HBS Rugby Engineers Double Victory at MIT

Blue skies and green grass were the conditions HBS Rugby was lucky enough to work with in handing two honorable MIT sides one more year of frustrating defeat. Last fall, a chilling monsoon-style drenching on Harvard’s gravel pit surface ended in a 37-17 HBS victory over the Engineers. There was no B-side match. This year was different due to the quick-thinking Spence Kympton (OD), who, all year has insured B-matches and scrimmages early so that 40 plus HBS Rugby players get a match every Saturday.

01. Saul de La Guarda
02. Steve Evans
03. Dan Gertsacov (c)
04. Tucker Bailey
05. Daniel Morris
06. John Sheppard
07. Brendan Rauw
08. Bryan Vaniman
09. Mark Okerstrom
10. Rafa Guida Masoni
11. Campbell Murray
12. Spence Kympton
13. Oliver Thomas
14. Ken Ebbitt (c)
15. Dan Shapiro

From the opening kickoff, John Sheppard (OI) exemplified the one cardinal rule of rugby – never allow the ball to hit the ground and bounce.

Sheppard carried this credo into the lineout with keen eyes and hands, securing loose ball all afternoon for HBS. But too many forwards in initial rucks and mauls cost HBS second phase possessions. Backs captain Ken Ebbitt (OG) aka speedy Gonzales sustained a minor knee injury in opening play but toughed it out to assist a score before leaving the game at the half.

To MIT’s advantage, a lineout infraction deep inside HBS territory resulted in a 5-meter scrum. The ball was passed out wide to an overload of MIT backs for a five-point try, their two-point conversion kick missing the posts. Whether it was the shock of actually playing on grass – or the dazzling MIT architecture – HBS could neither settle down nor execute their organized brand of rugby. After 15 minutes, it was no coincidence HBS had had enough. Mark Okerstom (OE) and Bryan Vaniman (OF) ran the ball weakside from the scrum, with Rafa Guida Masoni (NC) and Kympton calling for the ball wide. Employing a fresh series of skip passes and “loops,” Kympton and Ebbitt created space and dotted down in the corner, opening a pattern of exciting play and try scoring for Harvard.

Kympton continued to run the ball with ferocity down MIT throats all

afternoon, managing to stay on his feet alone well beyond his forwards. His breakaway running style and work in the tackles remained critical factors in gaining MIT real estate and retaining HBS ball possession.

A second factor that shaped HBS play was the tactical and frequent use of the flyhalf boot. The clever Argentinean, Rafa, torpedoed the ball into MIT territory from all phases of play. A mixed bag of untidy ball and little variation in the line-outs led to trouble for HBS. Ironically, Tucker Baileys’ (OB) abilities to spoil and pilfer nine-feet in the air seemed to benefit HBS just the same. The experienced Steve Evans (NF), in at hooker, however displayed fitness beyond the scrums and line-outs. Aside from scrappy play, Evans was constantly found backing up the backrow and wingers all over the park.

Thankfully Dan Gertsacov (OJ), Daniel Morris (OF) and Saul de la Guardia were there to ruck MIT bodies out of the road, maintaining HBS domination of the scrums as well. Due to a whistle-happy referee, the volume of scrums began to tire both teams but HBS proved to be in better shape. MIT tried to run the ball from their back row but John Sheppard, Brendan Rauw (OF) – and especially Bryan Vaniman – turned that bad idea into an opportunity to eat the “techies” for lunch. Another factor evident from the filming of the match (narration by young Charley Nadauld) was the fierce tackling of Canadian scrumhalf Mark Okerstrom (OE), who also ran pilfered ball down the sideline with vigor. Oliver Thomas (NA), Dan Shapiro (OF) and Spence Kympton recycled themselves brilliantly in defense, making tackle after tackle to deny MIT any further points at the HBS line. The constant pounding of HBS “pod” play could not be stopped.

Led by Gertz, Bailey, Morris, and Sheppard, the big-men of HBS continued laying MIT players on their backs. One spectator commented, “I saw bodies flying – and even heard crunching noises – but it happened so fast I could not see what was happening.” Two words: Bryan Vaniman. From the base of the scrum, from the end of the line out, in loose play and on defense, the man in the #8 jersey today perhaps played the game of his life. Although Vani’s power and girth is evident, his constant hustle and physical endurance is what makes him a standout rugby player for Harvard. One particularly strong run from Tucker Bailey placed Okerstrom in a sticky situation without a “pod.” Quick hands to Rafa and his inside pass to the omnipresent Vaniman allowed for his first try of the match – breaking two tackles along the way.

To MIT’s credit, they fielded many power runners in the back line, including dominant centers and wings who displayed skilled passing and ball advancement – each leading to two more tries against HBS. Kickers for both teams today could not seem to split the posts. Unfortunately, the first half ended with an MIT “pick and go” from the base of the ruck for an unmolested scrumhalf try. The half-time chat from Aussie Coach Scot Durkin was positive, yet disciplined. Fitness was starting to wane, but good controlled rugby was clearly getting the job done. “Keep it up lads, but lets put more points on the board.”

The second half was filled with minor injuries and replacements. Derek Mendez (HBS’03) entered the game at prop after a massage from an MIT football player. Seamus Smyth (HLS) entered the game at flanker to help Steve Evans with more punching. Alejandro Puentes (NI) stepped in at second row for Harvard, running like a tank toward MIT’s line.

Unfortunately, an HBS kick to the center of the field was instantly returned
by MIT’s backline for a try. This costly error sobered HBS and settled them down into solid play with new ruggers now settling in. Toward the middle of the second half, Bryan Vaniman picked-up from the base of a scrum and drove in for a try but was unluckily called back by the referee on account of a sudden blindness in both eyes. Charley Nadauld (commentating on camera) was furious, but an ensuing pass out wide after a settled scrum was touched down by Campbell “Soup” Murray (OJ), 18-17 to HBS.

Tempers in the MIT camp began to flare, and there was more punching from Smyth and Evans at the line-out. The big Dan Gertz stepped in and everyone became afraid including members of Ebbitt and Gertsacov families who were spectators on the sideline. Traumatic! In the last five minutes of the match, MIT frustrations were quickly sensed and capitalized upon. Kympton booted a loose ball 30 meters downfield, outrunning MIT’s entire back line to touch the ball down for a try. MIT was not happy. Bryan Vaniman converted a loss of possession into “pod” play ball, plowing through three MIT defenders to score again, taking a nasty cut to the eye in the process. Jay Klug (NE) found himself in the A-side #8 shirt replacing Vaniman, coming onto the field and making thundering tackles. The final nail in the coffin was a weakside dash from Rafa at flyhalf, back inside to Okerstrom who darted in for the final try. Three tries in five minutes boosted the final score to 35-17, Harvard over MIT.

The second match against MIT was as exciting as the first. The great coach Mike Hanson once remarked, “There is no greater feeling for the old men of Rugby than to see new men step foot on the field and play.” At HBS, that tradition continued against MIT, with men returning to the game after a long break and fresh rookies making their marks. New talent on the roster this year is both numerous and impressive.

B-man-of-the-match, Terry Angelos (MIT), displayed crafty flyhalf work all over the park, scoring two tries and two conversions against

MIT-B’s. Joseph Tesvic (NC) not only helped lead the pack from the #8 position, but scored his first try for Harvard wit
h a touchdown on a loose MIT scrum. Tesvic, from Bronte Beach, in Sydney, Australia, had this to say, crediting his forwards with his try: “It came after a big push from our forwards from the MIT 22-meter line. Our rolling maul drove the opposition backwards, and put them in disarray, the ball popped out, and I took a little intercept past their fly half to score.” Relentless scrummaging and tenacious play by Jay Klug – employing the HBS “pod” gameplan – pounded the ball down MIT’s gut, holding them scoreless. Koome Imathiu (NB) from the outside center position scored two tries against MIT to bring the final tally to 31-0, HBS.

In the final match, in the pub at UNO’s, Spence Kympton was awarded man-of-the-match against MIT for his running, defense, scoring and leadership. Always in first place, the former cadet led the boat race competition against his counterpart with a margin analogous to his playing style – miles ahead. After a miserable MIT showing in both boat races, quote of the day goes to Derek ‘Massage’ Mendez who quipped, “Maybe you boys at MIT should build a robot that can drink.”

October 6, 2003
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