Gents suffer rare defeat
April 1, 2003
For the Gents, wins are predictable if not the standard.
It’s a laughable notion, really, “like the salmon of Capistrano.”
An of course. The Red Sox shall lose and the Gents shall win and so it has been, with the Gents now lugging the last six U.S. national titles in tow.
But here’s the thing. The Gents lost. LOST!
OMBAC, the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club of San Diego, capitalized on two tries in the first 17 minutes, then repeated Aspen errors, to deliver the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club with its first defeat, 27-22, in more than a year on Saturday.
OMBAC, the team that beat Aspen in the 2001 opener, also in San Diego, put up 27 points in the first half, compared to the reeling Gents’ 12.
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“We figured they’d come out hard at us and they did. And we were able to absorb a lot of pressure from them, but perhaps they threw us off our game plan a little bit,” said Brian Going, the Aspen coach since 1996. “They were certainly fired up.”
Aspen’s Ryan Smythe scored two tries and Brian Hightower scored one, Aspen’s only in the second half. Flyhalf and kicker Dean Walsh added seven points, with two conversions and a penalty kick, but Aspen never led.
“They got all the points first,” said Going.
Saturday’s game marked the Gents’ third appearance on the San Diego Chargers’ practice field, and their third loss. The first was in 2000 against Life College for the Super League title, before Super League and USA Rugby merged; the last two were vs. OMBAC in regular-season play.
In 2001, OMBAC topped Aspen then reportedly said the Gents were finished. But the two teams met again for the first unified USA Rugby-Super League championship, and Aspen rolled to U.S. title No. 5.
And last year, in a similar scenario, Belmont Shore knocked Aspen off in the season opener in California, then lost a rematch for the national title, U.S. No. 6 for Aspen.
“I think it’s no different from last year,” said Going. “It’s always bad to lose, but it’s good to get a wake-up call, to realize we’re not invincible, that we do make too many errors and that we need to tidy up our play.
“The feeling was we let them win, rather than them winning by their own good will. Giving two tries away is too many. The game definitely could have been won by us if we cut our error rate down.”
Since the fall of 1995, when Aspen began competing at the highest level of rugby in the U.S., the Gents have posted an astounding record of 118-8 in USA Rugby and Super League games, including this weekend’s tally.
And by that logic, the Gents lose about once a season.
“I must say, OMBAC was very humble, and they know that we’re going to be bouncing back,” said Going. “I talked to their coach [Bing Dawson], and he said the game means nothing. But I don’t think so. This is a big morale booster for them, and I think they’ll be in the mix at the end of the day.
“So OMBAC’s marching forward [at 3-0] and we’ve got a little stumbling block at this point [at 2-1], but I think we’ll turn it into a positive situation and grow from the loss. It’s just hard to accept the loss.”
Aspen hosts its first Super League opponent of the season on Saturday vs. Boston, another 2-1 team. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School.
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