Harvard Stuns Opponents With Dramatic Victory

South Shore Anchors aren’t just a good rugby side. They are a great side, finishing as Champions of the New England Rugby competition last year and this year. Indeed, they had not lost a game since 2002. They are also brutal, playing a tough brand of rugby that the EC members of our team painfully remember from the 2003 game. So when South Shore came to Harvard for the 23 October game, we expected a violent, bruising encounter, and they probably expected to beat us by a large margin.

That expectation failed to take into account the huge heart and commitment that has developed in the Harvard squad. The final score was Harvard 30 – South Shore 19, but as usual, the real story in this is the manner in which we won.

The opening minutes were particularly hard fought, and the play moved from one end of the pitch to the other. After a series of raids from big men like Billy Soares, Saul De La Guardia and Jay Klug, English battering ram Carl Lavin crossed for the first try of the match, and Harvard led 5-0.

At this point, South Shore lifted to the level of intensity that has seen them win so many games in recent years. And to be frank, Harvard had few answers. In the forwards, we were smashed out of rucks and mauls. In the backs, despite some solid runs from outside backs Oliver Thomas, Ben Stamets, Mans Larsson and Will Swint, we were unable to penetrate the South Shore defense. In the remainder of the first half, our opponents crossed for three tries, and at halftime, with our heads down, we were
behind 5-19.

At the break, Australian coach Scot Durkin’s disappointment was palpable. He’d managed the team to a big tournament win at Wharton, and knew we could do better. He asked that we all dig deep and fight South Shore at their own physical game. Despite the low feeling of the team, he said we could win the game, despite the big deficit, and we returned to the pitch to prove him right.

It would be seductive, but facile, to describe the second half as a ‘miracle’. However, such a clich‚ would imply that there was something lucky about our win. There was not. Our win relied on three big factors.

First, each player took their individual roles to new levels. For example, Josh Bresler’s lineout throwing to Mike Butville was precise and error free. Joseph Tesvic, Pascal Ambrosi and Jon Krautmann were tireless in getting to rucks and mauls and pinching possession. Terry Angelos delivered great service to his backline, and had probably his best kicking game in Harvard colors.

Second, Harvard found a toughness that was a source of pride after the game. The best example was Rafa Guida Masoni, who was concussed and seeing triple after a vicious hit, but rebounded to finish the game in his usual excellent style, as well as to kick several vital goals. Carl Lavin showed his customary lethal force and inspired his peers. His mental strength also showed, as he retained focus despite some very dubious umpiring decisions against him.

Third, Harvard showed the depth of our squad, and our willingness to play as a unit. Injuries gave chances for game time to the likes of Chris Dervan, Derek Mendez, Jasper Camacho and Tim Keller, and all stood up to the heat of the hardest game of their life.

The combination of all those factors above created a platform for the team to first claw back the South Shore lead. A Rafa Guida Masoni penalty made it 8 – 19, a converted try to Terry Angelos made it 15 – 19, and a converted try to impressive Irishman Andrew Heffernan made it 22 – 19. Harvard had the lead with 15 minutes to play. Rather than relaxing, Harvard went up another gear to seal the match. Rafa Guida Masoni knocked over another penalty for 25 – 19, and Tim Keller scored his first Harvard try, taking it to 30 – 19, which was the final score.

Scenes of jubilation followed as the magnitude of the achievement set in. Harvard had completed a 25 – 0 shutout in the second half, had inflicted South Shore’s first defeat in two years, and had come from behind to win a game that NO ONE expected us to win. However, what really impressed was the focus as we huddled after the game. We savored the victory, of course, but the team leadership spoke of using it as a springboard for greater success. In the near term, we hope to put a big score on MIT in next weekend’s local derby. However, the word on everyone’s lips is ‘Duke’. With form like we displayed against South Shore, and with the massive heart that has developed in this squad, we are a legitimate chance for the MBA World Cup.

Harvard vs. South Shore Anchors

Starting Lineup
1. Billy Soares (HMS)
2. Josh Bresler (NE)
3. Saul De La Guardia (HLS)
4. Jay Klug (OE)
5. Mike Butville (OB)
6. Joseph Tesvic (OC)
7. Carl Lavin (NE)
8. Pascal Ambrosi (NF)
9. Rafa Guida Masoni (OC)
10. Terry Angelos (MIT)
11. Mans Larsson (NH)
12. Oliver Thomas (OA)
13. Andrew Heffernan (NJ)
14. Ben Stamets (NJ)
15. Will Swint (OI)

16. Jonathan Krautmann (NJ) for Klug
17. Chris Dervan (KSG) for De La
18. Derek Mendez (HBS ’03) for Dervan
19. Tim Keller (OA) for Thomas
20. Jasper Camacho (NC) for Swint