HBS Finishes Strong at MBA Rugby World Championships

Each year HBS Rugby trains for a full season of league play and two international tours. While victories and team-building throughout these matches are important, the real goal of these countless hours of rigorous practice and hard, fast rugby is quite simple: WIN DUKE. Held every April, the MBA Rugby World Championships are hosted by Duke’s Fuqua Rugby Club, with teams from around the world converging for a three-day battle for the title. The 2003 tournament saw a high level of international participation, with teams from Australia, Ireland, England, and Canada in addition to many from the U.S. In all, 21 teams vied for the championship, with an additional 8 women’s teams playing in a sevens touch tournament.

Fans of HBS Rugby and faithful Harbus readers will recall that in the 2002 tournament, HBS went 2-1 in round robin play before defeating Columbia in the single-elimination bracket but were eliminated in the quarterfinals against their arch-rivals from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). When the “random” draws for round-robin play were announced, it was clear HBS would not need to wait long for rematches of these rivalries. First up: AGSM at 8AM, followed by Columbia at 11AM and Texas at 2PM. It takes six games over two days for a team to win the championship, and HBS would have to be firing on all cylinders from the first whistle.

Game 1 vs. AGSM
One of the reasons why Duke is such a good host school for the tournament is the quality of their athletic facilities. While HBS trains outdoors on a lovely piece of dirt with a few blades of grass among the broken glass and goose poop, the fields at Duke are luscious, soft, and green – perfect for rugby. HBS ran onto the pitch to the roar of the crowd, which was quite large given the early start of the game. Knowing the importance of setting the tone of the game early on, HBS doled out punishing blows from the kickoff, with Dan Gertsacov (NJ) delivering the game’s first hit and leveling an opponent. Midway through the first half, HBS were also first on the scoreboard, with Spence Kympton (ND) recovering a deep kick by Jorge O’Hara (OI) and then bowling over several Aussies to score a try. Much like last year’s match with AGSM though, this was a tight battle fought out by the forwards, with neither team able to dominate possession. Giving up a late try, the score was 5-5 when the final whistle blew, and while HBS had not quite avenged last year’s loss, they were able to hold their heads high for playing phenomenal rugby.

Game 2 vs. Columbia
After a brief rest, HBS returned to the pitch to face Columbia. Needing to win out to secure a good seeding for Sunday’s single-elimination bracket, HBS came on strong for this one. Chris Withers (NA) opened the scoring with a brilliant try. After intercepting a wayward pass, he ran into the defense and dribbled past two of defenders for a score near the posts. Withers converted as well to bring the score to 7-0. One of the team’s newest assets, Nai Hola (OPM), showed his value by delivering a wicked tackle, which was voted “Hit of the Day” by the team. Driving off a penalty and in for a try was Gertsacov, who hammered through the defense and dragged three opponents into the try zone with him. Also driving in for a score was Baron Hanson (FAS), who was cheered on from the sidelines by his biggest fans, his parents. In a brilliant play, Jorge O’Hara kicked an up-and-under into the opposition’s 22, tackled the fullback as he was picking up the ball, stole the ball, and, popped a pass to Nai, who came at full speed to receive the ball and pound it in for a score near their posts. O’Hara kicked the conversion as well as a penalty late in the game to bring the final score to 24-3.

Game 3 vs. Texas
Saturday’s final game against Texas was a similar dominating effort. With AGSM moving to 2-0-1 with a victory prior to HBS’ match, the team knew it would have to win convincingly in order to win a tiebreaker against AGSM to win the bracket and secure a first-round playoff bye for Sunday. Leading the way was Man of the Match Spence Kympton, who played out of his skin for the whole weekend. Kympton scored an early try by slicing through the Texas defense like a hot knife through butter, and Shoney Katz (OC) followed later in the half with a brilliant end run of his own to score. Ken Ebbitt (NG) added a third try for HBS after taking a quick penalty and dodging between defenders to score under the posts.

Most importantly however, Texas was held without a score, which enabled HBS with a 17-0 victory to win the tiebreaker against AGSM and secure a first-round playoff bye. HBS returned to the hotel to rest before attending the evening charity gala for a local performing arts organization at the theme restaurant “Thee Dollhouse”.

Game 4 vs. AGSM
HBS’ reward for winning their tiebreaker against AGSM? Why nothing else but a rematch with the Australians, who soundly beat Stanford in an earlier game to once again face off against HBS. HBS went up early on a penalty kick by Jorge O’Hara, but found themselves down 7-3 at the half.

Dan Gertsacov personally took three players out of the game – two AGSM’ers with brutal tackles and himself for two yellow cards from the referee for said tackles. Despite playing a man down due to this, HBS fought back in the second half and went ahead with a beautiful try by Dave Miller (OB). As Jorge O’Hara remembers: “the try came after a 2 phase drive from the forwards where they made at least 15 yards. Josh Hall (OF) opened to me and I ran into the defense and passed to Spence who found a gap between their flyhalf and their first center. As the fullback was closing on him, Shoney appeared in support to receive a beautiful pass and as their last player, their wing, closed on him, he offloaded to Dave who was screaming ‘one more pass!!!, one more pass!!’, Dave ran towards the corner pushing off their defense and then ran inside the try zone to place the ball underneath the posts. I converted.” However, AGSM tied up the game in the final moments with a penalty kick, and for the second consecutive game, HBS and AGSM were tied at the end of regulation. This time, it would have to be settled in sudden death overtime, and HBS watched in disbelief as a penalty kick ended their season. Final score AGSM 13, HBS 10 (OT).

Despite losing for the second straight year to AGSM in the quarterfinals, HBS can hold their heads high knowing they left it all on the field. Smurfit (from Ireland) won the final over Wharton, and LBS and AGSM were declared co-champions of the women’s tournament. Several HBS players were asked to fill in for spots on injured teams, including Key Kiarie (OK) and Roy Kim (NA) for McGill and Daniel Morris (NF) and Derek Mendez (OD) for AGSM. Mendez was declared an honorary Australian for his heroics on and off the pitch.

Magic Moments
“All I remember is KB out of the scrum twice with brilliant success.” – Ken Ebbitt (NG)

“Can someone please explain the offsides rule to me?” – Bryan Vaniman (NF)

“Celery!” – Julian Coulter (OG)

“The ‘Aussie’ streaking down the tunnel at the AGSM-LBS women’s final like a caped crusader, splattered with champagne, an Australian flag draped round his shoulders, and a wombat (stuffed) covering his (false) modesty. This was perhaps the funniest thing I have seen at any rugby event ever.” – Eric Miller (HLS)

“After seeing that, I think I’m scarred for life.” – Key Kiarie (OK)

“A memorable part of the trip was the ride back from the game to the airport playing a game invented by Gertz called ‘You chug.’ It’s pretty self-explanatory, but we finished an 18-pack in under 30 minutes with 4 guys. We also beat Mark’s van in a boat race at the gas station and then went off-roading to pass them and beat them to the airport. Pure dominance.” – Roy Kim (NA)

“Free beer trucks – I’m in heaven!” – James Nadauld (NI)

“Not ‘The Dollhouse’ – THEE Dollhouse!” – Tucker Bailey (OB)

“All I know is that due to Jorge’s
training sessions I no longer have a deceptively slow spin move, but am now a speedy winger who can take it past the fullback with ease. Final try of my career. Yeah baby!!!” – David Miller (OB)

“If you (AGSM women’s team) win, I’ll streak the field!” – DD

2003 HBS Tournament Roster

Captains:Anthony Carango (OA), Shoney Katz (OC)

Forwards: Tucker Bailey (OB), Derek Mendez (OD), Julian Coulter (OG), Marcus Cunningham (KSG), Eric Miller (HLS), Baron Hanson (FAS), Brendan Rauw (NF), Bryan Vaniman (NF), Dan Gertsacov (NJ), Daniel Morris (NF), John Sheppard (NI), Seamus Smyth (FAS)

Backs: Key Kiarie (OK), David Miller (OB), Jorge O’Hara (OI), Josh Hall (OF), Karim El Naggar (OA), Nam Kry (OC), James Nadauld (NI), Ken Ebbitt (NG), Roy Kim (NA), Spence Kympton (ND), Brian Jackson (NG), Chris Withers (NA), Dan Shapero (NE), Nai Hola (OPM), Mark Okerstrom (NE), Gene Ng (NB), Raj Doshi (KSG)

A number of injuries plagued the 2003 HBS Duke campaign. David Merle (OF), out with a back injury; Mark Okerstrom (NE), a broken eye socket (punched by a female basketball player); Charles Macdonald (ND), shoulder separation; Kevin Brosseau (HLS), spinal/back irritation; Todd Bice (FAS) punctured lung, groin operation, and pulled hamstring (truly a star of stage and hospital); Richard “Unbreakable” Pawlowski (OC) torn MCL and ACL on both legs – twice. In a strange twist of fate, each of these injuries is somehow related to Dan Gertsacov (NJ) inflicting harm on someone – hey, six degrees of separation…