HBS rugby blooded over 20 new players last Saturday, whilst holding a tough Charles River team to a 17-17 draw. On a blazingly hot day, HBS opened up with a full-strength side, drawing on the nucleus of last year’s team. Straight from the start, HBS seized the initiative by setting up a series of rucks to get to within striking distance of the Charles River try-line. Welshman Ollie Thomas (NA) danced through flailing tackles, but an HBS a knock-on brought the attack to a halt. The opening score was postponed only for a few minutes. Dan Gertsacov (OJ) and Bryan Vaniman (OF) tucked the ball under their shirts and gained hard yards in characteristic swash-buckling style, allowing fly-half James Nadault (OJ) to spin the ball wide. Roy Kim (OA) looked set to score in the corner but was just unable to take a difficult pass. However, after Charles River cleared their lines, Charles Macdonald (OD) charged into the heart of the opposition, and Spence Kympton (OC) was driven over the line by a posse of HBS forwards to open the scoring. Co-captain, Ken Ebbitt (OG), added the conversion to make the score 7-0. The forwards, bolstered by the return of Tucker Bailey (OB) from national service, continued to dominate the smaller opposition with first-years Steve Evans (NF) and Joseph Tesvic (NC) working hard around the park. Sustained pressure gave HBS a penalty in front of the posts, and the 3-points were snapped up by the impressive Argentinean, Rafa Guida Masoni (NC), who replaced the injured Ebbitt. Ebbitt must have the unluckiest jaw in Aldrich. After breaking it almost a year ago, he received a nasty blow when making a tackle. (Un)Fortunately, he won’t need a voice box and amplifier this semester as 6 stitches proved to be sufficient to repair the damage.
After conceding points so early in the match, Charles River recovered their composure and began to get parity in the forwards. Despite a try-saving tackle by Dan Shapiro (OF), the next play saw the Charles River back-line move the ball quickly through the hands to score in the corner. The conversion was missed and HBS remained ahead, 10-5, at the end of the first period.
Australian coach, Scott Durkin, made wholesale changes during the break to give all the players a run-out. With so many new players, HBS initially struggled, giving away scrappy penalties. The HBS players were often slow to retreat the required 10 yards, allowing Charles River to make easy progress towards the HBS line. Lack of knowledge about the off-side rule rather than foul play was the obvious reason for the penalties, so everyone was surprised when the referee penalized HBS for slowing down play, awarding a penalty try to the opposition. This shocking decision allowed Charles River to take the lead 10-12. But worse to come for HBS, as lack of communication in the graduate back-line allowed Charles River to score another try, making the score 10-17.
With the period drawing to a close, HBS needed points. Good drives by Dave Clark (NF) and Michael Hernandez-Soria (OH) gave the home team good position and when winger Alex Hooper (HLS) was set free on the left-wing, he was felled by a high tackle. Perhaps realizing his earlier mistake, the referee convinced himself that Hooper was likely to score and gave HBS a penalty try which was duly converted, leaving the game intriguingly poised at 17-17 going into the last period.
HBS brought back their big guns, but despite a spirited effort, could not break down the Charles River defense and the game finished all square at 17-17. After a good start, HBS were a little disappointed, but club president and 2nd row, Dan Morris (OF), considered the game as mission accomplished, “We were looking to blood some of our new players who have not seen much rugby played before. The way the team came back strongly in the final quarter is a testament to the strong spirit that the team has already built. With everyone getting the opportunity to play, we are now prepared for the matches starting this weekend.” And what a tasty opener. HBS faces probably the strongest team in the league, the Wolfhounds, and are looking to avenge last year’s away defeat. That match was played the night after the Priscilla ball and although HBS looked good – the forwards lined up with painted fingernails and most players had some stray make-up – the tequila haze played havoc with technical and aerobic aspects of the game. Co-captain, Gertsacov is looking forward to the match. “We’ve got our first match against a tough team of mostly international players. But we know the fans on the sidelines will cheer us on, and this will go a long way to sway momentum in our favor.” Harbus will bring you this game in next week’s edition.
Match photos kindly supplied by Spencer Leonard, www.spencerleonard.com