They said it could never be done. No team has ever successfully defended the coveted Texas Fall Brawl rugby trophy. Until now. The grueling schedule, rock hard fields and brutal tackling makes winning the Fall Ball “Boot” two years consecutively a truly daunting task.
Undeterred, the 42 men of the HBS rugby team travelled to Austin, Texas, last weekend to defend their title. They knew an epic battle lay ahead. HBS’s recent successes have made them the targets for their traditional rivals, Columbia, Kellogg, Stanford and Wharton. The pressure showed in the first game when, despite the sterling physical efforts of Matt “Not just a pretty face” Lesniak and Josh “Not a pretty face” Walton, HBS were narrowly beaten by a fired up Stanford team.
However, this early upset was just the wakeup call that HBS needed. The next game against rivals Columbia became a must-win game. With Shwan “Hairy Knuckles” Kazzaz making swerving runs and laying out big hits, ably complimented by Regan “Angry Man” Turner’s unrelenting physicality in the forwards, HBS came away with a win. This left only the Wharton B side between HBS and a semifinal spot. What ensued was awkward to watch – the Wharton B side were annihilated by an HBS display of champagne rugby.
While the A side progressed to the semifinals, the B side was engaged in combat with Texas A&M, Kellog and Wharton A. This is the first time in the storied history of the HBS rugby club that it has sent two sides to Texas, a reflection of the current strength of the club. Kunal “Don’t hate the player” Gullapalli, Patrick “Pat” Furlong, Yuri “The Russian Tank” Mikhalev all laid out big hits on defense, with Craig “Granite Fist” Danton and Fabio “Bring on the pain” Salim making big offensive runs. Although the B side failed to progress to the semi’s, they finished the day knowing they had won the hearts and minds of their adoring Texas fans.
And so Sunday dawned. Wharton A were the opposition in the semifinal. The game, 40 minutes of ground shaking collisions, was won by the men of HBS. Arthur “The King” Heilbronn dominated the scrums and the centre pairing of Drew “Battled God” Brinkoetter and Zach “Nice guy” Simmons started to make big runs and lay out big hits. Following this two try victory, only the final against Stanford lay between HBS and repeat glory. The game, played in the searing Texas heat, showed the value of experience with old hands Bob “Air Mattress” Evans and Tom “MoBro” Masterson coming to the fore. That said, the value of youth was evident as Adam “Tournament MVP” Barker physically dominated the Stanford boys. And with that, the referee blew the final whistle, and HBS, courtesy of a Mike Porter fifty-yard run, had achieved the impossible: back-to-back Fall Brawl champions.