Each year, the HBS rugby team participates in the London Business School tournament, with many leaving their loved ones behind to represent the school over Valentine’s Day weekend. Unfortunately, due to the tough economic climate, a number of schools were forced to withdraw and the tournament was cancelled at the last minute. With tickets booked, there was no option but to make the most of the situation and an inaugural game was set up against the Judge School of Business at Cambridge University for the Saturday, with a “friendly” game against LBS to be played on the Sunday.
On Saturday, the team headed to Cambridge, about one hour north of London. Cambridge had pulled out all of the stops for their first ever game against Harvard, providing printed match programs, a professional photographer and an impressive trophy (thanks to the kind sponsorship of Sir Paul Judge). The B-side played first against an extremely experienced Cambridge side. Due to the last-minute nature of the game, Cambridge had been forced to pull in a number of rugby “Blues” (the highest sporting accolade at Oxford or Cambridge) for a bit of “Yank-bashing”. This created a complete mismatch in size, strength, and ability between the two teams. The game was a one-sided affair, but the Harvard boys bravely stuck to the task and eventually were rewarded after Nick Taranto made an excellent break and then off-loaded in the tackle to Kevin O’Boyle who scored a consolation try.
The A game was a much more balanced affair. Harvard started the game poorly, probably due to the challenging pub crawl that was completed the previous day in Oxford, with Cambridge running in two tries in the first five minutes. This jolted Harvard into action, and in an exciting first half the team produced some of the best rugby that they had played all season. Exceptional running from Sean Eldridge and Chris Trimble led to four scores, and an extremely tough defensive effort led by Curt Willener meant that Harvard finished the half up 24-22. Unfortunately, Sir Paul Judge was determined that his new silverware was not going to end up in Cambridge Massachusetts. Cambridge brought on a number of the aforementioned Blues to replace some of their weaker players, and Harvard struggled to respond to the quality. Injuries to key players Sean Eldridge (broken nose) and James Joun (hand) made matters worse, and Cambridge ended up winning 50-24.
Once again, the B-side ran out first against LBS, playing in slight drizzle with a blustery wind. However, these conditions did not put off the team, who showed incredible spirit to bounce back from the previous day’s defeat. The forwards dominated the game with their physical intensity – Charles Jennings led the pack from the No.8 position, carrying the ball forward like a tank all afternoon. The backs also cut the LBS defense apart with intelligent running and great ball-handling. Patrick Cleary scored a classic forwards try, piling over the line after a 10 yard rolling maul. Not content with his first score for Harvard he crashed over the line again for a second later in the game. When the final whistle blew, Harvard were deserved winners 29-17. Special mention goes to captain Matt Rooney who went to hospital with a suspected broken cheekbone but was back within hours to chug beers and dance on tables.
In the A-game both sides appeared to be fairly evenly-matched and it was expected to be a close game. The crowd on the sideline was unsurprisingly biased towards the home team who were out for revenge after losing to Harvard last year. LBS started strongly, and as had happened in Cambridge, Harvard conceded two scores in the opening stages of the game. Harvard then pulled it back together and took the game back to LBS. Unfortunately, the exertions of the previous day at Cambridge were evident, and the team struggled to put together a structured offensive effort. Frustratingly, LBS managed to consistently steal Harvard ball at the breakdown. However, Harvard nearly scored after a sensational break by flanker Chris Trimble. Chipping over the defense, Trimble raced to collect his own kick and gathering the ball after a fortunate bounce seemed set to be on for a try – unfortunately a diving tackler managed to clip his ankles bringing him down. Ultimately, Harvard proved unable to convert pressure into points and went into the half down 19-0.
The second half proved to be more of the same, and Harvard was just unable to put together the plays required to turn the game around. Cambridge scored another couple of tries before Harvard finally got on the scoreboard after a kick was charged down with about 10 minutes to go. Unfortunately, it was too little too late as LBS ran out winners 29-5. Consolation was found when we defeated them in a boat race in their bar after the game, but it was still a very disappointing end to a memorable tour.