As my teammates will readily attest after a cameo appearance on the pitch, generally lasting less the first half, I tend to “participate” in the remainder of the match from the comfort of the nearest hospital emergency room.
Not so this weekend when I was privileged to watch a thrilling match of precision rugby as Harvard put the axe well and truly through McGill’s redwood.
Harvard’s annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of Canadian rugby started when 30 brave souls left in convoy late on Friday afternoon to make the long trip up to Montreal. The atmosphere aboard the buses was tense as the team battled to overcome a tiring week of cases and the prospect of facing fifteen of Canada’s finest lumberjacks and Mounties from the McGill Graduate School of Business the following day.
We focused the first hour or so on getting ourselves effectively re-hydrated as we cantered out of Boston at the astonishing pace of 11 mph (note to self and team captains: avoid the Mass Pike on Friday afternoons). Three hours later, with the lights of Boston still visible on the horizon, the atmosphere on board had reverted to the more typically jovial rugby club banter. The banter continued for the remaining 6 hours of the journey before we arrived late but in great spirits at McGill’s graduate student bar.
McGill Rugby Club has always shown itself to be a kind, generous and fun-loving host and this year was no exception. Despite being very late on Friday the bar was full of laughter and overflowing beer glasses. The team was warmly welcomed and soon started making friends with the opposition players. Shortly after we headed downtown with our hosts who had arranged VIP entrance to one of Montreal’s finest hotspots. By about 4 a.m. the team had dispersed over Montreal with their “billets” that were putting them up.
ortunately the game wasn’t scheduled to kick-off until 4 p.m. the following afternoon. The team reassembled at noon for a rousing pep talk from forwards captain Tony “not straight” Carango (OA) and backs captain Shoney “‘s is a terrible restaurant” Katz (OC) and within minutes the entire team was once again erect and ready for action.
We headed over to the stadium at around two to warm up and get ready to face the opposition. We were delighted to find that the crowds had already begun to gather and that the pitch was like a card table – deep green and soft as felt (Harvard groundskeepers could learn a lesson or two from their Canadian counterparts!) and as a spectator I was glad to see that the bar was already open. It was perfect rugby playing weather at around 65 degrees, clear skies and a gentle breeze.
The match kicked off on time and in front of a large crowd of home support. Harvard dominated from the kick-off. The hard work put in through early season training clearly showed in the skillful and disciplined way that Harvard controlled the ball in the loose play and in the cohesion between the back and the forwards. Early forward pressure led by “Red Planet” Baron Hanson (FAS), Tucker “Beatle” Bailey (OB) and John Sheppard (NI) quickly put Harvard on McGill’s 22 metre line. The ball was popped out to the backs who continued pressing forward and a clever pass from Shoney Katz allowed Spencer “Goose” Kympton (ND) to use his blistering pace to cross the line for the opening try, converted by Baron Hanson, to give Harvard a 7-0 lead.
The ball was back in Harvard’s hands from the kick-off and the forwards again led the charge toward the McGill goal line. After a number of well-linked phases between the forwards and backs put Harvard on the opposition 22 meter line, McGill managed to steal the ball in a ruck and attempted to run it out of their half. A fateful handling error by McGill led to the first scrum of the match. A well-executed back row move saw Josh “Cartman” Hall (OF) run up the blind side before linking up with Baron Hanson to take the ball back deep into the McGill half. The forwards formed a powerful rolling maul and drove Tony Carango over for the second score of the match. Harvard 12 – McGill 0.
The kick-off gave McGill brief respite but it was not long before Harvard, this time with their nimble backs, were battering McGill’s defenses. A quick cut inside by Nam “No Woman No” Kry (OC) and a short pass to Spencer Kympton wrong footed the McGill 3/4 line and Spence ran through for his second try of the match. Harvard lead 17-0.
The kick-off allowed McGill a brief infringement into Harvard territory before David “Ou est le papier?” Merle (OF) gathered up the ball and smashed through the McGill forwards to make a solo run back to the McGill 22 metre line. It took 6 of McGill’s pack to stop David scoring what would have otherwise been a glorious try.
McGill picked up the loose ball and their backs sprung into life. A series of quick passes allowed them to cut through Harvard’s 3/4 line and make a desperate dash for the Harvard goal line. A try saving and bone crunching tackle by Dan Shapero (NE) prevented McGill from scoring. Dan Gertsacov (NJ) gathered up the loose ball and passed it out to Jorge “Greatest Peruvian Hero” O’Hara (OI) who broke through, passing wide to Katz who found Nam Kry with an inside pass for his second try of the match. Baron Hanson converted the try, and Harvard lead 24-0.
The kick-off again put McGill briefly back into Harvard territory but by this time Harvard were rampant. Jorge O’Hara, Harvard’s Peruvian international, gathered up the ball and chipped it skillfully over the McGill defense; sprinting through after his own ball he gathered it up to score a textbook try. The golden boots of Baron Hanson worked their magic again, converting for Harvard to lead 31-zip.
The McGill team looked drained and dejected and there was still time enough for the Harvard team, with forwards and back linking seamlessly to release Jorge for his second try in less than five minutes.
The half-time whistle came with Harvard leading 38-0.
McGill were clearly outclassed and outgunned in every department, and with the win safely secured the Harvard boys began to relax. Harvard continued to play with flair and passion but with a more relaxed attitude and with a chance for some of Harvard’s new players to strut their stuff.
Highlights of the second half included fantastic tries scored by prop Dan Gertsacov and Nacho “Mama” Palma (OF). Strong performances were put in from Gene “Dougie Houser” Ng (NB), Ralf “the Messcherschmidt” Scherschmdt (NJ), AJ “Action” Jackson (NG) and Daniel Morris (NF). Much to McGill’s relief and Harvard’s delight the match finished Harvard 48, McGill 0.
Postgame in Montreal
The social started immediately after the match and carried on long into the early hours with our hosts demonstrating once again that what they lack in talent on the pitch they can more than make up for in organizing evening entertainment.
We moved off from the stadium to a nearby Irish bar where Julian “Gang Green” Coulter (OG) had the entire pub in stitches with tales of his job before school at one of Chicago’s old department stores. For the record, he doesn’t work there anymore.
Old man of the team Charles “Pink Panther” Macdonald (ND) followed up with hilarious stories of what he got up to when he was younger, and in his prime, as an officer in the British army. Now that he’s older, he’s old and grey, and he comes to HBS everyday.
This was followed by the traditional rugby sing-along led effectively by impresarios Tucker Bailey, David Merle and Shoney Katz who led rousing renditions of traditional French folk songs.
The social carried on long into the night as the men of Harvard took in all that Montreal had to offer.
Thirty happy smiling faces gathered on Sunday for the somewhat more subdued through the fall leaves of Maine back to Boston after an altogether fantastic weekend.
McGill we thank you and look forward to seeing you next year.
A rugby match isn’t really a rugby match unless someone ends up in the emergency room
. Taking up my mantle this week was Jorge O’Hara with a broken nose, but the true “Iron Man” award goes to Ken “Smiles” Ebbitt (NG) with a clean break through his jaw.
Five minutes into the first half, Ebbitt blocked a McGill kick, and ran through the McGill line in an attempt to pick up the loose ball for a try.
Unluckily for Ken, a McGill elbow caught him square in the jaw. At the next stoppage in play, Ken noticed that his teeth weren’t matching up properly when closing his mouth, but like a true rugby player decided, “I didn’t come all the way up here to play just five minutes of rugby” and snapped his jaw back into place. Ebbitt finished the entire game despite the injury, and his phenomenal performance and stunning good looks won him the admiration of the female rugby fans in the crowd, many of whom saved a spot for him on their dance cards during the late-night Montreal club action. A true gentleman, Ebbitt did not allow himself to finish until each and every woman’s needs were fulfilled. It wasn’t until returning to campus at the end of the weekend that the tough-as-nails gladiator even got a medical opinion. Said the doctor, “you did a pretty nice job of re-setting your jaw – but don’t EVER try that again!” Much to the chagrin of Ken’s sectionmates, and especially his TOM professor, Ken’s mouth will be wired shut for several weeks. Ladies, we’d sure appreciate it if you can take a few moments out of your day to thank this “man among men” for taking a few 3’s for the team in classroom participation.
Quote of the weekend: “The sport of Rugby is both elegant and flamboyant; I intend to maintain these traditions” Charles “Pink Panther” MacDonald
Special thanks to Key “I Still Got It” Kiarie (OK), Todd “Special Ed” Bice (FAS), Gene Ng, Tucker Bailey, AJ Jackson, and Tony Carango for driving the buses up and back.