Durham, North Carolina and Danville, Virginia – The Harvard Business School Ruggers completed their greatest performance at the 2007 Duke MBA Rugby Tournament in ten years outscoring their opponents 132 – 12 before coming up three points short in the World Championship match against Smurfit. The team lost that nail biter to Smurfit by a score of 5 – 7 in a match that was called ten minutes early due to lightning. The run to the finals was the farthest the HBS Ruggers had advanced since winning the title in 1997 and included victories over NYU Stern, McGill, Southern Methodist University Cox, Columbia and Kellogg. Duke University Fuqua School of Business hosted the tournament over the weekend of April 13th and 14th and included twenty one teams from eighteen schools representing five countries.
“We came here to win it all but came up a bit short. However, I’m still very proud of our team. We played with the most discipline, heart, and focus that we could, at the top of our potential. We just encountered a good team and got cut on time,” stated outgoing captain Stephane “Mud Face” Heuze (OB). Flint “Calves” Macgregor (OE) expressed a similar feeling stating, “I want the Big One (referring to the Big Cup that the champions take home).”
Day One: Pool Play and the opening round
Gorgeous weather played to Harvard’s strength on Saturday as they started pool play on Saturday morning. HBS’s first opponent was NYU Stern, who they dispatched handily 33 – 0. Despite the convincing final score, the match started out slowly for HBS with the score at half time only 5 – 0. Harvard turned up the heat in the second half, putting four more tries on the board and earned a bonus point for scoring five tries total. Brendan “Dreamy” Whitworth (NJ) proved he had more to offer than brilliant white teeth by scoring two tries in the match and delivering several crushing hits to the opposing backs. Liam “Fast Track” Patrick’s (NC) golden right foot converted four of the tries for an additional eight points as well as adding a try of his own.
The second game was against McGill, a team that HBS beat in the fall by two points in what has come to be known as “The Frozen Mud Bowl” in Montreal in October. The margin of victory was not so narrow this time as Harvard blew out the boys from north of the border 57 – 0. Strong play from Mark “Undergrad” De Ambrosis (NF) and Tony “Mafiaso” Frangie (OB) kept Harvard pressing their opponent all game and got the ball out wide. Quan “The Asian Sensation” Nguyen (OF) scored two tries in a match where the McGill backs were simply outmatched by the speed and agility of the Harvard players. The forwards were five for five with their own line outs and even stole two of McGill’s throw ins.
After the completion of pool play, the HBS ruggers had scored over fourteen tries, a majority by the backfield playmaking. However, it was the clean ball set up by forwards Scott “No Guts, No Glory” Pasquini (OF) and Owen “Lead Foot” Stockdale (OI) that allowed it to happen. The strong showing in pool resulted in a second overall seed behind Smurfit to start the 16 team tournament brackets.
Harvard’s first opponent in elimination play was the 15th seeded SMU Cox. The much bigger Texans proved to be a tougher test for the Harvard team then the previous two matches. However, front rowers Mark “Grizzly Bear” Cuthbert (NA) and Dave “Hammer Time” Fielding (ND) more than held their own against a much bigger line. In the end, Harvard’s superior conditioning and tough tackling sent the Mustangs home early. Macgregor scored the day’s first try on a pass from John “Ladies’ Man” Lacy (ND) that he took past three defenders. Carter “Mittens” Gaffney (NB) scored the match’s second try off a blocked kick by Carl “Lavos” Lavin (HBS ’06). Lavos scored the last try coming off a scrum with a forward’s play. Harvard won 20 – 5 and finally gave up their first try of the tournament. Unfortunately, Pasquini was lost for the tournament as his knee virtually exploded when he ferociously tackled an opposing forward. For the fourth year in a row, Harvard completed Day One of the tournament 3 – 0, with high expectations going into Day Two. However, in that short past, Harvard had not advanced into the finals. This year would be different.
Day Two: Tournament Play
Sunday began with torrential rains that turned the fields from rugby pitches into muddy swamps. Harvard’s quarterfinal was against Columbia in a scene reminiscent of the McGill match in the fall. Once again outsized by the New Yorkers, the HBS team had to rely on superior fundamentals and team work. The games only try was scored by John “McEnroe” Doran (OB) as he streaked through the Columbia defense, proving why he is one of the stalwarts of the team. Several impressive defensive stands by the Harvard forward pack lead by hard hitters Jeff “Mr. McBeal” Todd (HLS) and Brian “Blue Steel” Geary (NA) kept Columbia out of the try zone. The 5 – 0 victory proved enough to advance Harvard to the semi-finals, but a stronger effort would be needed.
In the semifinals, HBS encountered a scrappy Kellogg team. Kellogg began the tournament unseeded but shocked the field when they beat perennial power house London Business School in the round of 16. They continued their unlikely win streak by knocking off home team Duke in the quarterfinals. The Cinderella story was about to end as they took the pitch against HBS. The set pieces that the Harvard forwards had struggled with all year had finally come together as Kellogg was completely dominated in the line outs and scrums. The first try was scored by co-captain elect Todd from a try line pass by Atsushi “Greased Lightning” Oshiba (NF). Patrick converted with a beautiful kick that split the up rights, extending the lead to 7 – 0. In the second half, Doran continued his solid performance by scoring his second try of the day and putting the match out of reach for Kellogg as Harvard proved victorious 12 – 0.
The stage was now set for a trans-Atlantic confrontation and a re-match of the LBS tournament championship match in London only a couple of months earlier. The men from Harvard would square off against the boys from UCD Smurfit for the tournament championship. The boys from Dublin had become a fixture in the championship game at Duke, winning the championship six of the last seven years. At the same time, the muddy conditions would limit the speed of the superior Harvard backline. Harvard came out more focused than ever with hard hits. Playing a battle of field position, Atsushi “Golden Boot” Oshiba (NF) continually placed the ball in the Smurfit half. After bruising runs by Craig “How You Doin’?” Canton (NJ) and Allan “Barnacle Bill” Rowe (ND) drew in defenders opened up some space in the defensive back line, Marc “Wazza” Wayshak took a clean pass from Oshiba, faked a pass to Patrick, before breaking the Smurfit backline. With the threat of Doran on his flank, Smurfit was unable to contain Wayshak up the sideline where he scored the game’s first try in the corner. It was also the first try that Smurfit had given up the entire tournament. 5 – 0 to Harvard and the men from Mass were pumped!
The joy would be limited. Whitworth received a yellow card from a short tempered referee not five minutes into the second half. Called for a high tackle, Smurfit players continued to duck when the imposing Whitworth came flying up like a bat out of hell creating the false penalty. Down a man, Harvard had to keep Smurfit out of the try zone for ten minutes. The time proved to be two minutes too long as Smurfit took advantage and was able to reverse the ball and score out wide against the Harvard defenders. After a tough conversion, Smurfit led by a score of 7 – 5 with about fifteen minutes remaining. With Whitworth back on the field, Harvard applied pressure on the Smurfit team. However, with ten minutes remaining in the game, the thunder and lightning came and the game was called due to weather. It was another heart w
renching loss for Harvard to the hands of Smurfit. “We played our best rugby of the year. I have no regrets about how my rugby career played out,” said Scott Pasquini.
The Harvard B-Side team also played and had a strong showing in the tournament. Despite losing to Thunderbird and The University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School, a strong defensive stand lead by Jon “The Jabba” Oka (NJ), Steffen “The Flying Belgian” Verbist (NH), and Glenn “Dirty Nasty” Parkinson (OH) against Ivey late in the game kept the score down and prevented Ivey from gaining a bonus point in the tournament standings. The “Killer B’s” tenacity ensured the first side would be seated high in the round of 16 bracket. Their final match was against Harvard’s oldest rival Yale. Team Captain Warren “The Hog” Hogarth (NG) lead the team to a hard fought 5 – 5 tie with the Bulldogs. For the team effort, saboteurs Matt Commons-Woolston (OJ partner), Rafa “Tango” Soto (NF), and Khary “Smiles” Barnes (NI) were charged to heavily intoxicate the Smurfit boys Saturday night which they effectively did. However, the young buck’s ability to quickly recover from a bad hangover could not be denied.
Special thanks to player Tony “Montanga” Frangie for planning the weekend for the team and dealing with the unexpected weather delays. Special thanks to the Duke Rugby Team that planned social events at Lucky’s, He’s Not Here, and Tyler’s Taproom that lead to mischievous behavior throughout the weekend. Lastly, the Harvard Ruggers would like to thank our sponsors Anglo Irish Bank, Lehman Brothers, the Boston Consulting Group, Sierra Nevada, and Tommy Doyle’s.