Rugby Reflections Part II

This is the conclusion blog on the 2012 MBA Rugby World Championships hosted by Duke University. There are many heroes, pictures, and stories from the tournament that unfortunately could not all be mentioned.  Here is the viewpoint of the MBA Rugby experience, shared from the perspective of a rugby novice on the men’s UCD team. Enjoy!

Game Day Practice

The men’s team was scheduled to play the opening match of the rugby tournament on Friday evening against host Duke University. Given we had an entire day in Danville, Virginia with nothing to do our Coach decided to have a mini practice.  The idea was that we would walk from our hotel to the pitch to allow our jet lagged legs to stretch and run through some plays. After forty-five minutes of walking, we realized Google maps had not mastered the optimal path to the hidden rugby pitches and our legs were getting more of a work-out on the hot pavement than our Coach had originally anticipated! At one point in our travels the road literally ended and I helped the team out by asking a local if we could cut across their field to get to the pitches. Needless to say this would be last time we walked from our hotel!

UCD Men’s Team before the first game

After the epic walk and we caught a taxi back to the hotel for lunch and enjoyed some downtime before our first match.  I followed the routine and rested my legs on the bed-although I did not expect to use them as much as my 6’8” roommate-who I found already asleep in the room after I returned from lunch. Soon after, the alarm sounded signalling that we had 15 minutes before loading on the team van for the match. I turned on the light full of adrenaline and quickly realized that my bag was missing!

My roommate stated he had placed our gear bags in the room next to ours when he went out for lunch because our lock was not working. The only problem with this plan was that our bags were now safely locked away in a room that belonged to members of our girl’s team who were out graciously shopping for team refreshments in preparations for our first game! I could not believe it. Here I was less than 15 minutes before my team bus would leave for my very first rugby match and I had to tell my Coach I may miss the bus!   I rushed downstairs and pleaded my case to the hotel manager to unlock a room that was not mine to take a bag I claimed was mine! She must have seen the panic in my eye as the manager finally agreed to the craziness and I made the team bus within seconds of it leaving.

Relieved that I made the bus, emotions were riding high as the team prepared for our first match. I quickly changed and stood on the side-lines to witness my teammates get off to a quick start, winning 33-5 . To my surprise, before the game ended  I was afforded the opportunity to sub into the game. I honestly did not know if I would even play during the tournament and it was exciting getting on the pitch to experience the adrenaline of the very first match of the 2012 World MBA Rugby tournament!

Women’s Tournament

The dynamic of the trip was greatly enhanced by having both a men’s and women’s team representing UCD Smurfit. The women’s 7 on 7 tag tournament began on Saturday and the UCD team got off to an exceptional start, going undefeated during their first day of competition! The team benefited from their quick speed which is captured in the photo below.

The women’s team concluded the tournament by finishing in 3rd place in a thrilling semi-final match to bring home another award for Smurfit. After their final match the referee was more than happy to pose with the ladies after their brilliant performance!

UCD Women’s Rugby Team

Men’s Tournament

The UCD Men’s team also went undefeated during the tournament, winning their first four matches by a combined score of 177-11. The team carried this momentum into their semi-final match versus Wharton.

Playoff Semifinal Vs Wharton 42-5

The word “focus” immediately comes to mind when reflecting on our Sunday semi-final playoff match. The players on my team were dialled in and our Coach masterfully set the stage with his pre-game talk. He even had me ready to run through a brick wall for my teammates as you can see from the picture below! This was a match far beyond my skills level and I gladly cheered the lads on from afar on the side-lines as they produced a physical semi-final victory 42-5. We then awaited our championship opponent with bated breath- would it be the London Business School A team or the undefeated Harvard squad…

The UCD Men’s team also went undefeated during the tournament, winning their first four matches by a combined score of 177-11. The team carried this momentum into their semi-final match versus Wharton.

I was watching with admiration on the pure skill and technique my teammates showcased when I heard my team captain yell, “Coach we gotta get Justin in here”. I was shocked and moved when moments later my rugby coach told me to go into the championship match. They knew my friends and family were all watching and afforded me an opportunity to participate in the victory that our skilled starters had secured. This gesture allowed me to enjoy my favourite playing memory from the tournament when I tackled a Harvard player as the last line of defense. I probably hurt myself more than the offensive player on the tackle but I gave it all I had, closed my eyes, made contact and wrapped my hands around the oncoming player and swiped the ball away. I had miraculously stopped the score and contributed to the shut-out victory with the final score 34-0!

The celebration started immediately after the whistle, with representatives from Duke University presenting my UCD team with a large trophy solidifying our quest for the college’s 10th MBA World Rugby Championship!  Since we were on an MBA friendly-budget we traded the traditional celebratory bottles of champagne with cans of America’s finest hops for our team picture but it tasted just as sweet as we basked in the moment.

The MBA is about learning not just business management but challenging yourself. Thus ends the rugby blog, if you are interested in reading detailed summaries of the games you can view my personal blog here. Best of luck to the 2013 UCD Rugby Club!

– Justin Thomas, Full-time MBA 2011/12 & MBA Rugby World Champion