Gents drive for fourth national title
It all boils down to this for the Gentlemen of Aspen: two games to make history.
Aspen enters the USA Rugby national final four this weekend in Manchester, N.H., in search of an unprecedented fourth consecutive national club championship.
But if they are to achieve that goal, the Gentlemen will likely have to do so without longtime national team player and former captain Mark Williams.
Williams, a vital cog in the Aspen attack and the Gents’ main kicker, suffered a concussion last Saturday during Aspen’s 38-25 Super League semifinal win over the Kansas City Blues.
The Gents made it to this weekend’s play after two big wins in the sweet 16 in Boulder three weeks ago.
First Aspen, the No. 1 seed, dispatched with the 16th-seeded New York Old Blues 54-5 to set up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 8 Life College of Georgia.
Life put up a better fight, but Aspen nonetheless prevailed 41-22 to earn the trip to New Hampshire.
The Gents caught a bit of a break in the semifinals, if Williams, as expected, doesn’t play, since they will square off against No. 12 Golden Gate, a club out of San Francisco.
Aspen defeated Golden Gate 32-20 on April 15 while Williams was in the Caribbean getting married.
Aspen coach Brian Going also seemed confident that the Gents could handle Golden Gate following last Saturday’s win over Kansas City.
He said that either Paul Gibson or Chris Morrow will take over at fly-half for Williams.
“We’ve been training the blokes just in case,” said Going. “I’m confident Gibson or Morrow can fill in adequately.
“They’ll play their guts out for Mark Williams,” he added.
If the Gents win Saturday’s semifinal, they will move on to the final Sunday to face off with the winner of the semifinal between No. 6 OMBAC (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club of San Diego) and the second-seeded Hayward Griffins from Hayward, Calif.
If Aspen can, indeed, retain its crown, the Gents will become the first team in the modern era to win four consecutive USA Rugby national club championships.
Following this weekend’s playoff action, the Gents will have yet another high-pressure contest on June 10 when they meet up with Life College of Georgia in the finals of the USA Rugby Super League.
Aspen won the first two Super League titles but lost in the semifinals last year.
That game, originally scheduled for Philadelphia, will be played in San Diego.
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