CHESTNUT HILL--No one thinks Harvard can win the Beanpot, especially after the hockey team's fourth place finish this year.
But Saturday on Seminary Field at Boston College, the Harvard rugby football club shattered that myth by capturing the third annual Beanpot rugby tournament with an exhilirating 10-6 victory over B.C. before a crowd of 1000 spectators.
The Harvard "B"-side made it a sweep, winning the "B"-side tournament for the second consecutive year, defeating B.C., 14-12, in the final.
"We finally pulled through and it feels so good," Co-Captain Lanny Thorndike said. "We usually make it to the championship and collapse."
The Beanpot is the first championship the ruggers have nabbed since bringing home the national championship in 1984. Harvard has twice reached the finals of the Ivy League and New England championships in the past three years, only to fall in the finals each time.
Making only their first Beanpot appearance due to scheduling conflicts in past years, the ruggers dominated the first half offensively behind their forward pack, and held off an Eagle rally in the final five minutes with aggressive defensive play and some good kicking.
Freshman Cory Thabit first kicked the Crimson out of trouble with a booming 50-yard kick. One minute later, hooker Jon Israel booted a loose ball out of bounds.
The hosts threatened one last time, but senior Andy Fouse's kick into noman's land with the Eagles on the Crimson goal line snuffed BC's last gasp.
Sophomore scrum-half Michael Gibbs had an excellent game, leading a hand in both Harvard trys and contributing one of the best defensive plays of the afternoon.
Early in the contest, a super-quick B.C. player got outside of the Harvard defense. In the Eagles' 32-6 shellacking of Harvard back in the fall, that same player tallied on two similar breakaway runs.
This time, however, Gibbs came from out of nowhere to haul the speedster down from behind.
"Our wings did really well," Gibbs said. "They crowded him, and he couldn't get loose. On the play he did, I was just thinking I had to catch him, no matter what."
Midway through the first half, Gibbs rambled 15 yards for a try after receiving a pass from forward lock Sam Rosenstein. Koenig converted the try for a 6-0 Crimson lead.
Harvard's second try resembled a basketball fastbreak. Eight-man Mark Sagarin, in place of injured senior Rob Leavitt, ignited the play when he relayed the ball to Co-Captain Scott Roberts, who then passed it to Gibbs.
Gibbs executed a pop-kick which was caught on the run by senior Ray LaRaja. LaRaja was tackled, but he flipped the ball over his shoulder to 200-pound forward Kris Thabit, who carried two defenders into the end zone for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Harvard blanked Northeastern, 12-0, in its first-round match. Fouse scored a try and Koenig, who tallied 10 points in the tournament on kicks, added two penalty kicks.
On the "B" Side
For the "B"-side, sophomore Annor Ackah tallied twice, Tim Perini once, and Jim Neill added a conversion kick which turned out to be winning points. Wing Richard Butcher scored both Crimson trys in its first-round blanking of Northeastern, also 12-0.
In other action, the "C"-side battled B.C. to a scoreless tie.
By virtue of its victory over the Eagles, the Crimson is now ranked number three in the East. The ruggers are in position to move up a notch when they visit number-two Vermont this weekend.
"Lately we have been pipped to the post," Harvard Coach Martyn Kingston said. "We've always been competitive, so close to winning a major tournament, and that's disheartening. This time, we didn't come up short."
"We're the ruling family of Boston," LaRaja said. "We won the Beanpot."