HBS Rugby Team Tours Ireland

Foregoing section trips to Mexico, Colombia, and other exotic destinations, twenty-nine HBS men spent their Spring Break braving gale-force winds and driving rain while leaving their mark on the Emerald Isle for HBS Rugby’s 2008 tour. Though met with mixed success on the rugby pitch, the social tour allowed HBS to consistently amaze the Irish opposition with its array of songs and love of fraternizing.

After arriving on a red-eye flight into Shannon on Saturday morning and taking a quick tour of the massive Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast, the team traveled directly to Limerick for its first match against the Old Crescent RFC. Lack of sleep was clearly evident, as HBS quickly conceded two tries to the seasoned opposition. Determined to put points on the board, Craig “The Real Craig” Canton (OJ) stormed ten meters through the Old Crescent defense on a penalty play to narrow the margin to 10-5 at the half. Unfortunately the second half brought more of the same, and though Joel “Dr. Evil” Hartel (NB) put another try on the board, HBS fell 25-10. While disappointed in defeat, the team quickly rallied to enjoy a wild first night out in Limerick with the host club, whose social song “The Music Man” was quickly adopted into the HBS repertoire.

With the first game out of the way, the team spent the next several days touring the Dingle countryside, enjoying magnificent scenery, fresh seafood, and traditional Irish folk music. Drives along Dingle’s treacherous mountainside roads provided stunning views, though Rafa “Maradona” Soto’s (OF) creative driving style terrified his unfortunate passengers. John “Seamus” Lacy (OD) and Jeff “Millhouse” Miller (KSG) impressed all with many fine strokes in a round of seaside golf on a traditional links-style course amidst the cow and sheep pastures of Castlegregory. Jon “Three-on-three-on-three” Oka (OJ) and the rest of the team celebrated Jon’s birthday that evening at the Yellow Pub with a friendly game of “Chug in your Face.” Once the game ended, the team crawled to the Hillgrove, Dingle’s hottest (and only) nightclub, where Matt “Wounded in Action” McCourt (KSG) demonstrated how to recycle pint glasses and Brian “G.I. Joe” Clymer (NH) showed the Dingle girls his dance moves.

The men bade farewell to Dingle on Wednesday and traveled to Cork for the evening before hopping on a short flight to Belfast for a more urban flavor. Whisky enthusiasts Tim “I’m from Michigan” O’Rourke (OD) and Mark “The Assassin” Cuthbert (OA) led the charge to the Bushmills Distillery, where the tour guide noted that in his decades of working for (and drinking) Bushmills, the HBS boys were the most inquisitive group he had led, peppering him with questions on cycle time and process bottlenecks. Bellies full of whisky, the team wrapped up the day’s touring with visits to Dunluce castle, a 14th century manor dramatically perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and a walk across the Carrick-A-Rede bridge, a traditional rope bridge that has been used by Northern Irish fishermen for generations. The next day’s bus tour of Belfast offered an absorbing history of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles” and an appreciation for its impressive progress on the path of peace and reconciliation.

On Thursday, a chilly, wet evening set the mood for a night game against the Ballynahinch RFC. Though HBS came out with enthusiasm, the opponents’ lifetimes of rugby experience allowed them to score several unanswered tries in the first half. After some rearranging of the lineup, HBS put on a much better showing in the second half, dominating in the forwards and allowing current KSG and future HBS student Nick “Tarantula” Taranto to dive in for a try after a series of quick rucks. Tenacious play by scrum-half Joe “The Green Hornet” Kim (OA), hooker Seth “Robin” Ross (NB), and wing Danish “Lost Purse” Yusuf (NA) further impressed onlookers. After a painfully cold shower and dinner with the Ballynahinch side, the team descended upon Belfast for an evening of merriment before shipping out to Dublin the next morning.

Having sampled a pint or two of Guinness over the past week, all were eager to learn of its origins and taste the beverage directly from the source at the Guinness factory tour (though O’Rourke and Cuthbert naturally defected to the Jameson Distillery down the street). After stops at St. Patrick’s and Christchurch cathedrals for a brief moment of much-needed repentance, the team attended a formal reception with local HBS alumni, Dublin-based sponsor Anglo Irish bank, and Irish national team center and John Lacy protégé Gordon Darcy. As the evening wore on and overflowing wine glasses loosened lips, Darcy shared that if not for injuries, the ever-modest Lacy was on a clear path for the Irish national side himself, yet another impressive feat for an already very impressive man. After learning more about the legend of John Lacy, the team ended the night relatively early in anticipation of the next day’s match against transatlantic rival Smurfit Business School.

Having fallen to Smurfit in the finals of last year’s MBA World Cup, the Harvard boys were eager for vengeance and came out fighting. Though HBS maintained possession for the bulk of the first half, Smurfit was able to capitalize on handling errors and take an 8-0 lead. Undeterred, the Harvard side maintained its composure and physical dominance in the second half. A punishing run by Canton and a series of quick forward plays allowed Neil “Finn MacCool” Campbell (OD) to score the first HBS try on a pick and go. Minutes later, Randy “Unstoppable” Goldstein (ND) barreled through the Smurfit defense and broke several tackles to score a second try. Liam “Sip in Your Face” Patrick (OC) kicked the conversion to give HBS a 12-10 lead. After a scoreless period of back and forth play and particularly strong tackling by Jeff “Old Man River” Todd (HLS) and Sean “Batman” Eldridge (NE), Smurfit again capitalized on Harvard mistakes and made two penalty kicks to regain the lead at 16-12. HBS came back strong and looked poised to score on a prolonged goal-line attack in the game’s final minutes, but were ultimately thwarted by the Dubliners’ defense. All was soon temporarily forgotten, as Smurfit showed the Harvard boys one last crazy night in Dublin. The men were joined by Smurfit’s women’s team, the Smurfettes, who came out in force with fond memories of Brendan “Chug in My Face” Whitworth (OJ) and Brian “Marlboro Man” Geary (OA) from the previous year. After tearing through Smurfit’s generous bar tab and plundering its women, the men made clear that despite the score of the game, HBS always wins the social.

The Harvard players would like to thank tour organizers Lacy, Campbell, Soto and Cuthbert for their months of planning and hard work. As always, the Harvard Business School Rugby Football Club would like to thank our sponsors: Anglo Irish Bank, McKesson, RR Donnelley Private Equity Services, Tommy Doyle’s Irish Pub and Newcastle Brown Ale.

April 22, 2008
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