One city, 2 days, 20 HBS Ruggers, 5 Games and Zero Pants

The HBS Rugby Team made its way to the little market town of Philadelphia over the weekend to compete in the annual Wharton Hogfest Rugby Tournament. Eight universities from around the country competed in the famous event. Compared to the HBS team’s normal routine of playing local clubs in a tough New England Rugby League, this was a welcome opportunity to play against other universities and also to meet up with some old boys in the area.

The tournament started with controversy, as the highly questionable draw saw Harvard and the other favorites for the tournament knock lumps out of each other in one pool, while Wharton played in the other pool against a load of teams that were new to rugby and their warm-ups involved playing with crayons on the sidelines. Never ones to turn down a challenge, your valiant HBS warriors stepped onto the field ready for battle, prepared to play a total of five games over the course of two days.

However, Harvard’s tournament got off to a worrying start when they played poorly and lost 13-3 in the first game against Tuck. HBS never seemed to get out of the blocks and, to their credit, Tuck took full advantage of the opportunities they were given.

This loss called for a dramatic change of plan and the front row union of Geoff, Siller and Ross decided to take matters into their own hands in the next game against Columbia. The first scrum saw HBS push Columbia back over their own try line and Chris Trimble (making an Ali-like return to the ring) dived over for a try. Columbia appeared to “not like it up them!” and they soon proceeded to substitute their entire forward pack – job done. HBS did not show any mercy. Two tries were quickly added by Chris Tanner (HKS) and the 24-0 victory was rounded off with a superb runaway try by the new “meatstick” of the team, Sayce Falk (HKS).

Now that order was well and truly restored, HBS quickly moved onto the next game against Wharton B. Although this was a tougher test, Harvard’s superior quality soon shown through, and Trimble and Ianelli (HLS) scored to finish the first day with a 15-0 victory.

Excited to have made it through to the knock-out stages the next day, the HBS Ruggers ventured out into Philly in the evening for the annual “Walnut Walk” pub crawl. This famous event sees the whole of Wharton put down their calculators for an evening and come out in fancy dress-blazer, shirt and tie on top and then only boxer shorts down below. Needless to say, your rugby team defended Harvard’s honor impeccably and gave a firm but friendly welcome to the locals.

Having played three games of rugby the day before, the team had a number of sore bones the next morning. But they rose from their beds to take on Columbia again (?!) in the quarter-finals at 9 a.m. the next morning. After their beating the day before, Columbia wanted to go home early and they played like it. HBS quickly ran up a 13-0 scoreline with tries from Oliver Tompkins (OH) and man-of-the-match Kevin O’Boyle (OG).

With Columbia taken care of, HBS moved onto the semi-final against Wharton A. With many expecting the tournament winner to come from this game, the intensity was high and the two teams played out a hard-fought game. The first half saw heavy hits from both sides, with rookie Yemi Owolewa (NI) winning the contest for biggest tackle of the day after knocking his opposite man into next week and Josh Gregg (NI) kicked superbly for position. HBS went into halftime with an 8-7 lead and the knowledge they were well and truly in a game. Although spirits were high going into the second half, Wharton did have more strength in depth and this perhaps showed in a second half against a tired HBS team. To their credit, Wharton played good rugby in the second half and secured the win with two late tries.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on a tournament that was there for the winning, the HBS team travelled back to Boston with their heads held high having played very good rugby throughout the weekend. Do me a favor – if you see a rugby player today, give him your seat. Rugby players usually have difficulty walking after a normal game. So to play five games over two days was a massive challenge, and the COOP will have certainly sold out of painkillers this week.

As always, the HBS Rugby Club is exceptionally grateful to the hospitable people of Tommy Doyle’s, the deliciously creative people of the Harpoon Brewery, the intellectual people of BCG and the brave people of International Rescue.

October 19, 2009