Aspen Gents excel in rugby’s summer school
The Aspen Times
Summer school is in session.
The Gentlemen of Aspen Graduate School of Rugby capped the summer semester Saturday afternoon with a rousing 74-7 victory over the Defiance Rugby Club of Glenwood Springs in a sun-drenched game at Wagner Park.
The Gents, with a summer lineup bolstered by visiting college players, stunned Defiance with three quick scores in the opening 15 minutes of play.
Rugby veteran Grant Prior of South Africa scored Aspen’s first try. Then, Adonis Johnson of Humboldt State in California scored the first of the college tries for the Gentlemen, who are enjoying an undefeated 11-0 season.
A pair of opportunistic tries and two long kickoff returns jettisoned the Gents to a stunning 45-7 halftime lead.
The dynamic Aspen offense punched the accelerator again in the second half, with scrum half Drew Prince of Middle Tennessee State driving the machine.
“It was exciting. Such great camaraderie with everybody here,” said Prince after his start as the “quarterback” of the Aspen scrum. He said the Gents pulled together as a team, relying on the lessons of their rigorous and structured practice sessions.
Prince initiated several extended passing sequences, including a pair that netted tries for his brother Adam Fairchild on the outside.
The brothers from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will head back to college on Tuesday with memories of Saturday’s win over Defiance fresh in their minds.
Prince said his college coach at Middle Tennessee State had received an email from Aspen coach Cameron McIntyre, inviting college players to come to Aspen for the summer season.
“I jumped all over that,” Prince said. He and his brother moved to Aspen, got summer jobs and played summer rugby.
“I knew Aspen was a nationally recognized club with a number of national championships and a great atmosphere to play,” he said, standing in the middle of historic Wagner Park — which has hosted summer rugby for 49 years. “I wanted to improve my game and help my team back home.”
But he had no idea his summer coursework would include international classes.
“It’s amazing. You have everybody from all over the world … Zimbabwe, South Africa, Australia, Ireland,” Prince said. “I’ve learned more from those guys this summer than I have in six years (of rugby) back home.”
He said he felt comfortable stepping into the scrum half role for Saturday’s game because of his preparation in training with his summer teammates.
A former high school football player who took up rugby as a junior, Prince has been playing ever since.
“Here … it’s the organization, the pace and the brotherhood that we’ve come to,” he said of his most valuable lessons in Aspen. “The practices are structured … for that.”
A senior criminal justice major, Prince said he sees Aspen in his post-graduate career.
“My plan is to come back up here right after graduation,” Prince said. “I’ll be back.”
“I think it was a great outing for Drew (Prince) today,” said McIntyre, Aspen’s head coach. “Today, he showed how far he’s come.”
He said the Gents’ philosophy for the visiting college players was to “surround them with people who can advance their game, and give them a chance to show their abilities.”
He said Prince did an excellent job organizing the Gents for success on Saturday.
“We realized one of our intentions,” McIntyre said, “to bring players like Drew here and give them as many tools as possible to take back to their colleges … to enhance the game of rugby.”
The unbeaten Gents will travel to Vail next weekend for the annual Ski Town Classic rugby tournament.
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