Ruggerfest returns to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Ruggerfest returns to Aspen

Staff report
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jon Maletz/The Aspen TimesA player from the Willing is tackled by a host of Denver Barbarians during last year's Ruggerfest open-division

ASPEN – The leaves are changing color, and fall is fast approaching. Soon, attention will shift to Wagner Park and those familiar red-and-black goal posts.

Ruggerfest is here.

A throng of spectators and 30 teams from across the country – and beyond – will descend on Aspen to take part in the 45th installment of the venerable and distinctive tournament. The action kicks off Thursday morning with games in the over-45 and over-55 divisions and culminates with Sunday afternoon’s open-division championship, tentatively scheduled for 3:45 p.m.

Patrons will be treated to beer and food from a host of local vendors and to some top-flight rugby. The competitive open division will feature squads from Kansas, Utah and Colorado. The defending champion Denver Barbarians will be back, as will runner-up the Willing from the United Kingdom. The college game also will be well represented: The 2011 Division II national champions from New Orleans and the Air Force Academy Cadets are slated to take part.

After a period of tumult, the host Gentlemen of Aspen will be looking to regain their position as the top team in this showcase. The Gents dropped a 30-24 thriller to the Barbos in 2010’s final, and then were ousted by their rivals in last year’s quarterfinals, the first time Aspen failed to reach the Sunday final since 1993.

The task will be difficult for Aspen, which has won 12 of the past 16 Ruggerfest crowns, including four straight from 2006 to 2009. Its sevens squad failed to qualify for nationals for just the third time in 12 seasons, and because of cancellations and other conflicts, the 15s squad played sparingly this summer.

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The Gentlemen did impress, however, winning four of their five Mountain League contests. They outscored Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction and Steamboat Springs by a combined tally of 241-51 in their past three appearances.

They’ll be looking to be more than a spectator come Sunday. And they’ll be looking to provide a little more drama than in 2011, when the Barbarians throttled the Willing from the outset en route to a 61-10 victory.

“It’s usually us and Aspen in the finals,” Denver captain Logan Collins remarked afterward.

Added tournament spokesman Bill McEnteer, “(The Gents) were winners for so long, it got to the point where teams didn’t want to come up. It’s not a bad thing for Aspen Ruggerfest, but I don’t like my club to lose.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

Today

• 9 a.m., over-45 and over-55 division games begin at Wagner Park

Friday

• 9 a.m., over-35 and over-50 games begin at Wagner and Rio Grande parks

Saturday

• 9 a.m., open-division games begin at Wagner and Rio Grande parks

• 6 p.m., rugby viewing party, Finbarr’s

Sunday

• 9 a.m., consolation-round matches at Wagner and Rio Grande parks

• 12 p.m., championship matches begin at Wagner Park

• 3:45 p.m., open-division championship at Wagner Park

• Closing party to follow at Cantina

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