Gents roll Boulder, look toward 35th Ruggerfest
September 4, 2002
In the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club’s final live tuneup before the 35th annual Aspen Ruggerfest commences, Sept. 19-22, the Gents ran over Boulder 59-28 Saturday at Wagner Park.
Coming off an uninspired, last-second (and perhaps even lucky) win over Vail the week before, Saturday’s effort marked a clear turnaround.
“We played more to our pattern and our style, which is creating activity with three or four phases of ball,” said longtime coach Brian Going. “And we scored some nice tries.”
Aspen’s top guns continue to trickle back to the pitch in an effort to fortify the Aspen side in their quest for a seventh straight Ruggerfest championship and 13th overall.
“We had quite a few of last year’s [national championship] squad playing, with the exception of the front row people,” Going said. “We saw the return of Mark Wisroth, Fleming Trane and Sean Maguire in the forwards, so it’s good to see them coming back into the focus.”
Going’s son Rata was appointed vice-captain of the Aspen team prior to the Boulder game, a designation he’ll carry through Ruggerfest, Going said. The regular vice-captain, former Zimbabwe National Team player Isaac Mbereko, will not be available. It’s a notable loss considering Rata Going and Mbereko have proven themselves as lethal as any backs combination in the States, on board together in the back line for the last five of Aspen’s six straight USA Rugby National Championships.
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“Rata had an extremely good game himself Saturday,” Going said, “and so did Simon Dogbe on the wing. He looked full of enthusiasm and he certainly enhanced his possibilities of getting onto the Ruggerfest squad. And Bobby Lochrem looked ready to roll on the other wing too.”
Alec Parker, a 1993 Aspen High graduate, is expected to be in the lineup for Ruggerfest, following a tour with the Eagles, the U.S. National Team. And Going is hoping former Eagle Juan Grobler returns to fill Mbereko’s shoes for Ruggerfest. Gerhard Klerk, the towering South African forward, remains questionable with a lingering ankle injury dating back to May.
“So getting Parker back, and with Grobler and Gerhard coming back, that’ll be pretty important for us,” he said. “We’ve got a couple holes to fill, but we’re getting there.”
For the next two weeks, Aspen will train two or three times a week, along with inter-squad scrimmages on Saturdays. “That sometimes seems to solve things,” Going said of scrimmaging. “You hit hard and the toughest survive.”
Going expects as many as five Super League teams (Aspen’s regular opponents in the elite U.S. National Championship spring season) to be in the open division bracket. Denver, Chicago and Kansas City are registered, along with Golden Gate of San Francisco. Golden Gate is now coached by Bill LeClerc, a former Gent who retired after Aspen’s fifth U.S. title in 2001. Going and LeClerc, both natives of Northland, New Zealand, crossed paths last month.
“They were trying to keep that a secret,” Going said of LeClerc’s recent promotion to head coach, “but I found out when I bumped into him at a coaching clinic in Wellington. I always go home to watch rugby, go to some coaching clinics, just to see if there’s anything new, and back I come.”
As the owner of the last six Ruggerfest titles, Aspen enters Ruggerfest as the clear favorite, and also as the team with the greatest to lose. But preparation is simple enough, Going said:
“We get ourselves prepared hopefully better than the opposition,” he said. “That’s the key to it: if we can dominate the way the game’s played, it makes it difficult for opponents. Having the forward power and the backs’ skill, and combining them both, that’s the recipe.”
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