The HBS Rugby team continued it’s undefeated season by winning the annual Wharton School of Finance “Hogfest” rugby tournament over the weekend of October 6th and 7th. The team was hungry after last years close loss to Wharton in the tournament finals. Harvard was in the drivers seat the entire weekend and their complete domination was clear in the weekend scoring total of Harvard: 172, all opponents: 3.
The tournament started on Saturday. It was a hot day and the fields were very dry. HBS came to recapture their title and do it in a convincing fashion. The team was without several of their top players, including Dave Fielding (OD), Al Rowe (OD), and Carter Gaffney (OB). Harvard’s first match was against NYU Stern. The forwards pounded the ball up and drew in defenders, creating overlaps on the outside that the backs were able to exploit all game. Try scorers included Randy Goldstein (ND), Mike Lloyd (HLS), Matt Tambiah (MIT ’09), Marco “Italian Stallion” Di Falco (NG), and Liam Patrick. Harvard took the match easily with a final score of 52-0.
The Harvard A-side’s second match of the day was against Wharton’s B-Side. Wharton included several of their first side players in this match in the vein hope of slowing the Harvard jugger-naught but it was to no avail. Patrick scored the first try, taking the ball from Brendan Whitworth (OJ) after the forwards pounded the ball up the field. The second try was a thing of beauty – Di Falco picked the ball up off a scrum, offloaded to Chris Trimble (KSG ’09) as he was being tackled, and Trimble ran it in through defenders for the score. The second two tries were by team co-captain Jeff Todd (HLS ’08). The big man decided the quickest way to the try zone was to run over defending players. Joe Kim (OA) played his first A-side match and drilled one opponent on the sideline, driving him back 5 meters. Joel Hartel (NB) added to the hurt by crushing several opponents and Goldstein rucked strongly and made tackle after tackle. The final score of 26-0 was modest by Harvard’s standards but was enough to get the job done.
HBS was ranked #1 seed for the afternoon games. Unfortunately, The Wharton School of Finance was unable to teach it’s students how to set up a simple tournament bracket because Harvard A’s were slated to play Harvard B’s. After a long delay to allow Wharton to correct their flaw, Harvard accepted the change to the bracket. Unfortunately, this change resulted in Harvard’s B-side having to play a more difficult opponent in the afternoon instead of the previously scheduled Columbia B-side. Wharton’s returning players will be required to attend HBS analytics next summer in order to prevent this from happening again.
In the afternoon, HBS A’s were scheduled to play Columbia B, but Columbia B withdrew from the tournament and forfeited the game prior to the match. The Harvard ruggers were disappointed not to be able to continue to hone their skills but their fierce some reputation had preceded them. Widener, however, did not back down from the challenge. Harvard came into this game needing to beat Widener by a margin of about 20 points in order to secure the #1 seed going into the playoffs on Sunday. Despite strong evidence that Wharton had supplanted the Widener team with some of their wn players in the hopes of securing the #1 seed Harvard put up 57 points in the 30 minute match. The forwards again dominated their counterparts, winning every set piece and rucking ferociously, making it easy for the backs all game. Whitworth ran through defenders at will. Defenders wanted no part of his assault and they even seemed to run the opposite was as he came near with the ball. Joe Harrington (HLS) had 2 tries, including a 40 yard run that showed off his sweetspeed for a forward. Mark De Ambrosis (OF) was rewarded for his strong play all weekend with a try. Liam took a second phase ball that was spun out to the backs, put a long kick through the defense and chased it down and dove on it in the try zone. Evan Engstrom took a pass from Atsushi Oshiba (OF) at full speed after a scrum and ran 35 meters untouched for a try. Sean Eldridge (NE) sprinted past several defenders down the sideline, putting one down in the center after a 50 meter run. The final score was 57 – 0 in Harvard’s favor.
Harvard took it easy on Saturday night, heading out for a bit to take part in the usual festivities but coming home early to get a good night’s sleep before Sunday’s matches. The full team arrived on the field at 9am for their scheduled 10am semifinal against #4 seed NYU, only to find that they had chosen to pick up and go home instead of playing the match. Organizers had asked the next finisher at #5, Cornell, to play HBS, but they also chose to go home instead of facing Harvard. Instead of normal procedure in this case – win by forfeit, and passage through to the final – Wharton organizers insisted upon cobbling together a motley crew of Wharton and Columbia players to face Harvard in the semifinal. Harvard took this in stride, and called upon all players, A’s and B’s, to prepare for the match. HBS attacked the motley crew, establishing a lead early so as to put out all players ready to lay it all on the field one more time. Whitworth ran through all 15 defenders twice on a long run into the try zone. Neil Campbell (OD) touched one down after strong forward play, and Evan Engstrom ran through several defenders for a try. Despite Wharton’s continued and increasingly desperate attempts to thwart Harvard, the final score read 21 – 0, Harvard victorious.
Harvard came into the final game ready to put to the test all the hard work they had put in throughout the fall season thus far. They had been working intensively with national side coach Sean O’Leary, of Ireland, on all aspects of the game, particularly rucking, defense, and forward play, and they looked to show how far they had advanced. They didn’t disappoint, crushing Wharton 20-3. The forwards won this game for Harvard, winning all of Harvard’s lineouts and scrums, and controlling the ball in the rucks. Todd led the forwards, and put on rucking clinics of his own. Goldstein put on a big hit early and was constantly found around the ball. Trimble overcame several injuries to suit up for the match, and put up several big tackles and runs. Mark Cuthbert (OA) came up big, overcoming a hurt knee to help the team immensely, falling on several loose balls and throwing his body into forward play. Brian Geary (OA) made big hits and played with intensity. The backs, for their part, put up a tremendous defensive effort, giving Wharton no room to run and making critical tackles. Oshiba led the charge in the backs, and his amazing kicking and passing ability and quickness were instrumental to the win. The first try was set up by brilliant play by Oshiba, who took a pass, shot through a gap, and put down a kick that Wharton could only kick through their try zone, setting up Harvard for a 5-meter scrum. After several offensive phases by the forwards and a run by Whitworth that took two tacklers to stop, De Ambrosis put a pass out to Oshiba, who offloaded to Patrick for the first try. Harvard’s strong play continued, but the first half ended 5-0.
At halftime, Coach Sean O’Leary and the HBS captains stressed the need to continue the strong play, and to play for the win, not only to protect the lead. HBS came out with intensity in the second half, but an unfortunate penalty gave Wharton the opportunity to put three points on the board, making it 5-3. After that, HBS never looked back. Possessing the ball deep in Wharton territory, Craig Canton (OJ) picked the ball off a ruck and trucked several defenders. Oshiba took a pass out left and set up Trimble, who dodged a defender, ran through another, and scored. Patrick converted from the corner to make it 12-3. Harvard kept up the pressure, and took a 5-meter lineout into a beautiful rolling maul, which exchanged hands countless times and was touched down by Trimble for another try. Unsatisfied,
HBS continued to press, and Patrick put a penalty kick through the uprights for another 3 points. The final whistle blew, and Harvard took back the title to its rightful owner.