Rugby Tames Beast of the East

The Harvard men's rugby team scratched and clawed its way to victory at the Beast of the East Tournament last weekend and asserted its supremacy among Division I and Division II schools in the Northeast.

A field of 30 teams competed at the tournament, which was held at Glen Farms in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Most of the schools represented at the annual event were small Division II colleges from the Northeast, but eight Division I teams seriously vied for the prestigious championship.

In addition to Harvard, teams from Boston University, Rutgers, Dartmouth, University of New Hampshire, Holy Cross, University of Massachusetts and Northeastern made up the crop of Division I competitors.

In Saturday's preliminary competition, the Crimson tamed the Scarlet Knights from Rutgers in first round action with a convincing 45-10 victory. Arriving to the tournament one hour late, the squad quickly gained its composure and sent Rutgers home empty-handed.

"We literally ran off the bus right onto the field to play that first game against Rutgers," freshman Justin Belobaba wrote in an e-mail message.

Though the team's offense cooled off a bit in the second-round semi-final game, the Crimson managed to edge Boston University and secure a place in Sunday's finals against Northeastern. B.U. presented Harvard with a close semi-final match but was unable to break Harvard's stingy defense, falling 19-7.

Coming off an emotional win over defending Ivy League champion Dartmouth, Northeastern was prepared to oust another Ivy foe and take home the trophy. Northeastern crushed the Crimson during the fall season 29-5, setting the stage for the dramatic upset.

Key tackles by the backs stifled the Northeastern offense, while the forwards outplayed their Northeastern counterparts to propel Harvard to a 29-0 shutout victory. Belobaba led the team in scoring over the weekend with 38 points in the three games, accounting for nearly half of the Crimson's offensive output for the tournament.

"They basically whooped us in the fall, but we always happen to do better in the spring than the fall," Traugott said. "Things just sort of came together in the finals."

With the strong showing at the Beast of the East and the momentum of a five-game winning streak this spring, the Crimson will take on Babson College next Saturday. The team is also looking forward to the annual Beanpot Tournament in two weeks, in which rivals Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern will try to avenge their losses and recapture rugby dominance in the Northeast.