Harvard Dominates Wharton Rugby Tournament

Dominate seems like a strong word, doesn’t it?

After a demoralizing last minute loss in the 2003 Wharton rugby tournament, Harvard was victorious last weekend in this year’s tournament. However, there is a reason why the headline does not read ‘Harvard Wins Wharton Rugby Tournament’. And that reason is that what occurred was closer to a physical and mental domination of our opposition. This is not hyperbole on my part. Let the record show:

* Harvard won 5 games, and lost none.
* Harvard scored 137 points, and conceded none.
* Harvard’s physical play caused Stern to go home early, Wharton B and Columbia to merge teams and Wharton A to meekly plead that we shorten the final.

So, what happened in the games?

Game 1: No one really knew what to expect against Columbia in the first pool match, and Harvard assembled its strongest squad to send a message that we had come to play hard, but fair, rugby. As we’ve come to expect, Carl Lavin led the way, head first, into rucks and mauls, and eventually over for the first of his two tries for the game. As impressive was the performance of Mans Larsson, who came directly from Priscilla, and scored two tries on two hours sleep. Big Saul De La Guardia was impressive in this morning game and the play of the forwards created opportunities for the backs. Andrew Heffernan (NJ) seized on one of these, for Harvard’s 5th try. Final score: Harvard 25 – Columbia 0.

Game 2: Although the next game was against Wharton’s B team, we expected a tough fight, as Wharton and Harvard usually jostle for rugby supremacy in the U.S. However, it was a very one-sided game, where both forwards and backs flourished. The key positional change of Josh Bresler into Hooker and Steve Evans into Scrum Half enabled hard-running stallion Oliver Thomas to move back to his preferred Inside Centre position. Harvard simply had too much speed out wide, causing Will Swint, Mans Larsson, and Oliver Thomas to cross for tries. The fitness of flankers Carl Lavin and Joseph Tesvic also paid dividends as their link up work led to them each scoring tries. Josh Bresler and Santiago Kraiselburd smashed through for another pair of tries, and in the end it was a massive result. Final Score: Harvard 39, Wharton B 0.

Game 3: Stern had shocked onlookers earlier in the day with a 7-5 win over Wharton A, so Australian Coach Scot Durkin rallied the troops for a final assault. This was another aggressive game, and lacked some of the creative flair of the previous efforts. It was notable for its big hits. In particular, Billy Soares nearly took the head off an opponent with one of the hardest legal hits in the history of MBA rugby. Chris Dervan, playing against his old school, also ‘made the hurt feel good’, as he later put it. Jon Krautmann came on as an impact player and terrorized the Stern men – he swears you could see the fear in their eyes. Try scorers in this game were Oliver Thomas, Joseph Tesvic and Kevin O’Brien. And, of course, a 4th to Mans Larsson, showing great resilience after his previous night’s activities. And we’re not just talking about Priscilla. Final Score: Harvard 25 – Stern 0.

With three dominating wins behind us and the path to the final laid out ahead of us the next day we had a choice for the Saturday night – sleep or drink beer..? We elected to do both! It was great to see a sea of blue ‘HBS Rugby’ polo shirts (generously donated by The Boston Consulting Group) at the rugby social. Even when partying we showed the strength of our solidarity and teamwork. After a few lubricating beers Jamil Khan and the Wharton Captains initiated the singing of a few favorite songs such as ‘Yogi Bear’, ‘I used to work in Chicago’ and that family favorite ‘the S&M man’ (extra verses donated by Chris Dervan).

After the singing, a few members of the team were invited to the Wharton undergrad female rugby team party going on down the road. But after only attending the said party for five minutes we were politely asked to leave for reasons unknown! After that we adjourned to a nearby bar to interact with some of the locals. Thanks to Oliver ‘Welsh Stallion’ Thomas and Jonathan Marcel Krautmann for leading the charge.


Semi-Final: As mentioned in the introduction, by Day two Stern had gone home, and Wharton B and Columbia had combined squads. The reason for this seems to be the battering these teams took at the hands of the Harvard squad. If the combined Columbia/Wharton B team hoped for some respite, they were to be disappointed. Take the first of Thomas Connelly’s two tries. Aggressive Gaul Pascal Ambrosi led a series of fierce rucks down the pitch, ably supported by his front five, and the ball eventually spun wide for Connelly to score. Nothing special in this, apart from the fact that four of our opponents were strewn motionless across the pitch. It was the closest to a war zone I have ever seen, and while you never like to see injuries, it was a testament to confluence of strength, fitness and technique that the team has acquired. Tries flowed after this spirited opening – Heffernan nabbed two, Larsson grabbed his 5th of the tournament and big G Jay Klug scored his first ever try. Final Score: Harvard 36 – Columbia/Wharton B 0.

Final: To some observers, this Final was over before it started, when the Wharton Captain asked our Captain, Oliver Thomas, to cut the game down from 20 minute to 15 minute halves. When Oli asked why they had made this peculiar request, the response was simply that “a whole lot of our guys have been brutalized by Harvard this weekend and they have no desire to be pulverized for any longer than is necessary” (or words to that effect). The game was hard fought, although we had the momentum for most of it. When Andrew Heffernan crossed for a penalty try, there was a sense that we now had two goals: to win the match, AND to hang on to our unblemished defensive record. We achieved both of these goals, with another try to Oli Thomas and a rock-solid defense that (again) allowed no points. The trophy was ours. Final Score: Harvard 12 – Wharton A 0.

What happens now?
For starters, we don’t get complacent! We’ll keep training for another few weeks, and finish our commitments to the New England Rugby Football Union games, before another small tournament in Phoenix. There’ll be a short break and we’ll resume in January to train for the MBA World Cup in April. That’s on the pitch. Off the pitch, it will just be the usual ‘shenanigans’. Stay tuned.

Which men were
responsible for these routs?

The tired, sore 15 who dominated in each game:

1. Billy Soares (HMS)
2. Josh Bresler (NE)
3. Jay Klug (OE)
4. Kevin O’Brien (OI)
5. Santiago Kraiselburd (DBA)
6. Joseph Tesvic (OC)
7. Carl Lavin (NE)
8. Pascal Ambrosi (NF)
9. Steve Evans (OF)
10. Terry Angelos (MIT)
11. Thomas Connelly (ND)
12. Oliver Thomas (OA)
13. Andrew Heffernan (NJ)
14. Mans Larsson (NH)
15. Will Swint (OI)

The fresh legs to maintain the domination:

16. Saul De La Guardia (HLS)
covering positions 1 and 3
17. Chris Dervan (KSG)
covering positions 1 and 3
18. Ami Banerjee (HSPH)
covering position 2
19. Jonathan Krautmann (NJ)
covering positions 6, 7 and 8
20. Ben Stamets (NJ)
covering positions 9, 11 and 14
21. Tim Keller (OA)
covering positions 10 and 15
22. Jamil Khan (OJ)
covering positions 11 and 14
23. Brandon Bentley (KSG)
covering positions 11 and 14
24. Pierre Julien (GSAS)
covering positions 11 and 14

On the disabled list, but still on tour supporting the domination:

25. David Winslow (NA)