Long weekends typically mean one of two things for the HBS rugby team: a full strength squad out to wreak havoc on opposing teams and foreign cities OR a depleted squad playing in the local league, while much of the club takes a deserved vacation from Boston and the RFC. Last weekend was the later, and it gives me great pride to write of the valiant (and narrow) defeat by the Harvard men who took to the field at the Irish Cultural Complex in Canton MA.
Captain Mike Butville (OB) handed the reins over to the team’s most experienced player, Carl Lavin (NE) to deliver the opening pep-talk. It was an emotional and inspiring performance, just as was ‘Lavos’ play on the pitch. He charged us with just two goals – to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and our teammates in the faces and say ‘I did my best and put my body on the line’. And so it was that we headed onto the field.
The start of the first half was a dour affair as the opposing packs aimed to sort each other out. In this regard, big men Billy Soares (HMS), Chris Dervan (KSG) and Mike Butville (OB) were particularly dominant. Good tackling from outside backs David Winslow (NA), Malcolm Thompson (NF), Koome Imathiu (OB) Thomas Connelly (ND) shut down the Wolfhounds’ pack, and their try came against the run of play after a lucky kick.
The remainder of the first half saw the total dominance of the Harvard lineout. Josh Bresler (NE) delivered the ball with laser-like precision, Mike Butville (OB) pulled them down beautifully, and Santiago Kraiselburd (DBA) and Carl Lavin (NE) led driving mauls, often gaining 15 meters in territory. The Wolfhounds were frustrated, and while their defense remained intact, they did begin to leak penalties. Carl Lavin (NE), taking over the kicking duties, slotted two of these for a 6-5 halftime lead.
The second half was, in many ways, more of the same. Another Lavos penalty saw us jump out ahead to 9-5, though another try against the run of play, this time converted, saw the Wolfhounds get up to 12-9. They maintained this advantage for the balance of the game. However, these short lines don’t tell of the heart shown in the latter stages of the game. In attack, Tim Keller (OA) and Will Swint (OI) occupying the tough positions of Fly Half and Fullback for the first time in league competition, played superbly. In defense, the tireless work of loose forwards like Carl Lavin, Joseph Tesvic (OC) and in particular Second-Rower Kevin O’Brien (OI) repelled numerous raids on the Harvard line. And Jonathan
Krautmann (NJ) screamed his way into some big hits on the Wing.
The final note must go to two true leaders, hailing from the United Kingdom. Englishman Carl Lavin’s (NE) overall performance, be it in tackling, running, rucking and mauling set a great example for the rest of the pack, and we will continue to learn from him in the lead up to the World Cup at Duke. And Welshman Owain Hughes’ (HMS) play at halfback was superb. He delivered great ball to the backs, made a number of incisive runs and several pressure kicks for territory. He will be missed as he returns to Cardiff. Next week – the Wharton tourney aka the Mini World Cup.