HBS Rugby’s season is off to a strong start after the boys in black stormed into the final at the annual Hogfest tournament hosted at Wharton.
It was a Thursday morning, and the weekend was off to an inauspicious start. There was a message in the Airbnb inbox saying that the team’s accommodation had been canceled. Apparently, water damage caused the roof to collapse. After a few hours of scrambling, new accommodations were secured, and the trip was back on track. However, instead of a three-story home near Wharton, the boys would now be in a house billed as “for big groups at budget price,” which would later become known as both “the trap house” and “the insane asylum.”
With a few late medical issues, the crew departing Harvard on Saturday morning was thinner than expected. Luckily, the team was bolstered by the last-minute addition of Kevin Nyamweya—coming straight from an after-party at 4 AM with a lot of heart but no kit.
After a long drive, the team arrived at Wharton fueled by Wawa and ready to play. Stepping onto the pitch, you could tell it would be a long day of rugby. The temperature was over 90 degrees on the field, with solid humidity to boot. But the boys were ready for the challenge.
Up first: Columbia Business School. The pack, featuring four players in their first match: “Little” Jon Moll, Matt “Machine Gun” Scott, Greg “Solo” Hahn, and Andrew “Subfit” Stephenson, came out on a tear, blasting the CBS pack backwards from the start. Charging at the opposition like a mad bull, Hahn “Solo” and the forwards penetrated deep into the CBS half, but a missed offload led to a CBS clearance. Off the restart, the new starting back line went to work. New 12 Sayf “The Sword” Al-Omaishi slashed through the heart of the CBS backline before offloading to erstwhile 10-turned-13 club Co-President Jack Gannon. Running straight at the last line of defense, Jack popped to wing Richard Waitumbi for the first try.
With the ball again, scrum half “Big” Jon Furman was ready to swing it wide. The backs chewed up a lot of territory with quick ball. On the CBS five, it was time for the forwards to work. “Little” Jon proved up to the task in his first match, busting through two CBS defenders for his first ever try.
The start of the second half was a brutal defensive struggle. Ten minutes in, standout second-year Ian “the Hoff” Hossfeld went down with a badly bruised leg. Without Ian’s strong Navy SEAL leadership in the forward pack, CBS finally managed to bust through and dot a second try, but after stealing the restart, HBS replied with a flying try from French 10 Aurélien Bellucci to seal the game 19-12.
Fortunately, Chris “Weak Knee” Hartnoll, serving in the capacity of team Mum while recovering from injury, was on hand to look after HBS’s casualties.
Next up was the host team, Wharton, conveniently coming off a full match rest.
This game was a bloodbath of defensive play. For the entire first half, the Wharton line attacked and attacked but was pushed back by backs and forwards alike. Though all the forwards were coming up hard, first-year Scott Cara was an absolute monster, mowing down Wharton forwards at the knees and springing back up time and time again for another hit. With the HBS defense tiring but desperately defending their line, the boys only just held off a Wharton try with a shoulder-separating sink-the-titanic tackle from club CFO Alex “Swolombia” Harstrick.
HBS was unlucky to go down after Wharton scored from a powerful rolling maul off of the line out. With HBS constantly threatening the Wharton try line throughout the game, the boys were finally able to break through to come back to 7-5. Several unfair calls from the ref (an ex-Wharton player), combined with some unlucky knock-ons, prevented any further HBS scores—a close game nonetheless.
With the close loss to Wharton and the victory over CBS, HBS matched up with undefeated pool B winners Yale in the semi-final.
Hyped up by a rousing speech before the match imploring the team for another shot at Wharton in the final and the always-motivating thought of beating Yale, HBS came out on fire.
After a few phases of forward crashes into the heart of the Yale defense, the backs got the ball on the right side and needed little assistance. Number 12 Sayf drew in three defenders with a bruising run before spinning the ball out over the head of a trailing HBS forward to 13 Jack Gannon for the first try.
After the restart, HBS decided “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Once again, a 12 to 13 connection led to another try. Shortly afterwards flanker Scott Cara took a well-timed offload to score right between the posts. Next up was wing Anthony “I Take an Hour to Do My Hair” Yung’s turn, scoring a try on the right wing, next to his very impressed girlfriend.
In the second half, Yale retained more possession, slowly grinding down field behind their massive 8 man Alex. With 10 minutes of pressure, they managed their only score off a penalty tap to get on the board, ending their 24-7 defeat with honor.
HBS got the rematch it wanted, but it lost the war of attrition. With a home field advantage and a squad 30 deep, Wharton was much better rested for the final. And as the game began, the 90-degree-plus heat and three previous matches took their toll on the HBS team.
Under pressure, HBS gave up an early try to a pounding Wharton forward pack. The onslaught continued for a second try. However, HBS stood stout the rest of the half, making huge open field tackles on the Wharton back line and causing a forward pass and knock-on by the Wharton attack, which both prevented tries. At the half, the scoreline was 12-0.
As the second half began, the day began to take its toll. Cramps and injuries were the norm, and HBS was down to 13 men standing tall (two players short of a full 15).
Despite having two men missing due to cramp and down three tries, HBS didn’t give in. Second-year wing Thomas “Total Pain” Payne was an absolute tackling monster, putting his signature double leg takedown on Wharton players all over the field and winning back the ball. His heavy work rate was eventually rewarded with a try right between the posts.
HBS continued on the front foot for the rest of the match, attacking deep in Wharton’s half. A knock-on by the backs spinning the ball wide inside the Wharton 22 prevented a second try at the death, and it was all over, 19-7.
Taking inspiration from Old Boy Liam Patrick’s 2006 team, HBS dressed out in traditional blazers and ties paired with optional pants for the post-match. A few of the players were even lucky enough to find “alternative” accommodation and avoid a night in the “trap house.”
Jack Gannon (MBA ’20), is Co-President of the Rugby Club. Jack’s failure to get into the Naval Academy golf team was the start of his illustrious rugby career. Having spent the last three years underwater in a metal tube, he’s enjoying re-socializing himself into society at business school.
Chris Hartnoll (MBA ’20), is Co-President of the Rugby Club. Despite his coming from the country that invented English, his teammates struggle to understand him most of the time. A (confused) native Singaporean, he helps define the culture of the club: things like political correctness, gentlemanly behaviour, and copious use of the salutation “mate.”