Duke Tournament: World Championships Of MBA Rugby

On Friday, 2nd April 2004 The Harvard Business School Rugby Football Club assembled in Duke, NC for the MBA Rugby World Championships, the holy grail of MBA rugby. For HBS this was the culmination of a year’s worth of hard training, and this tournament meant a lot to each and every rugger. On the road to Dukkake, we had shed much blood and sweat and were determined to leave a lasting impression on the competition.

After much debate the decision was made to take two teams to Duke. It was the right decision. A tremendous sense of team spirit emerged from the +50 players in the HBS camp, and the tournament provided an incredible learning experience to those who would have sat on the sidelines if only one team had competed.

By now, you are probably used to stories of ‘cultural trips’, strange drinking traditions and incidents with ladies in a rugby tournament article.

But Duke was different – we drank more pieces of water than pieces of beer! This was about rugby and we took this tournament pretty seriously…at least, until we were eliminated in the semi-finals after a heroic tournament. We have two pearls of wisdom for current and future ruggers:

1. Don’t ever pay for the tournament late – otherwise you will truly face the consequences of your action. Double B is ready…

2. Don’t ever get mistaken for a Wombat. Double D is ready…

Men’s A Team Report
Saturday’s pool games began with a clash with our rivals from the University of Texas. The cowboys had beaten us in the final of the Thunderbird tournament, and we were keen for revenge. It came in the form of a tough 13-5 win. Next up was a surprisingly tough outfit from the University of Chicago GSB. They rucked and mauled viciously and were able to shut down our attack. However, we triumphed 10-7. The final pool game saw us take on UVA’s Darden School. This was the most comfortable win, and we ran in four tries to none for a 24-0 shut out.

Brendan Rauw’s endurance, James Nadauld’s versatility and John Sheppard’s brilliant lineout play were highlights.

Our results on Saturday saw us qualify at the top of our pool, but not directly into the quarterfinals. To get there, we had to once again overcome Chicago, who appeared confident of turning the tables on us.

However, the intense fitness and discipline instilled in us from Coach Scot Durkin saw us overcome ‘Day two pain’ better than Chicago, and win comfortably, 24-0. Tucker Bailey and Dan Morris starred in the forwards with their physical games, while Mark Okerstrom and Dan Shapero tore things apart in the backline.

Two shutouts in a row had the team confident going into the quarter-final against the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School. Ivey had surprised many in the early stages of the tournament, and came out with some aggressive and stylish play. Despite some moments of vulnerability in defense, and a mounting penalty count, we got our play organized and crossed for two tries, and won 13-5. Highlights included spirited play from Dan Gertsacov, broken nose and all, Steve Evans in his 5th full match in a row, and Spencer Kympton with his typical powerhouse running.

The semi-final saw us face the tournament’s emerging favorite. AGSM, located in Sydney, Australia, has the advantage of a huge pool of local talent, and it showed. Their starting line-up was slick, and the squad was deep. However, our warriors were undeterred, and put in a gallant performance, especially in the absence of talisman Brian Vaniman. The AGSM scored first, and never trailed despite some excellent work from HBS. Ollie Thomas crossed for a spectacular try, and Rafa Guida Masoni’s kicking kept us in the game until close to the final whistle. In the end though, AGSM were the better side and kicked away with a late try and penalties to win 21-7. The squad looks in good shape for 2005 tour and will be well led by Oliver Thomas and Mike Butville, the new club captains.

Coach Durkin’s Comment on the Men’s A Team
“Obviously our goal was to win Duke, however overall the club had a very successful tournament. We came up short and I can honestly say it was through no fault of our own. We were beaten on the day by a better team. Our aim was to play expansive rugby, the squads trained and drilled hard and as any objective observer would conclude that over the two days Harvard played some very entertaining rugby. It’s very hard to single out players when the entire squad played so admirably. Having said that it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Dan Gertsacov and Spencer Kympton. Leaders lead by example and these two men epitomized the definition for the full two days of rugby. Good luck to all the graduating class, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be associated with such a great bunch of men.”

Men’s B Team Report
HBS set another precedent in the rugby world: brokering complex inter-school negotiations to send a combined HBS and MIT team to Duke. This “second” team was a blend of experience, newbies and good looks. We were also the only team to have a player officially score before the first whistle.

The team was also the best performing “second” team of the tournament. On Saturday morning, we played the state of Texas (aka SMU), going over the line four times to record our first victory for the tournament. Forwards who had never before played together, gelled on the field to produce a stellar performance – both in set pieces and loose play. Kevin O’Brien and Owen Stockdale impressed in their first games for HBS. The backs took full advantage of the ball, to run plays and send wings and centers into the try zone. Next up was Canada (aka McGill) and the team continued the solid performance to defeat our northern neighbors convincingly. The backline fired here, with highlights being the play of Adrien de Chaisemartin, Campbell Murray and Luke Herbert (NE). The team then gathered for a final afternoon game against Australia (aka AGSM). Leaving nothing on the table, we defended bravely against the tournament winners who ultimately dominated the game and posted a fair victory against us. On our first day several players had their first taste of a full rugby tournament and our progress was marked – the team played better rugby the more we played.

Earning a place in the cup finals, HBS/MIT played against Stanford which now sported the LBS backline. Although the game was closely contended in the first half, Stanford ultimately dominated the forward play and controlled the ball. Our team played to the last whistle and built a tremendous platform for next year.

Coach Adelson’s Comment on the Men’s B Team
“Harvard put together a B side to originally give the less experienced guys an opportunity to play some matches. Once on the field at Duke the team surprised everyone by becoming a competitive force during the tournament. With extensive training for close to five months on a new game strategy, the team worked as one to execute, and conquer, with the leadership of the team captains Luke Herbert and Terry Angelos. With a squad of mainly new boys the team played above their level, entering the cup tournament to everyone’s surprise. The team played like champions with the hearts of lions, not a negative thing can be said about this team.

I hope everyone will return next year, it was a pleasure to coach all of you.”

Women’s Team Report
The HBS ladies were fired up as we headed down to North Carolina for the highlight of our sporting year, the MBA Rugby World Championships at Duke. We were treated to our first dose of Southern hospitality when we picked up our sporty rental van. The gentleman was keen to give us a discount although it is unclear whether this had anything to do with him being under the illusion that we were an undergrad gymnastics team.

Our team chose to prepare for the next day’s grueling schedule by nipping out for a few beers. We were very excited to have the opportunit
y to get started networking with the other teams from business schools as far flung as Sydney, London, Dublin and MIT. We made some fine friends from Cornell who ensured that we were well-refreshed by the end of the evening.

Our first game was against Stanford who were much more acclimatized to the weather conditions. Jannike “skol” Aase was on fire and, with a little gentle encouragement from our captain, secured her position as highest scorer with a lightening fast streak down the wing. Despite a good show, our efforts proved to be inadequate and the first game ended 2-1 to Stanford. Columbia proved to be our least friendly opposition. Our team took inspiration from the sweet temperament of Denise “rookie” Celuch and managed not to be drawn into overly aggressive play and potty mouthing. (We later forgave them when they provided a 2am taxi service back to our hotel). We suffered a narrow defeat as they sneaked in a single try. Up next were our old friends, Wharton. Even the intimidating sight of Lena “eat my shorts” Henry wasn’t enough to scare them off.

Once again their Captain, Carolyn McGill, proved herself to be a remarkable athlete leading them to a convincing 5-0 victory over the, now flagging, Harvard team. Despite playing like a dream team and having really cool matching jerseys and socks, we managed to seed ourselves as number 10 in the competition and could therefore look forward to the mug final.

When the rugby was over, the team retired to one of North Carolina’s fine hostelries to partake in a refreshing beverage or two. Sadly, most of our gentlemen were unable to fully participate in the weekend’s festivities.

We were forced to find alternative company in the form of the Virginia team who had qualified themselves as the worst team in the tournament and therefore had no games left to play. Emily “officer” Thompson took the lead in introducing us to the other teams. However, the H-bomb proved to be highly effective and we quickly parted ways with the best Virginia had to offer.

After a leisurely start the next day, we set our minds on taking home some silverware in the form of the mug. We were up against McGill 2 who should have been no match for us. We were unlucky in the first half when one of their team intercepted the ball and stole a breakaway try. Despite having all the pressure in the second half and Mandissa “streaker” Quick’s repeated attempts to run round her man, we were unable to pull any tries back from them as they played a very defensive game and the game ended 1-0.

Despite the less than perfect match performance, the ladies were keen to support our men’s A team in the semi-final against AGSM and we were magnanimous in our support of the Australians in the final.

After a fulfilling weekend of sport and social, there remains only one question – how do you get off these London Business School fake tattoos?