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Gentlemen of Aspen return to home pitch

Ben Husband

The last time the Gentlemen of Aspen played at home, they put an end to a near-perfect season.

Last September the Gentlemen defeated the Denver Barbarians 25-13 in the 31st annual Ruggerfest championship match at Wagner Rugby Stadium.

Aspen walked off its home pitch with the club’s third consecutive Ruggerfest title, completing one of the Gentlemen’s finest seasons ever. Earlier in the year, the Gentlemen won their second consecutive USA Rugby national club championship in San Diego. Aspen’s lone loss of last year was an 18-16 defeat at the hands of Belmont Shore early in the season.

Ending the season with a win at their hometown tournament was the best way to end another magical season for the Gentlemen.

Seven months after victoriously walking off their home field, the Gentlemen are back.

Aspen will make its 1999 home debut on Saturday, April 10.

“It’s great to be back home,” Aspen scrumhalf Paul Gibson said. “You get so tired of playing on the road and then you finally get to come home and it’s just a great feeling for all of us.

“It’s nice to get home and have that homefield advantage and to play in front of our home-team crowd,” he added.

And oddly enough, it’s against the same team the Gentlemen last defeated at home – the Barbarians.

The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. – weather permitting – at Rio Grande Park. A tough Denver club The Barbarians are considered by many as the only team in the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union (ERRFU) that can compete with Aspen.

And the Denver team proved that in last year’s Ruggerfest finale, as the Barbarians held Aspen in check for much of the first half before the Gents exploded in the second.

“If any team out there really feel they can beat us, it’s them [Denver Barbarians],” Gibson said. “They are trying to follow in our footsteps and be the rugby force that we are.

“The biggest thing for them would be to be able to beat us,” he continued. “But it’s not going to happen.”

Gibson added that “they are a very talented group and they are always trying to figure out a way to beat us.” A quick start The Gentlemen have bolted to a 2-0 start, including a huge victory over the only team that beat them last year.

The Gentlemen kicked off the season with a 31-19 win over the Dallas Harlequins and then scored a huge 16-11 win over Belmont Shore, the only team to defeat Aspen last season.

“These first initial games really are the toughest for us,” Gibson said. “But a lot of us have played together for so long now, that we’re not going to let each other down this season.

“Once we get a couple more games under our belt, then we’ll really get it together.”

Last weekend, the Gents were scheduled to travel to California to face OMBAC. But because of the weather, the game was canceled.

“It’s been tough so far this year because we haven’t been able to play in some of our games because of the weather,” Gibson said.

In addition to the OMBAC game being canceled, Aspen’s match against Boulder earlier in the season was also called because of inclement weather. BG’s return The home debut will also mark the return of legendary Aspen coach Brian Going.

After leading Aspen to its third straight Ruggerfest title, Going said it would be his last time on the sidelines as he announced his retirement from the Gentlemen and the sport.

“That’s what the plan was,” Going said earlier this year. “It didn’t quite work out that way though.”

What brought Going back to Aspen, he said, was an agreement between him and some of the veteran players to give it one more run.

“The older boys said if you come back, we will too,” Going said.

Going added, “We’re going for three-in-a-row.”

So the plan is quite simple for Going – win one last national title and officially retire.

“That’s the plan now,” he said. “If we can stay as dedicated and committed as we were last year, then there isn’t any doubt we can do it. But we must stay focused the entire season if we’re going to get there.”


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