Harvard Ruggers Compete in MBA Rugby World Cup

Thirty-nine Harvard ruggers set off last week for the wilds of North Carolina to compete in the MBA Rugby World Cup, hosted by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Twenty-two men’s teams and twelve women’s teams from around the world converged on five fields just downwind from a large sewage treatment plant to battle it out for the coveted title of World Champion.

Harvard fielded two sides against stiff competition. The Harvard A’s opened against the Thunderbird School of Management. It was a good tune-up game, with HBS jumping to an early lead on with dominant forward play and good runs by the backs. Jeff “Hot Pants” Miller (KSG) scored early with a long run after several solid phases. Chris “Built like a Brick Outhouse” Trimble (KSG) was the next on the board after plowing through several Thunderbird backs. Brendan “Dancing with the Stars” Whitworth (OJ) broke away, under the watchful eyes of his parents, for the third HBS try. The scrappy Thunderbird team hung on and threatened several times, but finally fell before the relentless onslaught, 31-7.

In the late morning, ominous rain clouds made good on their threats and drenched the fields. Several times, an exodus of Rugby players huddled in increasingly pungent vans while Mother Nature turned the fields to mush. When the rain cleared, the remaining games became less about elegant playmaking and more about smash-mouth, in-your-face rugby.

The next game saw the Harvard A’s playing against friendly Canadian rival McGill University. Barely a few minutes into the opening drive, Liam “Happy Leprechaun” Patrick (OC) blew past the hapless defenders to score on a breakaway, though he was far from the last to see the try zone. Following a long run by Dave “Big Pappa” Fielding (OD), Trimble pushed in. The shutout included scores by Sean “The Tofu Monster” Eldridge (NE), Jeff “Back-Shaver” Todd (HLS), “Randy “Silent but Deadly” Goldstein (ND), and Evan “The Ball Architect” Engstrom (HLS). Harvard was dominant in its scrums and lineouts, and the backs attacked on both offense and defense for the entire game.

The Harvard B’s opened against highly seeded Stanford and fought a tough, back and forth battle. Scrumhalf Joe “Sgt. Slaughter” Kim (OA) played aggressive defense, regularly bringing to ground behemoths twice his size, while Tim “Irish Thunder” O’Rourke (OD) cut several punishing runs through the defense. The game came down to its final minutes, with HBS finally being overcome 12-0 by a tough Stanford side who finished fifth in the tournament.

The B’s second game was against longtime rival Wharton’s A-side. Despite valiant efforts by Seth “Bam Bam” Ross (NB) and Al “Too Tall” Ricks (HSD), the first half ended with a slight deficit. In the second half, the well-drilled Wharton boys, who ultimately placed fourth overall, scored repeatedly.

At the end of the first day, both muddied, bloodied sides were treated to true Southern charm in the form of pulled pork, potato salad, and barbequed chicken at Lucky’s, a nearby tavern.

Opening the next day, Harvard’s B’s began the Plunger Round on slightly dryer fields against a large University of Texas squad. Brendan “Boner Crusher” McNamara (OG) scored his first try on powerful run through the middle of the Texas pack, followed by a perfect kick by Jon “Blonde Ambition” Wyler (OC). A second, physics-defying run, by Dan “Wide Eye” Richards (OD partner), finished off the scoring, and Harvard was able to take advantage of its superior skills and speed to defeat Texas 12-0.

Later that morning, the Harvard A’s squared off against another group of Texas monsters, this time from Southern Methodist University. Aggressive Harvard defense kept SMU from taking full advantage of its size, and while the HBS offense unleashed the “Liam Patrick Experience.” Patrick was the first to take advantage of Harvard’s coordination, breaking through the backline to score a try in the first two minutes. Patrick’s presence in the try zone would become a familiar sight, as he scored on three straight breakaways. SMU scored once off a tough series of runs, but in the end, the game belonged to Harvard, 15-7.

In the finale of the Plunger Round, the Harvard B-side came up against the Chicago Graduate School of Business. It was a hard fought match with both sides driving deep into each others’ territory. Harvard scored first, with Kevin “Plastic Bass” Sousa (OH) plowing through the defense for his first try, which was converted by Jon “Blonde Ambition” Wyler for a 7-0 lead. Chicago answered in the second half with a try of its own, and both teams hunkered down for a battle. Though the B’s continued strong, with particularly impressive play from Ben “Green Giant” Reno-Weber (NC) and Mark “Two Weiner Dogs” Cuthbert (OA), Chicago put in a last-minute try to pull ahead for a final score of 12-0.

In the semi-finals, Harvard A faced last year’s champion from the Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin. It was a highly anticipated game for both teams, particularly since Smurfit had graciously hosted Harvard in Ireland several weeks prior. Harvard got off to an early lead through the continuing magic of Liam Patrick, who kicked the ball through the Smurfit defense and into the try zone, where he touched it down for the score. Smurfit came back with a penalty kick which was immediately answered by a try from Harvard’s Whitworth, to bring the score to 10-3. Smurfit drove back with an impressive try off their own kickoff, and then a final penalty kick to give them an 11-10 lead with only minutes remaining.

Play arced back and forth across the field, with neither team willingly conceding an inch, until finally a Smurfit forward broke through the line to make a final try at the Whistle, sealing a heart-breaking loss for HBS, 16-10. It was a disappointed but proud team that took the third place trophy and watched a deserving Smurfit take the championship for the second year in a row.

May 5, 2008
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