When the chips are down, the HBS Alumni have a habit of coming through in the clutch. We’re not talking about our support of the $500 million Capital Campaign currently underway (that’s kid’s stuff); we’re talking about us getting out of our rocking chairs to go out to Arizona and win the 14th Annual Thunderbird MBA Rugby Tournament this past weekend in Phoenix. With 233 points scored for and just 12 points scored against, HBS utterly dominated the competition, going undefeated in the team’s five games over two days.
Coming off a momentous victory at the Wharton tournament, the current HBS Rugby team was unsure they could pull enough guys together to go back to the tournament where they had lost in a last-second play in the finals last year. It was “interview week” for ECs and supposedly, RCs had something called “classes” to attend, which – from this unemployed alumni’s vantagepoint – are both marginal excuses at best. The tournament organizers were also doing their best to keep HBS out, claiming that all the tournament spots had been taken. With only a week until the tournament was set to begin, it was not looking good that HBS would even be able to field a squad.
But then, the leadership that HBS alumni are famed for stepped up to the plate. Molonai Hola (OPM ’04) made a few phone calls to his Alma Mater and secured us a spot. John Shepperd (HBS ’04) took over the Tour Director duties and worked out the logistics. An email campaign was launched and alumni from all over the country stampeded to Orbitz to make last minute travel plans. With key support from a core group of Executive Education alumni/friends in Salt Lake City, we were able to scrap together a team that was ready to take on the top MBA Rugby teams from around the United States.
The tournament started with a succession of bad news. Tucker Bailey (HBS ’04) had to cancel travel plans to attend to Navy Reserve duties in Washington DC. Tony Carango (HBS ’03) got chained to his desk for the entire weekend in New York note to future investment bankers: the money’s not worth missing alumni rugby tour. I myself ended up losing what’s left from my dwindling Citibank funds to Nai “Tiger” Hola on the golf course the day before the tournament. With a team of merely seventeen players coming together for five games over two days, we couldn’t afford any additional “no-shows” or possible injuries.
As is usual when we play in other teams’ tournaments, HBS was given the earliest possible game of the morning – an 8:00 am wakeup to face Cornell. Not much to report here except an absolute butt-whooping of the Big Red, 54 – 0. The top standout was our scrum, which won all of our balls as well as all of theirs – an all but unheard of feat in MBA rugby. Anchored by former BYU prop, Shane Seggar and current Utah second row, David Giles, Cornell knew they had bitten off much more than they could chew with HBS’ formidable pack.
Our second game came two hours later against tournament hosts, Thunderbird. From the first kick off to the last, they got a good look at our speeding locomotive straight from the isle of Tonga, the Mo-train. Moana Tuifui ran all over Tbird (as well as all our other opponents), supported by equally impressive teammates Vaka “Zulu” Tuifui and Fua “I can play anywhere” Kefu. After seeing these boys on the pitch, we’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Brit Dewey for all of her recruiting in the Polynesian Islands. Besides a fluke try scored off of a missed pass, Thunderbird got dominated from start to finish, with a final score of 39-7.
After a nutritious post-game lunch provided by In-N-Out Burgers, HBS took the field once again for our third game of the day, this time against a spirited Wharton side. But alas, their oh-so-funny tour antics couldn’t save them from a full-on throttling by the HBS side. It was here that our superior backline really showed their stuff. Vea “Rasta Beret” Ofa continually punished the Wharton flyhalf on both sides of the ball, with the “seasoned” backline of Nai Hola and Robert “I’ve Still Got Wheels” Lopez intercepting passes left, right and center. As soon as the ball got out to the wing, you knew that Brian “Can’t Figure Out My Return Flight” Connell (HBS ’02) was going in for the try. Final score: HBS 52, Wharton 0.
But, our work was not done. Taking on Kellogg directly following our Wharton game, HBS showed what true stamina is with back-to-back games. Dan “Counterattack” Shapero (HBS ’04) was at the top of his game at fullback, with British newcomer Andrew “I’m dating a Hooters chick” Glasspoole making a sprint to the sideline to get in line early for the keg. Not to be outdone by our Tongan teammates, Dan “Unemployed Means Early Retirement” Gertsacov (HBS ’04) took five Kellogg players into the tryzone with him for a score. Strong flanker play by Matt “Bulldog” Cowley stopped any thoughts of a Kellogg comeback. The Huskies ended up giving up early to concede to a 59-0 thrashing from an overwhelming HBS side in just 25 minutes of play.
Evening heroics continued to the hills of Phoenix for some good ol’ country music and mechanical bull-riding. Dan Shapero showed how he earned the nickname “Slap-ass” while at HBS, going for the longest ride of the evening. John Shepperd attempted to lead a group to some of Arizona State’s most noted libraries and study areas, but our early game and the long drive home thwarted these scholarly endeavors.
The stage was set for Sunday’s championship showdown: a rematch against the University of Texas to declare the undisputed tournament champion. The only other undefeated team, UT might actually have thought they had a chance in this game. How wrong they were. John “Sticky Fingers” Shepperd stole line out balls like it was his job and second row Big John Dalton showed what great forward attack is all about. Our wing was ably covered by Matt “Lightning” Griff and our scrumhalf, Dave “I’m no choir boy” Dalton, ran, kicked and passed at his pleasure. When the final whistle blew, the final score was HBS 29 and Texas 7, with HBS was taking back to Shad the First Place trophy.
All and all, a gutsy and compelling performance for a group of alumni and friends who came together to defend and conquer in the name of HBS Rugby. Our greatest appreciation is extended to our friends in Salt Lake City for their support and commitment, as without them, none of this would have been possible.