Gents take aim at eighth title |

Gents take aim at eighth title

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

With its offense-driven games and a stacked field of heavyweight national competition, Aspen’s Ruggerfest has been entertaining spectators for – come Thursday morning – 36 consecutive years.

“This is going to be a very good tournament,” said Ruggerfest director Doug Cigliana.

Thirty-eight teams, or sides, will compete in four divisions, including the men’s and women’s open, the men’s 35 and older, and the men’s 45 and older.

“The best feature of the tournament is that the games are 50 minutes in length,” Cigliana said. Typical matches are 80 minutes long, but are often shortened in tournament play.

“Team’s need to come out on top of their game right away with an attacking offensive style, rather than sitting back and figuring out the other team’s weaknesses,” Cigliana said. “It evens the playing field because you lose 30 minutes of adjustments, and it’s more exciting from a spectator point of view.”

While there have been some changes to their side, the Gentlemen of Aspen appear once again to the be the top guns, aiming for their eighth consecutive Ruggerfest title.

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“We’re pumped up,” said Gents head coach Lance Sigley. “We’ve been practicing a lot, going over a lot of the different moves and going back to the basics to try and work as a new team with all the new faces.”

In the past year, the Gentlemen of Aspen have lost nearly a dozen players to retirement.

“We have a really young team,” Sigley said. “It’s exciting, but difficult when you lose some of the [veteran] guys that can control the game.”

Perhaps the greatest loss for the Gent’s will be starting flanker Justin Stencil, who broke his ankle last weekend.

“He’d been playing very well for us; that’s a big loss,” said Sigley.

In the men’s open division, the Gent’s fiercest competition should come from their two Super League cohorts – the Kansas City Blues, and the Denver Barbarians.

But, with a field of 12 sides, including the collegiate national champion Air Force Academy, the military champion Air Force Select and a Boulder squad that upset the Gent’s over the Labor Day weekend, it’s anybody’s tournament.

“There could easily be some upsets,” Cigliana said. “I’m looking to see some exciting rugby from the Air Force Academy, and the Denver [Barbarians] and Boulder are playing extremely well right now.”

Sigley’s not too concerned about the Gent’s Labor Day loss to Boulder.

“We were still playing a mixed team, looking at combinations,” Sigley said. “We should have won that game; we just played terrible. It’s not a concern that we lost.”

In the men’s 35 and older division, Cigliana said seven of the 15 teams have super league ties.

“This bracket is the most competitive it’s been in years, so Boulder will have its work cut out for them defending the title,” he said.

The reigning 45 and older champions, the Sons of Beaches from Virginia, will return to defend their title. That division has grown from four teams last year to seven this year.

The women’s field has also expanded, adding a fourth team to the field. The Twin Cities Amazons from Minnesota beat the Eastern Rockies Select Side for the championship last year. Both teams are returning, along with the Keystone RFC, from Pennsylvania, and the Texas Select Side.

“We’re trying to grow the women’s competition and will look to increase it again next year,” Cigliana said. “Women’s rugby is one of the fastest growing aspects of the sport.”

Competition will kick off at 9 a.m. Thursday at Wagner Park with the 45 and older division. The 35 and older division will play Friday, with the men’s and women’s open division’s competing on Saturday and Sunday.

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