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Men's Rugby Season Starts with One Tie and Two Solid Wins

By Chris Sununu
team member

The MIT rugby team kicked off their season this week with three tough matches against the Boston Brahmans, the University of New Hampshire, and archrival Harvard Business School. The team held on for two strong wins against the Brahmans and Harvard and a tie against the UNH team.

The season opened on Saturday with a 1712 win against the Brahmans. The first half fared well for the Engineers as their mauling produced enough ball for the back line to push across two tries including a spectacular run by fullback Jeremy Levin G.

Spearheading the second half attack was captain Jeff Bucci. Bucci's fierce running style helped give MIT excellent field position after two quick scores by Boston. MIT was able to maintain the high intensity for the remainder of the game to secure the five-point victory.

MIT defeats Harvard Business

The season's biggest challenge though came on Wednesday against the always competitive Harvard Business School. For the third straight season, MIT has faced Harvard as an underdog, and for the third straight season, MIT has come out victorious.

Harvard's recent claim to the National Business School Rugby Championship provided incentive for the MIT's hard play.

Both teams, as usual, came ready to play. From the opening kickoff it was evident that the high intensity that was brought onto the field was going to provide an afternoon of quality rugby.

In the first half, the MIT pack held together well in the scrums but the fitness and smart play of Harvard kept the Engineers from dominating ball movement. The back line of MIT did set up some opportunities at the try zone but Harvard held MIT to only a single three-point kick by the half's end

"We had the lead," said Dave Stracher, "but we also knew Harvard could explode for big points in the second half."

The quick play of MIT did not dwindle through halftime though. Early in the second half, the MIT forwards pressured the Harvard flyhalf into an errant pass that was quickly recovered by Jeremy Levin G.

The MIT back line responded with beautiful passing which set up Huw Price for the game's first try. "It was only 80 by then, but we knew we had them on the ropes," said Jeremy DeBonet G.

The last 15 minutes were defensive for the Engineers as they were forced to play a man down yet still held Harvard with four goal-line stands. The Harvard fullback kept the pressure on MIT with three strong kicks deep behind the MIT 22-meter line.

This combined with some costly MIT penalties allowed Harvard to push a try across on the game's final play, but it wasn't enough as MIT walked away with a 85 win. "That was the hardest 15 minutes of rugby I can remember," said prop Fernando Vargas G.

Engineers tie UNH

MIT continued their long week against the UNH A-side squad on Sunday. The game was a battle back and forth during the first 30 minutes with neither team able to put any points on the board.

A late first-half surge by the MIT pack pushed back the UNH forwards for two tries by Tim Braier and Toshiyuki Hino G. MIT continued to be strong in the second half as well and took a 195 lead with 20 minutes left to play.

UNH was not finished though as they turned the tide of the game with their good kicking and fitness. They scored two late tries and converted their kicks to tie the score in the game's final minutes.

The game would end that way with both teams feeling it was a well played match. MIT coach Stephen Wilhelm said, "It was disappointing to lose the lead, but it was a spectacularly played game on both sides. It is teams like this that make rugby so thrilling to watch."

MIT will continue their undefeated season against the Babson Old Boys tomorrow at 1 p.m. here at MIT. This season's heavy schedule will make it all the more difficult for MIT to keep their Social Division Championship but after such a commendable week, the team remains very hopeful.