on the wrong side, and their three-quarters got moving, but Corbin, who was excellent in defence, got his man about thirty-five yards out. Our forwards rushed again, Gibb and Goodwin prominent, and reached the line. Unfortunately, Davison, taking a punt from their back, aimed his return kick too straight down the field, and they touched down. It was in an exactly similar position that he scored his historic try against Sherborne last year, but age seems to have sobered him and he made no attempt to run. We pressed again after the drop-out, our forwards really well together now, and our three-quarters reached the line. Finally, our forwards took the thing in hand, and, after an excellent combined handling movement Armstrong got over near the posts. Faletti converted. Time, 3.15. Score: Dulwich, 8; Bedford, 13. For the last ten minutes we had had all the game, and we continued to do so till half-time, which came a few minutes later.
When the game was re-started at 3.22, it looked as if the match was to be a repetition of last year’s. With the hill helping us, we began to go great guns. Wakeley made a clever run down the touch-line and punted, a scrum following on the line. Here, the Bedford back, with another fine kick, found touch half-way, but a splendid rush by our forwards took the ball to their twenty-five, where Walker made a dangerous dash for the line, being tackled five yards out. The ball came back to the twenty-five line, and Corbin took it on again, being brought down within a yard of scoring. The Bedford forwards rushed to their twenty-five, and then Faletti, with a magnificent straight run, broke right through and scored the best try of the match. Time, 3.33.
But here a tragedy occurred. It was quite an easy kick, but Faletti sent it wide. One of those accidents which will happen, but very unfortunate as it turned out. Dulwich, 11; Bedford, 13.
With plenty of time to go, the odds seemed to be all in our favour. Since half-time we had been all over our opponents, except for brief rallies by their three-quarters which never looked dangerous. What ought to have happened was another try for us, putting us ahead, somewhere in the next ten minutes, and then perhaps a couple more just to round the thing off. What actually happened was that, after Corbin had nearly scored with a run and a short punt which forced Bedford to touch down, and after we had spent several minutes on their line doing everything but score, something suddenly went wrong. A Bedford forward rush, which started by looking as if it was going to peter out somewhere in their twenty-five, suddenly turned into a three-quarter movement, and, before we knew where we were, they were sweeping into our twenty-five and a moment later somebody in a red jersey had soccer-hacked over our line and touched down. Time, 3.48. The kick was successful, and there we were again in the position of having to score twice to win. Dulwich, 11; Bedford, 18.
It was evident after the kick-off that this had been more or less in the nature of an expiring effort on the enemy’s part, for we at once began to control the game again. But now we were fighting against time, and it seemed likely that the clock would be too much for us. Still there was just a chance, and things looked bright when we penned Bedford up on their line and our forwards started to heel like a machine. Again and again the ball came out on our side, and we were just licking the good old pencil and wondering whose name we should have to inscribe on the roll of fame when O’Brian . . . but the subject is too painful. See beginning of report.
The drop-out relieved the pressure for just the time needed by Bedford, and Walker’s great effort, when it came, came too late. Still, it was a great thing to watch. It was like one of those school stories where the hero scores the deciding try just as the whistle blows. Unfortunately it was not the deciding try. After Walker had taken a pass in our twenty-five, squirmed his way past his wing, swerved round the back, and pelted over the line with the Bedford team toiling in pursuit, and after Faletti had converted we were still two points behind. And, as there were only two minutes to go, two points behind we remained till the whistle blew. Of all sad words, as we said before. . . .
Incidentally, we forgot to mention that about ten minutes before no-side only a very bad piece of luck kept Corbin from scoring. He kicked over the line and followed up, but lost the ball at the last moment. It was such a near thing that, until Bedford started to drop out, nobody on the touch-line could say whether a try had been given or not.
And so home, trying to console ourselves with the reflection that until this match we had won two years in succession. One can’t keep up that sort of thing indefinitely. Next year we shall have to start winning again. But whoever inherits the position of left wing next year had better watch that Bedford right wing carefully. He is only fifteen, and was very nearly the best man of the field.
P. G. Wodehouse.