Gents take down Vail again | AspenTimes.com

Gents take down Vail again

Ian CroppVail correspondent

Travis Butler of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club makes a diving save before the ball goes into his teams endzone Saturday at the Vail Athletic Field in Vail. The Gents beat the Vail Rugby Football Club, 45-13. (Preston Utley/Vail Daily)

Halftime in rugby is a short, but important window. The Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club used that window to shift its strategy en route to a 45-13 win over Vail Saturday at the Vail Athletic Field in Vail.After bringing a 14-6 lead into halftime, Aspen used a more spread-out offense to pull away from Vail.The Blue and White came out strong from the opening kickoff, and less than a minute into the game, they had a chance to take the lead. Off of an Aspen penalty, Vail elected to kick for points, but missed the 25-meter kick. Minutes later, Vail’s Tom Vallentine converted on another penalty to take a 3-0 lead.Aspen responded with two tries and conversions to take a 14-3 lead. A slew of Aspen penalties in their own zone led to three opportunities where Vail choose to kick for points. Vail only converted on one kick, though, and Aspen remained eight points ahead.

“When you are playing a good team like Aspen, you must convert your chances,” said Vail coach Steph Blair.At the end of the half, the official had whistled Aspen for seven penalties. After one Aspen penalty near Vail’s try line, the official stopped play and advised both captains.”There were a lot of penalties,” Aspen coach Mark Williams said. “(Give) more credit to Vail. They had good tackling and are a good-coached team.” Aspen’s offense, aside from the two tries, had trouble moving the ball through the Vail forwards. Aspen flyhalf Kent Currie noted that his team was not able to get the ball to the outside quickly enough. “Vail was rushing up on defense and cutting off our passes,” Currie said.During halftime, Williams made adjustments and instructed his team to be more patient with the ball.

“In the second half, we got some continuity running the ball,” Williams said. “Once we sucked (Vail’s defense) in, we moved the ball outside”Fewer penalties, better ball control, and key substitutions allowed the Aspen offense to amass 31 points in the second half. On two consecutive tries, Aspen used long runs to bring the ball deep into the Vail zone, and then scored off of quick rucks. The Blue and White cut Aspen’s lead to 31-13 on a try by Jo Jo Larkhart. After a Vail line-out deep in Aspen’s zone, the Vail forward pack drove forward and recycled the ball twice on its way over the try line.Aspen’s Brian McShane responded minutes later with try after the Gents pack rucked and recycled the ball several times.Vail used the same 15 players all game, but did not show fatigue in scrums or lineouts, winning just as many as Aspen.

“Our pack got a bit stronger in the end, which pleased me,” Blair said.Overall fatigue, however, did plague Vail, as they were not able to move outside quickly enough to make key tackles.”We didn’t have much depth to fall back on,” said Vail flyhalf Brian Dalrymple. “(Aspen’s) experience showed out there, but they are beatable.”Aspen lacked some of its usual starters in the lineup, but it still had many skilled players in the match.Midway through the second half, Aspen’s flyhalf launched a dropkick from around 35 meters. As the ball sailed through the center of the uprights, a few Vail players applauded the impressive kick.”I had the ball and didn’t really have any other option,” Currie said. “There weren’t too many support players near me, so I decided to kick it.”