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Gents kick off season in Dallas Saturday

Ben Husband

To say the Gentlemen of Aspen have dominated USA Rugby the last two years is an understatement.

Winning back-to-back USA Rugby National Club Championships, one national Super League title and losing just one match in the last two years, the Gentlemen have become one of the country’s top rugby clubs.

On Saturday, Aspen will begin its quest for another super league title, a third consecutive national club title and a fourth straight Ruggerfest championship. Aspen will travel to Dallas to kick off Rugby Super League play (formerly known as the Harp Super League) against the Dallas Harlequins, a team Aspen beat last year 86-3.

One week later, on March 20, the Gentlemen of Aspen will travel to Long Beach, Calif., to take on Belmont Shore in Super League play.

Aspen finished second in the Super League play after losing to Belmont Shore early in the season – it was Aspen’s only loss in the last 24 months.

The Gentlemen once again will be coached by the legendary Brian Going, who is Aspen’s all-time winningest coach.

The New Zealand-born Going led the Gentlemen to Ruggerfest titles in 1994, ’96 and ’98. And he also led the Gents to last year’s national club championship.

In 1995, Going guided Aspen to a string of 34 consecutive victories.

The Gents also return a tenacious lineup beginning with veteran captain Mark Williams, who will enter his 18th season with the Gents.

Also returning for the Gentlemen will be last year’s Ruggerfest MVP, fullback Chris Morrow, as well as Jason Walker, Rob Dawe, Bo Buck, Dougald Gillies, Paul Gibson, Justin Harvey, Billy Nashwinter and Tomasi Takau.

The Gentlemen, however, will be without one of their all-time best backs. Brian Hightower, who played the last two seasons with the U.S. Eagles, called it quits as a player last August after Ruggerfest.

Hightower is heading back to the East Coast and back to Dartmouth College, leaving behind, at least for now, the team he helped make a national power.

“I’ve been around the game long enough to see other teams and there’s nobody that would ever lay it on the line like we do for each other,” Hightower said in his final interview as a Gentleman. “And it’s always been that way and that’s kind of hard to walk away from.”

New to the Rugby Super League this year will be the addition of playoffs at season’s end.

The top four teams from both the East and West divisions will advance to the playoffs.


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