Scrumming of age | AspenTimes.com

Scrumming of age

Nate Peterson

Don Grandmaster Harpo DAndria, 52, of Shelton, Conn., left, goes up for the ball over Tom Shawver, 58, of Kansas City during a line-out at Wagner Park Thursday afternoon in over-50 action at Ruggerfest. DAndrias Virginia Cardinals won, 17-5, over Shawver and the Colorado Ol Pokes.Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

It was close – almost too close – but the Gents Old Boys will take it. Led by the deft kicking of player-coach Mark Williams and a stout defense, the 45-and-older home team held on for an 18-17 semifinal win over the Missouri Black and Blue Thursday at Wagner Park.With three minutes left in the match, the Black and Blue mounted one final rush, but the final whistle blew with the ball about one yard short of the Gents’ goal line.”They got right down there but we got in on them in tackles and the next thing you know, the whistle blew,” player-coach Bryan McShane said. “Put it this way, no one is going to shave until Sunday because we need a lot more whisker room to get through than we had today. We don’t want to win by one point.”

The Gents will face the Virginia Cardinals in Sunday’s 45-and-older final. The Cards soundly defeated the Denver Barbarians Old Boys, 23-7. To earn their way into the final, the Gents knocked off the Barbos in their first match, then beat Balls Out RFC in the quarterfinal. Thursday’s 45-and-older field featured seven teams.In the semifinal, the Black and Blue took an early 10-0 lead at the start, before two penalty kicks from Williams pulled the Gents to within four. The Gents then took the lead right before the end of half on a try. Williams missed the ensuing conversion – his only missed kick of the match – to keep the score at 11-10 in Aspen’s favor.The Gents then added to their lead after the break, going up 18-10 following another try and a conversion from Williams.

The Black and Blue didn’t fold, however. A quick try and a conversion pulled the visitors to within one, which then led to the frenzied push at the end. “It was an exciting finish,” McShane said. “We played better in the second half, but they miraculously fought back and almost won it.”McShane said he expects an even tougher match against Virginia on Sunday, noting that a 23-7 win over the Barbarians showed the Old Boys from back East mean business.”They’ve come up today and they proved themselves,” he said.

In Thursday’s 50-and-over action, the Florida Old Boys went 2-0 in the three-team field, knocking off both the Colorado Ol’ Pokes and the 50-and-over Virginia Cardinals.The Ol’ Pokes beat the Cardinals in the other head-to-head, setting up a rematch against Florida on Sunday.Today at Ruggerfest, the 35-and-older brackets begin play. The Gents have a first-round bye, and will face the winner of the match between Old Blue Club of New York and the Fresno Club of California at noon at Wagner. A possible matchup between the Barbarians looms in the quarterfinal, which takes place at 5 p.m.Nate Peterson can be reached at npeterson@aspentimes.com.

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