Looking to build upon a successful fall season that included the domination of the Wharton MBA tournament, the HBS Rugby team traveled to sunny San Diego for four days in early March to prepare for the upcoming spring season. While the pristine beaches, lively nightlife, and sociable local population presented players with ample opportunities to unwind, the HBS Rugby team’s aggressive and determined performances on the field proved that even Moondoggies’ most passionate patrons were not going to be able to divert the players’ focus from their commitment to prepare for the World MBA Rugby Championship at Duke University in early April.
On Thursday, March 3, the team drove to La Jolla to take on the University of California – San Diego (UCSD) rugby team. Upon arriving in La Jolla, the HBS players were shocked as they were greeted by a full-service medical staff, luxurious facilities, and a beautiful field that resembled a putting green. After a pre-game warm-up that included a tackling exercise described by Jonathan Krautmann (NJ) as “the best drill of my rugby career”, the HBS ruggers were ready to show the UCSD team the new plays they had been perfecting during six weeks of indoor practice on the Shad basketball courts.
HBS set the tone on the opening kick-off as Krautmann, still excited about the pre-game warm-up exercise, delivered a head-first, jarring tackle to one of UCSD’s largest players. Using this momentum, HBS was able to steal the ball from UCSD and, after several hard runs by centers Oliver Thomas (OA) and Andrew Heffernan (NJ), HBS scored the first three points of the game as the powerful leg of Oliver Corlette (NC) sent the ball through the uprights on a penalty kick.
After originally being taken aback by the speed and hard-hitting nature of the HBS rugby team, UCSD picked up the intensity and began to drive the ball down the field. UCSD’s progress was challenged by hard tackles from several HBS forwards including Josh Bresler (NE), Jay Klug (OE), and Pascal Ambrosi (NF). Despite HBS’ solid defense, UCSD was able to tie the game six minutes into the first half on a penalty kick. Soon after the penalty kick, UCSD was able to score a try and conversion, taking the lead over HBS 10-3. The remainder of the first half was fought hard on both sides of the ball. HBS almost scored a try after a long, powerful run by Co-Captain Mike “Ass-town” Butville (OB). During that run, Butville flattened several defenders before finally being brought down by no fewer than four UCSD players. Another highlight of the first half was a long run during which Koome Imathiu (OB) used his quick, shifty moves to avoid several tackles. Imathiu’s run set up a second penalty kick for Oliver Corlette.
With HBS trailing 10-6 at halftime, the team’s captains Oliver Thomas (OA) and Mike Butville stressed the importance of correctly executing the basic fundamentals such as tackling and passing. All of the players dug deep and, looking at each other, pledged to bring level of play up a notch during the second half.
After the break, the ball stayed mostly near the middle of the field as both teams played solid defense. Throughout the second half, HBS player-coach Stephen Evans (OF) did an outstanding job securing the ball out of the rucks and delivered smooth, flawless passes to his backline. The tireless play of forwards Joseph Tesvic (OC) and Chris Dervan (KSG) helped HBS win the ball out of many rucks, and the unrelenting play of both players was an inspiration to the rest of the team in the later stages of the second half. With just minutes to go in the game, HBS started a strong drive down the field. Thanks to effective passing and running by members of the backline, including Mans Larsson (NH) and Will Swint (OI), HBS was able to move the ball deep into UCSD territory. With just seconds to go in the match, Andrew Heffernan, made a forceful run and crossed the UCSD touchline, putting HBS in the lead. Oliver Corlette finished off the game with a successful conversion, securing HBS’ victory over UCSD 11-10.
While the play of the HBS Rugby team was far from perfect, UCSD was never able to match the toughness, determination, and courage of the HBS lineup. Two HBS players in particular deserve special acknowledgement for their hard-nosed play. First, David Winslow (NA), in his first game back since tearing his hamstring last fall, displayed his superb natural athletic ability and played with incredible heart as he moved to a new position and made several crucial tackles. Second, Jonathan Krautmann, one of the most aggressive and enthusiastic players on the squad, displayed an amazing tolerance for pain as he played the entire game despite having torn a muscle in his knee in the early minutes of the first half.
On Saturday, March 5, the squad drove north of San Diego to take on a team consisting of players from two local club teams – the North County Gurkhas and the Old Oxy. After a two-hour practice on Friday – the squad’s first outdoor practice since last October – the HBS Rugby team was eager to test its skills against a Gurkha/Oxy team that featured several large and experienced players. HBS’ forward line suffered a setback in pre-game warm-ups when Pascal Ambrosi (NF) suffered a dislocated finger that forced him to miss the entire game. With Ambrosi absent from the game, Jasper Camacho (NC) was asked to move from his usual wing position to a forward position. Throughout the game, Camacho was impressive in his new position as he tackled and rucked the opposition with reckless abandon.
The opening minutes of the game were dominated by HBS as the backline made textbook passes to the outside, which allowed Thomas Lefebvre (NF) to use his extremely long shinguard-protected legs to sprint past most of the defenders. After a long run, Lefebvre was finally dragged down just meters from the opposition’s touchline. Following Lefebvre’s run, Josh Bresler gained control of the ball, lowered his shoulders and dragged opposing players with him as he crossed the touchline, giving HBS a 5-0 lead.
The HBS rugby team’s backline continued to pass the ball seamlessly throughout the first half. These flawless passes were complemented by great running from Ben Stamets (NJ), Jamil Khan (OJ), and Jeff Bohl (NB). Led by the ball movement of the backs and the hustle of the forwards, HBS marched the ball down to the Gurkha/Oxy end of the field where Mike Butville scored HBS’ second try of the day, giving HBS a 10-0 lead. The first half ended with the speedy Australian Oliver Corlette crossing the touchline to give HBS a 15-0 lead.
HBS continued its hard-hitting, uncompromising play during the second half. Tim Keller (OA) put in a superb performance playing fly-half as he called plays and fed clean passes to his backs. The highlight of the game came late in the second half when Brandon Bentley received a pass at wing, and dodged an opponent to score his first career try for the HBS Rugby team. Bentley’s try – the last score of the game – gave HBS a 20-0 victory over the Gurkha/Oxy club team. Following the game, Mike Butville and Brandon Bentley celebrated their scores with a fantastic rendition of the Zulu Warrior dance.
As the team huddled together after the game and savored another great victory, all of the players realized that the most important games of the spring season still lie ahead. With only one month to go until the Duke World MBA Rugby Championship, the players are planning to continue their hard training in Shad and are looking forward to continuing their aggressive, dominating play on the fields of Durham, North Carolina.