Gents march into rugby’s sweet 16 |

Gents march into rugby’s sweet 16

Whoever labeled it the “sweet 16” of USA Rugby obviously doesn’t lace up boots and take to the pitch.

While it may be sweet to reach the final 16 of USA Rugby, the intensity of the competition in the national rugby tournament is really quite salty (no pun intended!).

The Gentlemen of Aspen, under the guidance of super-manager, super-president, super-organizer Andrew “Salty” Saltonstall, head to Dallas this weekend to compete in their fourth consecutive “sweet 16” of USA Rugby’s national club championships.

The Gentlemen have powered through the last three sweet 16s and eventually reached the final four of USA Rugby. And in the last two seasons, the Gents won the coveted national USA Rugby championship after finishing third in their first bid for a national title in 1996.

And on Saturday (at noon, Dallas time), the Gentlemen will continue the defense of their two consecutive national championships.

The Gentlemen of Aspen, the No. 1 seed out of the West, will take on the New York Athletic Club rugby team in the round of 16. The NYAC rugby team is the No. 2 seed from the Northeast region of USA Rugby.

The other two teams in the Dallas pool of the sweet 16 are the Chicago Griffins and Seattle. They will play at 2 p.m. (Dallas time) Saturday. Chicago is the No. 2 seed from the Midwest; Seattle is the No. 3 seed from the Pacific division.

The winners then will play on Sunday for a right to return to the final four of USA Rugby.

The Gentlemen advanced to the sweet 16 and secured the No. 1 seed from the West with a pair of impressive wins two weeks ago in San Diego.

Aspen’s ruggers beat Old Blue of Berkeley, Calif., 34-5 on one day. And the next day, the Gentlemen scored an overpowering 49-0 victory over Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) of San Diego.

Two more victories this weekend and the Gentlemen of Aspen will return to the final four in Cincinnati on June 5-6.

The other 12 teams in the sweet 16 this weekend include a bevy of familiar names.

In one four-team bracket, scheduled for play in Chicago, OMBAC will be matched against Hayward (another California club).

The Potomac Athletic Club will take on San Mateo in the other 16 matchup in Chicago. San Mateo is the No. 1 seed from the Pacific while Potomac is No. 2 from the Mid-Atlantic region.

Two different pools of four teams each will play in Cincinnati this weekend. Life College of Georgia, a former Ruggerfest champion, will take on the Kiwitel NEC Unicorns in the first game. The Unicorns also are from Southern California. Life is the top seed from the South.

Golden Gate, No. 2 from the Pacific, will take on Philly-Whitemarsh in the other matchup. Philly-Whitemarsh is the No. 1 team from the Mid-Atlantic region.

The other foursome to round out the sweet 16 features the Denver Barbarians against the Chicago Lions and the Pittsburgh Harlequins vs. Old Blue of New York.

Old Blue-New York is the top seed from the Northeast. And Old Blue-New York lost to Aspen in the two previous national championship rugby games.

The winners of all four pools move on to Cincinnati and the final four.

The Gents, of course, are coached by Brian Going, an international coaching legend in rugby.

The Gentlemen will be without the services of several of their U.S. Eagles players for the first-round game this weekend. Most of those Eagles, however, will be available for the second game if Aspen gets past NYAC.

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