The team reached the final in the 37th Annual MBA Rugby World Cup, outranking all US teams
When the whistle blew to end the semifinal match between HBS and UC Dublin, it was clear that history was being made. After being down by 12 points only 5 minutes into the match, HBS dug deeper than they ever knew possible to heroically turn the match around and reach the MBA Rugby World Cup final for the first time since 2014. While the team ultimately lost to the enormous Canadians of Ivey Business School, it was one of the best World Cup performances in HBS history.
The weekend-long tournament, hosted every year by Duke University, pitted 16 teams against each other, including London Business School (LBS), UC Dublin, Stanford, Columbia and perennial underperformers Wharton (which, with over 100 players in its roster, still manages to lose time and time again). HBS came into the tournament a complete underdog: after placing 6th in the previous World Cup, producing lackluster performances throughout this season, and presenting a smaller roster (25 players) than at any time in the past decade, most observers did not believe HBS would amount to much in this edition of the World Cup.
In the group stage on Saturday, HBS was matched up against Stanford, LBS and Dartmouth. First up was Stanford. In a tighter match than expected, HBS beat its West Coast rival 23-7. Next up was LBS, the team’s boogeyman last year, when LBS eliminated HBS in dramatic fashion in double over-time. The drama would continue in this edition of the World Cup, as the two sides tied 15-15 in a match steeped in controversy surrounding LBS’s reluctance to contest the scrum after it was continuously outmatched by HBS’s lethal pack of forwards. Finally, HBS beat Dartmouth in the final match of the group stage by a wide margin. The tables were set, and HBS would have a rematch against LBS in quarterfinals on Sunday.
LBS was a heavy favorite to win the match, having reached the final in the previous World Cup and bringing a roster of well over 50 players. Furthermore, England is the birthplace of this beautiful sport. However, HBS was out for revenge over what they felt should’ve been a victory the day prior. Led by team captain Alek Duerksen, the pack of forwards hit the opposing team hard in every scrum, ruck and maul. The backs played an exciting style of rugby, thanks to Gregor MacLennan’s golden foot, Andy Thomas’ read of the game, and Mitchell Nimocks’ complete disregard for his own health when tackling rivals. With seconds to go and only one point up, Ross Brendel scored the try that secured the match for HBS. The team was onto the semifinals against UC Dublin, the team with the largest number of championships in MBA World Cup history.
The match started off very poorly for our heroes. UC Dublin proved why they are the best team in history, immediately scoring two tries against HBS. However, with pure guts, HBS came roaring back, scoring four tries and securing its place in the final. Unfortunately, HBS wasn’t able to take down Ivey, which is in the midst of a dynasty-building run with three World Cup championships in a row.
After the award ceremonies, HBS put up another legendary performance at the after-party in Shooters II, a Duke University bar. Co-president Ivan Salas Orono said: “The socially inept Wharton team commissioned an ice sculpture with their logo on it and displayed it prominently at the bar. Much like its consistently disappointing rugby team, Wharton’s sculpture ended up in pieces and on the ground. That was my favorite memory of the entire tournament”.
Retiring after six years at the helm, HBS coach Gonzalo Michanie said: “As an Argentine who always dreamt of playing with Los Pumas, little did I know that real rugby glory resided within the realm of HBS. Coaching this team has been the best thing that could’ve happened to me when I landed in the US, and I hope I have lived up to the expectations of those who believed in me”.
You sure have, Gonzalo.
Ivan Salas Orono (HBS ’17) is proud of two things in life: being Co-president of HBS Rugby, and being a member of Old Section D. People seem to like Ivan because he is polite and rarely late. He likes to eat ice cream and really enjoys a nice pair of slacks. In his spare time, Ivan goes to Gyu Kaku.