Gents top Belmont Shore in home opener
After a 4-0 start on the road to kick off the spring rugby season, the Gentlemen of Aspen returned to the valley to host Belmont Shore in the team’s home opener, sort of.
Soggy field conditions in Aspen forced the game to be played on the practice football field at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, but the day couldn’t have been much nicer.
Under a sunny, blue sky with snowcapped Mount Sopris looming in the distance, the Gents shook off some first-half doldrums to take command in the second frame and pull away for a 39-17 win.
Mark Williams, a longtime Aspen captain and national team player, was the show for the Gents in the first half, scoring on a try and two penalty kicks to stake Aspen to a 13-0 lead.
A late penalty on the Gents Karl Siteine gave Belmont Shore a numbers advantage, and the visitors from California capitalized with a penalty kick that made the score 13-3 at halftime.
Following the intermission, the Gents started to put their stamp on the game.
First Aspen’s Jason Walker made a try off a beautiful pass from Robbie Dawe to make the score 20-3. Belmont Shore answered with a try off a quick line-out to cut Aspen’s lead to 10, but that was as close as the game would get.
Aspen scored off a line-out drive, with either Sean McGwire or Fleming Trane getting credit for the try, and then Walker scored again after a great run through the heart of Belmont Shore’s defense. Following a Williams conversion kick, Aspen led 32-10.
Rata Going completed Aspen’s scoring with a madcap try that occurred while a small dog was darting about in the middle of the action, and the Gents held on for the win despite a late try by Belmont Shore that made the score 39-17.
Despite the victory, Aspen coach Brian Going seemed nonplussed by his team’s performance. “We can play better,” he said. “I’m sure we will. I knew they’d give us a good game, and they did all the way to the final whistle. But I’m happy with the result.”
The win pushes Aspen’s record in USA Rugby’s prestigious Super League to 4-0 (5-0 overall) and earned the Gents a bonus point in the league standings by virtue of the fact that Aspen scored four tries.
“We were a bit flat,” said Williams.
“It was sort of an off-game for us. We scored some nice tries, we won and we got the bonus point. That’s the main thing.”
Aspen’s next two games, on April 8 against the Dallas Harlequins and on April 15 versus Golden Gate, are scheduled for the Gents’ home field, and they remained optimistic that Rio Grande Park will be playable by this weekend.
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.