Babson Wins Second Rugby National Championship

Posing for a team photo and holding a banner, the Babson United Rugby Club celebrates winning the national championship

The Babson United Rugby Club has a saying: Roll uphill. In tough moments, when the team is at its lowest, the players need to steel themselves, roll uphill, and find a way to win. 

Last weekend, on a bright and breezy afternoon at Houston’s SaberCats Stadium, rolling uphill was exactly what the Babson team had to do. At stake was the national championship for small college rugby programs. With mere minutes remaining in the match, the Beavers trailed Wayne State, 23-20, and found themselves pinned back by their own goal line. 

The Beavers had the ball, but to win, they needed to work their way down the length of the field. It was a tall order. “One mistake on our side, one undisciplined play would have lost us the game,” center Jack Byszio ’27 said. “It was really an all or nothing moment.” 

Play by play, Babson went on the march. Finally, in front of the Wayne State goal, the match turned. The ball popped out of a ruck, or a scramble of players struggling for the ball, and back row Charles Price ’27 scooped it up, weaved through opposing players, and hurled to the goal, sealing the victory for Babson. Final score: 27-23. 

In that moment after a long and hard contest, there was exhaustion, relief, and pure exhilarated joy. With the stunning finish, Babson won its second national championship of the year and secured its place among other top rugby programs. “We are the best small college rugby team in the USA, unequivocally,” said Carrick Pell, Babson’s head coach. 

The Comeback  

Babson claimed its first title of 2023 back in the spring, when it won the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) Small College National 7s championship.  

Reed Santos
Fly-half Reed Santos ’24, tournament MVP

The ‘7s’ in the name refers to the fact that there are seven players on a side, which offers a more modern, faster version of the game. This past weekend, the NCR Small College title Babson won involved 15 players to a side, the more traditional style of play. 

Babson’s winning weekend in Houston began on Friday with a 52-0 demolition of Catholic University in the semifinal match. The contest against Wayne State, however, wouldn’t be as easy. At one point, early in the second half, the Beavers trailed, 17-6. 

The team rallied, and Pell never lost faith in his players, even as they still trailed late in the match and were pushed far back against their own goal. “At that moment, pinned deep, I said to our assistant coaches, ‘We got this,’ ” he recalled.  

Pell tried to explain how monumental that last drive was for the Beavers. “How we finished the finals off is difficult to explain without a full understanding of the intricacies of rugby,” he said. “Imagine combining Tom Brady’s greatest comeback drive times 10.” 

Fly-half Reed Santos ’24 agreed. “To be down all game long with our backs against the wall and then manage to march down the field 90 meters to win at the buzzer—it was surreal,” he said. 

The Best Teammates 

After the game, Santos, who has played professional rugby and has dreams of competing in the Olympics, was named tournament MVP. “The lightning bolt for the team’s success on the pitch is Reed Santos,” Pell said.  

Byszio, meanwhile, was given the Heart and Soul award, presented to the player who exemplifies those very things for his team. “To put your body on the line every game and overcome adversity, you can’t just be a sports team,” Byszio said. “You have to be more like a family, and that is what we have at Babson rugby.” 

Carrick Pell
Carrick Pell, head coach of the Babson United Rugby Club

Pell also pointed to the team’s strong culture as a reason for its success this year. “The best humans make the best teammates,” he said. 

Considering that only a handful of players had rugby experience before hitting the pitch for Babson, Pell said the team’s two national titles in 2023 seem all the more remarkable. A focus on fundamentals has been critical. “The majority of players didn’t know what a rugby ball felt like until they arrived at Babson,” he said. 

Santos called out the leadership and support of Pell, Babson’s loyal rugby alumni, and rugby advisor Len Green, a longtime Babson entrepreneurship professor. As he raised the championship trophy, Santos thought of all the work he and his teammates did together, all the practice time, all the trips to the gym, all the film sessions. 

Before the final match against Wayne State, the team gathered to watch Al Pacino’s inspirational speech as a football coach from the movie Any Given Sunday. “Either we heal now, as a team,” Pacino tells his players, “or we die as individuals.” 

“I think that really resonated,” Santos said. 

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