Gents Old Boys too much for Virginia | AspenTimes.com

Gents Old Boys too much for Virginia

Nate Peterson

Gentlmen of Aspen captain Paul Gibson breaks out of a scrum Sunday and tosses the ball to a teammate in the second half of the 35-and-over final at Wagner Park at Ruggerfest. The Gents beat the Virginia Cardinals, 24-14. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

East against West. Favorite against underdog. Team speed against team strength.Ruggerfest’s over-35 final at Wagner Park Sunday, which pitted the favored Gentleman of Aspen against the upstart Virginia Cardinals didn’t lack compelling storylines, but a match chockfull of penalties overshadowed those layers of intrigue.Aspen got two tries that came as a result of Cardinals infractions, as well as two penalty kicks, and that was the difference in a 24-14 win. The victory marked a return to the top of the heap in the over-35 field for the Gents after losing last year’s final to the Kansas City Blues Brothers.

“The game was called fine,” said Gents captain Paul Gibson. “You had decisions that went both ways. There were decisions that we weren’t happy about, but, you know, that’s the way it is. It’s rugby and there are mistakes. They made more mistakes than us and we won the game.”Virginia proved it wouldn’t be bullied by the burlier Gents side early in the first half. During a scrum at the halfway line, Virginia scrum half Jamie Wiles broke out of the pack, then stiff-armed an Aspen player to run in the first try of the game. Howard Graham kicked in the conversion, putting the Cards up 7-0.The Gents evened the score a few minutes later off a push from a set five-meter scrum deep in Virginia territory. An offsides penalty on Virginia set up the scrum, which then led to the Gents’ Jerry Hatem grounding the ball into the Cards’ end-goal. Mark Williams was true on a chip shot for the conversion.With the game tied, Virginia continued to take advantage of its speed, particularly by trying to set up the dynamic duo of halfbacks Jason Raven and Malachai Delai in the open field. Aspen halted possible big plays, however, with sure tackling. Raven got loose a couple of times, but those breakaways failed to score any points until the waning minutes of the second half.

Meanwhile, the Gents continued to grind it out on offense. The second Gents try at the end of the first half came in the same fashion as the first – a combined team push that propelled the ball over the goal line on the left side of the pitch. Williams missed the conversion.In the second half, the Gents continued to take advantage of Virginia penalties. Williams converted two penalty kicks to give Aspen a commanding 18-7 lead, then booted a drop kick from just outside the 22-meter mark for another three points and a 21-7 lead.As the penalties began to pile up, the Cardinals became more and more frustrated. The loss of focus led to errant passes, dropped balls and a lot of yelling at the head referee from furious Cardinals players.

Delai admitted that he was upset with some of the calls, but said his team should have concentrated on the game.”We kept the focus on the ref instead of focusing on us,” Delai said. “There were a lot of bad calls, but we shouldn’t have let that affect us. We know we have a fast backline, and if we just focused on our game rather than what the ref called, we would have had a better game.”Raven and Delai teamed up for a try in the waning minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough to put a scare into Aspen. Williams drilled one last drop kick to give Aspen its final tally of 24, and from there, Aspen played sound rugby to run out the clock.

The win, Gibson said, was the perfect way to close out another memorable Ruggerfest weekend.”It’s a bunch of guys who get together once a year,” he said. “We used to play the open division, and together over five years we won five championships. It’s nice to get together as a unit and play together. It’s fantastic.”Nate Peterson ‘s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com.