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Barbarians stun Gentlemen of Aspen

Ben Husband

The Denver Barbarians did what only one other team has done to the Gentlemen of Aspen in the last three years – beat them.

In a thrilling and very physical Rugby Super League conference match, the Barbarians stunned Aspen with a 23-22 win at Rio Grande Park Saturday.

With less than a minute remaining in the added injury time and the Gentlemen clinging to a 22-16 lead, Denver marched the length of the pitch and scored on a diving try to cut Aspen’s lead to one, 22-21.

The Barbarians then converted on the two-point conversion for the 23-22 lead and eventual win.

Aspen hustled to midfield to begin play, but was called for a penalty. Denver took possession, ran out the clock, and began to celebrate.

“We did it!” screamed the Denver coach, pumping his fists. “We finally beat Aspen.”

As the Barbarians celebrated one of their biggest victories ever, the two-time defending national champion Gentlemen huddled around veteran coach Brian Going.

“We didn’t play well today did we boys?” he said. “You didn’t play the way you could have, and if you did, you know we could have won this match.”

In the end, it was the mistakes that eventually cost the Gentlemen the match. From dropped balls to missed conversions – three from veteran kicker Mark Williams that would have given Aspen the win.

“We could have won this match,” Going said. “But we gave it away with silly little mistakes, and you can’t have those mistakes against a team like Denver.”

Three minutes into the match, Eagle Jason Walker began the scoring for Aspen with a diving try after a ferocious stiff arm that leveled a Denver player. Williams missed the conversion.

At the 7:00 mark, Denver scored on a 25-meter penalty kick to cut Aspen’s lead to two, 5-3.

The Barbarians then took the lead with their first try 14 minutes into the first half. The conversion attempt sailed wide right, and Denver took a 10-5 lead.

Aspen then scored consecutive tries – Lance Sigley and Walker – to regain the lead. Williams missed both conversion attempts, and Aspen took a 15-10 lead.

But Denver connected on back-to-back penalty kicks to take a 16-15 lead at the half.

In the second half, the physical play from both teams increased and tempers flared throughout the rest of the game.

At the 18:30 mark, Walker, who suffered a severely sprained ankle earlier in the half, scored his third try of the match off a scrum from the 2-meter line. Williams connected on the conversion, giving Aspen a 22-16 lead.

Aspen held the lead for more than 20 minutes before Denver stole the game with less than a minute to play.

“We paid for our mistakes,” Walker said. “This is a wake-up call for us. We should have been up for the challenge and now I think this will put us on track for the next couple of weeks.

“This is motivation for the older guys on the team,” he added, “because the coach will bring up the youth if we aren’t up to par.”

The loss drops Aspen to 2-1 in conference play. The Gents travel to San Francisco Saturday to face Golden Gate.

For more coverage of the Gentlemen, see Friday’s Aspen Times Weekly sports section.


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