Gents hold off rival Vail | AspenTimes.com

Gents hold off rival Vail

Chris Freud
Vail correspondent
Aspen CO, Colorado

Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyAn Aspen player runs with the ball during Saturday's rivarly match against Vail at the Vail Athletic Field. Despite a second-half rally by Vail, Aspen prevailed, 31-28.

VAIL, Colo. ” The next thing you know the Aspen and Vail rugby teams will join hands and start singing folk songs.

OK, maybe not, but the rivalry has mellowed quite a bit. There were plenty of a solid hits in the visiting Gents’ surprisingly close 31-28 win Saturday over Vail at the Vail Athletic Field.

When Vail, playing with just 15, lost a player to injury, Aspen’s James Leonard came off the sideline to don a blue-and-white jersey to keep things even.

“I think it’s because we play together more as teammates rather than intense rivals,” said Aspen coach Fred Waititi, who held the same position in Vail a few years ago.

“There’s no quarter given. Bubba [Vail’s Brian Dalrymple] still tackles as hard as ever. That shows, but it’s not the bitter rivalry it used to be.”

The defrosting of the rivalry between the Gents and the Blue and White has taken place because a lot of Vail’s side ends up playing for Aspen during the winter and spring.

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“A lot of us play for them in the Division I season, so there’s respect, a rivalry and friendship, not just complete hatred any more,” said Vail player-coach Greg Tarpey, a veteran of many of these fixtures.

Saturday’s match had some familiar themes of the rivalry. Vail tried to play deliberately in the center of the pitch to neutralize Aspen’s vaunted speed in its back row. Aspen clearly won that battle in the first half.

After Vail took a 3-0 lead on a Trefor Davies kick, the Gentlemen dominated.

Teddy Omondi scored two tries on two quick dashes. Ryan Nichols pushed the lead to 26-3 with a try and the visitors seemed to be cruising to an easy victory.

Vail captain Will Mansour gave his team an impassioned speech at the intermission, reminding the squad that the fixture between the two rivals every year in late August in Vail is dedicated to Mike “Kiwi” Wilson, a former Blue and White player who died in 2005.

And as Waititi said, the match became “a battle of two halves.” Tarpey kick-started Vail’s rally by blocking an Aspen kick and falling on the ball past the Gents’ try line. Aspen’s Cameron Adams scored what seemed like a meaningless try, but ended up being the game-winner.

After that, Vail dictated the tempo with another try from Tarpey and two from Ian Rollison.

“It was amazing. We had props on the wing, guys who haven’t played all season,” Tarpey said. “We came out pretty flat. Will gave a captain’s talk at halftime, and we put it together. We had a game.”

Granted, Aspen was short some key players from its 7’s team which recently won the national title, but Saturday’s game was also a good start for Gents’ start to the fall campaign, beginning with RuggerFest next month.

“We’ve got to start somewhere,” Waititi said. “We haven’t played a game since we played Vail in Aspen back on July 4. It’s our first game in the best part of five weeks.

We did some things well. A lot of the Vail guys play for us in Division I, so they’ll join us for RuggerFest and then we’ll continue into the Division I season. So it was quite good actually because everyone who plays for us showed some good things.”

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