Gents rugby rallies to beat Vail RFC on late penalty kick, stays undefeated
Gents assistant coach Cameron McIntyre wanted to give a thank you to the City of Aspen Parks and Recreation Department for its assistance in making their home games possible.
The city supplied the club with paint for the field and did everything it could for them to be able to play on the main field at Wagner, but the resodded grass had not yet taken hold enough for play.
The city has also allowed free field use for the club’s Wednesday night touch rugby sessions, which are open to all community members and is a fun, non-contact way to learn the game.
Down early and down again late, the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club’s perfect record looked in peril on Saturday against rival Vail. But a wild finish and a late penalty kick salvaged a dramatic 46-43 win for the Gents at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
“Unbelievable character for the whole game,” first-year Aspen coach Ben Mitchell said. “To come from behind twice is a really good achievement, especially against a team like Vail. They have some really good players this summer and that’s a great win for us to remain unbeaten.”
Vail was one of the best teams in the mountain league last summer and swept Aspen in both of their matches. Wanting a bit of revenge against their main rival on Saturday, the Gents certainly had to work for it versus a team they know well.
“The boys really dug it out,” third-year Gent Risteard Mulcahy said. “It’s always good before and after. We got a lot of friends. We even have a couple of guys who have played for Vail, and vice versa. But they are always the toughest game we play and it’s nice to beat them.”
The match started slow for Aspen, which fell down by a couple of tries in the first 10 minutes. They rallied with a strong stretch after that and even had a slight lead at halftime. It was a lull in the second half that put the Gents in a pretty big hole as time was waning.
“It was a pretty shaky start, but we got back into the game,” Mitchell said. “Second half then was a bit up and down. We ended up three scores down with 10 minutes to play and we kept in the fight and ended up with three tries and knocked over the last penalty to win the game. It doesn’t get better than that.”
The tide turned late in the second half with Aspen rallying for the 43-43 tie with only a few minutes remaining. Down to only seconds, the Gents opted for a long penalty kick, which Chris Campbell knocked home for the lead. Play only resumed momentarily before the referee blew the final whistle.
“He’s a magic man. He’s unreal. He’s done it a few times for us this season,” Mulcahy said of Campbell. “Toward the end, as soon as we got that one try, we got the wind under our sails and I think we just believed. Everyone kind of knew it was going to happen.”
Campbell was named man of the match for Aspen, much as he was in last week’s blowout win over Breckenridge in their home opener.
“We definitely took our foot off the pedal a little bit,” Mitchell said of the second-half lull. “We had a few chances to get more scores but we turned over the ball and they went down to the other end and scored. It’s a game that can change very quickly and momentum can go up and down.”
With the win, Aspen improved to a perfect 5-0 on the summer season. Other wins have come over the Misfits, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs. Next up, the Gents will head to Steamboat, which is hosting its 45th annual Cowpie Classic on Saturday. It remains one of the largest and most prestigious tournaments of the summer schedule, and is as known for its post-match toga party as it is for the rugby.
“We are feeling great. I think we know as well we got more to come,” Mulcahy said. “Got a couple of guys who couldn’t come out today. Got a couple of injuries we are dealing with, but we got Cowpie next week and I think we got a full head of steam. We got all the confidence in the world that we can win it.”
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Onsite parking won out over a Turkish bath at a new lodge planned to be built across from City Market. Aspen’s elected officials didn’t want to burden the neighborhood with offsite parking for the new hotel.