Playoff Perseverance

CANTON, MA – The HBS Rugby Club entered the New England Rugby Football Union season as pretenders. Their history has been one of futility against the other men’s clubs, which boasted a larger pool of talent and size and better continuity than the two year stint of the HBS Rugger. However, this year’s team has proved to be anything but pretenders. Not only did they make the playoffs, they defeated Seacoast 17-8 and gave eventual champions, the Boston Irish Wolfhounds, their toughest test of the season, completing their best NERFU finish ever.

Day 1: Against the Wolfhounds
The opening round featured a game against the heavily favored Wolfhounds, perennial winners of the division. The Wolfhounds came out strong in the first half, scoring 10 unanswered points and dominating the Harvard side in the early part of the half. HBS battled back however, maintaining play in the Wolfhounds end for the latter part of the half, but failing to score. On a penalty late in the first half it looked as though HBS would put their first points up, when Co-Captain “Sadistic” Stephane Heuze (OB) made it to within 1 meter of the try zone carrying three defenders on his back before being taken down.

The second half saw much more scoring, but alas not quite enough by Harvard. As usual, Heuze managed a try, and Liam “Clockwork” Patrick (NC) converted, to bring Harvard within a 10-7 margin. With only a 20 minutes left in the game, the score was a tight 13-7 but some unlucky bounces in favor of the Wolfhounds opened the game up. In comparison, the Wolfhounds held a 28-0 advantage over Middlesex by halftime of the championship game and were never in threat of losing.

In a surprise move, on the final play of the game Rugby Club Co-President Jeff “Two-ton” Todd (HLS) threw a line out over the forwards directly to Heuze, who’s clever chip-kick took it up the field to the try zone, enabling Neil “Try and stop me” Campbell (ND) to score the final try of the match, which Liam Patrick converted to finalize the score at 37-14.

Several factors weighed against the Harvard men: One unexpected disadvantage was a USA Rugby rule that permits only five non-American players on the roster-a restriction that cut deep into the highly international HBS side. Complicating matters further was an ill-timed keg party the night before the match, hosted by fly-half Mark “9-1-1” De Ambrosis (NF), which was (unfortunately) enthusiastically attended by the Harvard Rugby Club.

Though an intensely physical match, few serious injuries were recorded, save a shoulder dislocation that Mike “Utility Man” Fyall (ND) sustained while making a successful tackle on what might have been the last surviving Neanderthal, a somewhat serious cut to Craig “Keep the Party Goin'” Canton’s (NJ) forehead, and the usual scrapes and hard knocks that the lads have become used to during their challenging fall schedule.

Day 2: Revenge against Seacoast
The loss meant HBS would play for 3rd place in the league the following day against Seacoast, a team that had tied HBS during the regular season. Both teams came out fired up. HBS was looking to prove they belonged in the playoffs and Seacoast was trying to recover from their loss against Middlesex in the opening round. Seacoast struck first blood. Continuing to maintain strong possession and using their size against our pack, they were able to move the ball down into HBS territory before converting a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead. However, HBS would score 17 unanswered points. A revived back line, the return of Flint “Old E” McGregor (OE), and incredible fly half play by Atsushi “Slash” Oshiba (NF) lead to numerous scoring opportunities.

The first score came off a Seacoast penalty and great ball movement. Taking the penalty about 40 meters from the try line, HBS moved it quickly through the hands down the field. John “AM” Doran (OB), Patrick, and Todd moved the ball out to McGregor. McGregor and Quan “Sleepy” Nguyen (NF) executed a quick give and go, creating a channel for McGregor to barrel over the final defender for the first try. The second try came of “Slash” Oshiba’s cut through the huge Seacoast pack. After a run of over 30 meters to within 10 meters of the try line, Mark Wayshak and Carter “Sailor Mouth” Gaffney (NB) provided instant support before getting the ball out to Patrick for a second score.

The final try came off of a line out by “Old E” McGregor. He stole a pass on the run and put it in extending HBS’ lead to 17-3 with five minutes remaining. The score indicated a closer game than it was as HBS dominated after Seacoast’s first score. Heuze and McGregor were both stripped by an invisible player as they headed into the try zone unabated, and Sam “Almost Zulu” Gray (OI) also knocked on a ball that would have lead to a try. Those unlucky bounces did not matter in the end and HBS prevailed.

What’s Next?
The victory was indicative of how HBS has played all season. Though the competition for the fall season has concluded, the preseason training begins immediately in preparation for London Business School tournament in February. However, it’s not all work and no play so watch out as Scott “Beret” Pasquini (OF) leads the Ruggers on their next social. The Harvard Business School RFC wishes to thank team sponsors Anglo Irish Bank, APAX Partners, Tommy Doyle’s, Sierra Nevada, Magners Original Irish Cider, and Lehman Brothers for their generosity and continued support.

November 13, 2006
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