HBSRFC played its toughest rugby of the year this past weekend, with back-to-back matches against undefeated division champions, South Shore Anchors, and then a muddy match against a team visiting from London, the Twickenham RFC. Although we fought in a losing battle, we certainly rose to the occasion and demonstrated some of the best quality rugby we’ve played all year.

Our first match was played on Saturday, on an overcast day south of Boston, in Marshfield, MA. Upon taking the pitch, it was obvious to everyone that it was a narrow field, which we thought would play to our favor given our demonstrated strength in forward play. We knew we were in for a tough day with the referee before the match even began, as he quickly established he didn’t “like to be touched” by any player and would referee as if this was an international test match – a ridiculous claim in Division III rugby in the United States.

The match started with HBS kicking off, with the wind at our backs.

Brendan Rauw (OF) came down with the first hit, putting a tough smack on the receiver of the kick off. After a few quick rucks, HBS stole the ball in a tackle, as your humble author (Dan Gertsacov, OJ) was able to get his hands on a ball left open in the ruck. But, I paid the price, as an inadvertent hit after the play caused a hamstring tear and Derek Mendez (ODB) came in soon after the 5 minute mark and quickly demonstrated the resilience he is famed for, given his birthday party was the evening before.

The remainder of the first half was spent running up and down the pitch with strong forward play, with Daniel Morris (OF) and Charles Macdonald (OD) sealing up any play in and around the rucks. The opposition tried to open the ball to their backs, but was continually stuffed by the quick defense and strong tackles by centers Ollie Thomas (NA) and Spence Kympton (OD). Scrumhalf Rafa (NC) controlled the speed of the game, making sure the heralded “HBS Pods” were given the ball at depth and also causing damage to the opposition’s attempts to take the ball out of the scrum.

South Shore went out to an early lead, with their strong runners punching one through for a 5-0 lead. Unable to convert the try, HBS continued to pressure the opposition, but the referee showed his “international refereeing” by continually dinging HBS for extremely questionable offsides calls. HBS’ new stand-out flanker from Argentina, Alejandro Escobar (FAS) seemed to always be the victim of the referee’s quick whistle.

The strong play in our lineouts kept HBS in the game, as hooker Will Swint (NI) was connecting with John Sheppard (OI) as if they were playing catch in practice. One of these lineouts, deep in the opposition’s half, resulted in a rolling maul that HBS was able to push over for a try, with Alejandro finally putting his hand down on the ball. Rafa converted and HBS was up 7-5 going into the half.

HBS Coach Scot Durkin gave the troops a needed pep-talk at the half, focusing that this game was in our hands to win and we must rely on our advantage in the back line to win. Nai Hola (OPM) came in for Escobar, showing quickly why he’s known as one of the hardest-hitting Tongans this side of Utah. Koome Imathiu (NB) was subbed in for Adrien de Chaisemartin (FAS), who played a strong half at wing. Joe Tesvic (NC) also came in for Rauw about 10 minutes into the half, playing the remainder of the game as if he had an additional 50 pounds on his solid frame. The match went back and forth from there, as Dan Shapero’s (OE) rock-solid play at fullback gave HBS some key tackles and kicked the ball deep in the opposition’s territory.

But, the stars were aligned against us and the referee called a questionable penalty against HBS and the Anchors, with the wind now at their backs, were quick to convert and take an 8-7 lead. HBS threatened with some beautiful backs play, as the ball sailed out into the hands of Koome who sprinted down for what looked like a certain try. Koome, looking for the try zone marker, was tackled just a meter short and HBS lost the ensuing ruck. South Shore marched back down the field and the referee again saw reason to penalize HBS, as the Anchors converted and won the game 11-7. The Vani-Train took home “Man of the Match” honors in front of his gleamingly proud Mom and additional strong play was turned in by Canadian Wing Dan and the South African full-back Terry Angelos (OOFAS). With this tough but close loss to the best team in the division, HBS was knocked out of NERFU tournament play, but
demonstrated that our best rugby is just now being realized.

Waking up in our famed HBSRFC Blazers, bruised and battered from the game as well as Saturday’s evening adventures with the Alumni and the Twickenham side, we were greeted by some of the worst conditions imaginable. Our home pitch became a lake and HBS put their scuba gear on and took the field. We still had chorus’s of the Music Man’s “I can play the big bass drum” dancing in our heads as the rain continued to pour down.

Mixing in with some of our newer players in the forwards were standout HBS alums, Sean Gass (HBS’02) and Claude London (HBS’02). Michael Hernandez Soria (OH) made his presence known at second row and Jamil Khan (NJ) played a first half at wing, before being brought into the forwards for his aggressive style of play. The Twickenham side showed their rugby knowledge and experience, pushing us both in the scrums and with driving mauls. The first half ended with HBS trailing 5-0 with everything absolutely wet, except our spirits.

The second half showed HBS’ resilience, as Mark Okerstrom (OE) kept the ball moving all the way into the hands of our nifty wings, Gene Ng (OB) and Luke Herbert (NE). Michael Munson (OA) kept himself under the ball at fullback and the Connell Brothers (OOOK) played as men possessed.

After tying the scoring up at 5-5, HBS continued to threaten but the conditions didn’t allow much movement. A very generous referee, possibly of English heritage, gave the opposition 5 different attempts to score with 1 minute left in play and the Twickenham Old Boys were only too happy too oblige on their final attempt. HBS handed the field over to our “Old Boys,” who had players ranging in age from 45- 65 years old.

That match kept close, but the most competitive part of the match was the post-match BBQ at the HBS Football Stadium. The HBS Old Boys, as generous as ever, showed the young guys how you really put together a Tailgate, even importing Bratwursts straight from Johnsonville, Wisconsin.

The party continued to Pizzeria Uno’s, where our generous sponsors showered us with plentiful Sam Adams. After multiple requests, the HBS team finally showed everyone their beauties with a Father Abraham variation that will be scarred into the memories of various Uno patrons.

Although the HBS RFC’s fall season is coming to an end, we’ve got a strong competition at an MBA tournament this weekend at Wharton Business School, where we should only continue to improve our play, both on and off the pitch.