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HBS Rugby Old Boys Show that Experience is Better than Youth

This weekend marked an historic occasion for HBS Rugby, and it wasn’t just because they played a full game in Harvard Stadium for the first time ever, but for the first time in recent memory, the current team invited and hosted the HBS Rugby alumni for a momentous weekend of rugby and festivities.

Despite never having played before as a team, the alumni came out in full force and showed that they weren’t back in Allston just to admire the trophy cases in Spangler. Big hits were put in by both sides from the moment the whistle was blown. Chris Gordon (HBS ’01) took advantage of a complacent young boys team with some quick foot work to score a try in the opening five minutes. Liam Patrick (HBS ’07) also exploited a sleepy young boy back line with some well placed kicks deep in young boys territory. His quick reaction earned the old boys’ second score when he managed to touch down a ball that had been kicked back into the try zone. He converted both tries to make the score 14-0 in just ten minutes.

After a frantic start, the young boys started to settle down and find their rhythm. The forwards led by Randy Goldstein (OD) started controlling the ball from rucks and mauls much better, allowing scrum-half James Joun (ND) to provide the backs with some running opportunities. Doug Haber (NE) continued to display the rugby savvy show in the first three games of the season, with some clever plays and kicks from fullback which eventually earned him the first try for the young boys to get their score board ticking, which he also converted.

The momentum of the young boys continued and despite some huge old boy hits, in particular from the infamous Derek “Double D” Mendez (HBS ’03) and Molonai Hola (OPM ’04), and very wet conditions which made the ball nearly impossible to hold onto, the backs continued to run aggressive plays at the old boys. With Carl Allen (HKS) moved to fly-half and Chris Trimble (HKS) and Evan Engstrom (HLS) running in the centers, the young boys were starting to look strong. Engstrom made several breaks with powerful running from outside center, including one run down the wing, breaking six tackles to score the young boys’ second try, which was converted by Haber.

As they began to grow tired, the old boys adopted some interesting interpretations of their positions and tackling conventions. Warren Valdmanis (HBS ’02), old boys captain and hooker, was frequently found back in fullback position covering kicks, and one tackle from Chuck Hill (HBS ’68) may threaten the future Goldstein blood line.

As the first half closed, the forwards played some strong rugby with Joe Harrington (HLS) and Anthony Bangay (NG) providing quick support to breakdowns allowing some clean pick and go rugby and faster play. At this point, the young boys looked in control of the game with the score even at 14-14.

The second half saw the young boys field their B-side, in the spirit of making sure the full squad would get a game (with the scheduled A-side game being cancelled earlier that day due to heavy rain). Some of the HBS Rugby’s newest players looked at home in the rucks and mauls, with Eric Zuncic (NA), Peter Baldwin (NJ), and Bobby Gray (NC) putting in some ferocious hits.

In the middle of the second half, the old boys worked their way up to the current team’s try zone. One try effort was held up, a good decision from referee Mike Rush (HBS ’72), but the old boys continued to camp on the young boys line. A powerful scrum eventually gave the old boys their third try, with the forwards demonstrating great strength and control by pushing the young boys over the line, with Stitch (HBS ’03, almost) scoring the try, converted by Liam Patrick (HBS ’07).

The contest went right down to the final play however. The young boys came back strong after the try and had several runs at the try line, but some bruising defense from the old boys denied the try. Olly Tomkins (NH) playing at fly-half gave the young boys one final glimmer of hope with a clever kick down the wing to avoid being tackled, but Saul De La Guardia (HLS ’06) at prop managed to get back to cover Tomkins’ kick and deny the young boys from scoring in the last play of the game. Final score 21-14 to the alumni.

For innovative tackling and outstanding effort, man of the match goes to Chuck Hill (HBS ’68) for playing at the age of 71, despite having had a hernia operation only a couple of weeks prior.

This will hopefully be the start of things to come in the club’s culture of keeping the relations between players old and current strong. HBS Rugby would like to thank all of the old boys for coming back, especially those who traveled long distances to be in Boston. Special thanks to Mike Rush for referring and supporting so much in preparation, and to Warren Valdmanis for captaining the old boys side and supporting in preparation. And, as always, deepest appreciation goes out to our sponsors: The Boston Consulting Group and Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub.

October 6, 2008

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