Hordes of MBAs descended upon Duke University during the second weekend of April for the World MBA Rugby Championship. Some sported cowboy hats, others berets. The tastes of the individual teams differed, but all shared a dogged determination to bring back the championship cup to their respective campuses.
With 23 teams competing, the HBS Rugby team faced serious international competition in their quest to complete a mission for which they had been training since the early days of September.
Early on, HBS was confronted with a difficult test. Lining up against London Business School, a tournament semi-finalist in 2004, the Harvard RFC was determined to send a clear message to their opponents. A vicious, hard-hitting, punch-you-in-the-head-and-step-over-your-quivering-body style of rugby has been the trademark of this team, and the first game of pool play was no exception. Led by Viking legend Jay Klug (OE), Aussie Joe Tesvic (OC), and man-child Saul de La Guardia (HLS), HBS overwhelmed the front lines and denied LBS forward movement throughout the game. On the offensive side, an inspired drive by the HBS pack put the squad on top 5-0, with Ollie Corlette (NC) crossing over the try-line just before the end of the first half. In the second stanza, creative back line play opened up additional scoring opportunities by Rafa Guida Masoni (OC) and Owen Stockdale (OI). By lunchtime HBS had drawn the first blood of the tournament, with a 17-0 shutout of their London counterparts.
In the second game of the day, HBS faced off against a gritty UCLA/Stanford squad. Perhaps suffering from a let-down after their emotional first win of the tourney, HBS’ effort was weak initially, recovering only late in the second period after a halftime reality check from incoming captain Carl “Lavos” Lavin (NE). Scoring tries by Ollie Corlette, Thomas Connelly (ND), Terry Angelos (MIT) and Andrew Heffernan (NJ) proved to be the difference, however, as the team took down the joint Cali squad 24-3, and silenced the budding “East Coast/West Coast” rugby debate.
Finally, with one more game left that afternoon, HBS finished the first day of competition in style, with a dominating 35-0 win over McGill University. Co-captain Mike “Ass-town” Butville (OB) capped off the victory with a 50 meter romp through the heart of the McGill defense, decimating a Montreal squad, struggling to maintain some semblance of dignity after early scores by Ollie Corlette, Rafa Guida Masoni, Terry Angelos, and Andrew Heffernan.
Later that evening, with three convincing victories behind them, the Harvard RFC was in particularly good spirits after reconvening at the local watering hole. The day had gone just as planned, and the squad looked forward to a first-round bye the next morning. Showing uncharacteristic restraint, the squad was even able to maintain its focus when faced off with the physically intelligent local student population, shutting it down early in preparation for the long day ahead.
The next morning, after anxiously sitting through their bye, the team readied itself for a long match versus Ivey Business School (Ontario, Canada) in the tournament quarterfinals. Early on, momentum seemed to be in HBS’ favor as the team drove deep into Canadian territory on multiple occasions, only to be repelled at the touch line by a staunch Ivey defense. Settling for a penalty kick, HBS took the lead, 3-0. However, the game flow changed in the second half; HBS made uncharacteristic errors, losing its composure in giving up a scoring try.
Several long Ivey penalty kicks later, the season was over. With their opponents headed to the semifinals, HBS was left to ponder a season ended too soon.
All was not lost, though. Although the squad failed in its ultimate goal, HBS clearly upheld its unofficial title as the best American MBA squad in the nation. It’s worth noting that Wharton, the next-to-last domestic team left standing, was mauled by the same LBS squad that HBS had crucified in their first game of the tournament.
In addition, enough cannot be said for the impressive 12-4 record that HBS notched up this year, including a 9-1 record against other MBA programs. Co-Captains Oli Thomas (OA) and Ass-town Butville, in particular, did a tremendous job in shepherding the team throughout the fall and spring seasons. With a significant number of players returning for next year and a quarterfinal performance to improve upon, the future is bright for this young team.