Sons of Beaches take ‘old’ Ruggerfest title |

Sons of Beaches take ‘old’ Ruggerfest title

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Though he fits the part on the surface, Johnny Ellis is not your average Aspen visitor.

Small of stature with wispy blond hair, the 54-year-old life insurance salesman from Norfolk, Va., first came to Aspen for the skiing in 1972, a wintertime ritual he’s repeated many times over. Regular enough? Sure.

Add a soiled rugby jersey to the picture, along with a few scrapes about his head and face, tape and braces about his legs, and Ellis may be the most unlikely participant in the 35th annual Aspen Ruggerfest.

Nevertheless it was Ellis, captain of the Norfolk-based Sons of Beaches, who led his team to four straight wins Thursday in the over-45 old boys division at Wagner Park. And by running the table against the other “oldest boy” clubs in the tourney, the Sons of Beaches advanced to the finals Sunday against the California Bald Eagles, who were 3-1 on the day including a 14-12 loss to the SOBs. It was an impressive showing for the SOBs, considering they made their Ruggerfest debut yesterday.

“I thought going into the tourney that we’d do very well ? that we went four-and-oh, that’s a real plus,” Ellis said.

Most of the SOBs played together on the Norfolk Old Blues’ final-four national club championship side of 1982. Ellis first came to Ruggerfest in 1992 and brought former teammates along later, until he had the backing of the team to enter this year.

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“It’s such a great tournament, but it’s also because we seem to travel better than we play at home. And then there’s the draw of the over-45 division ? as you can see, we’ve got guys well over 45,” he said.

“We’ve got doctors and lawyers, a little of everything. We don’t have an Indian chief, but we’ve got a farmer.”

All five “oldest boys” teams played each other yesterday ? totaling an exhausting 160 minutes of rugby for each team ? with the top two advancing to Sunday’s championship at 1 p.m. at Wagner.

“For young kids it’s a lot of games,” Ellis said. “For old guys, it’s a bear. Forty-minute games seem like 80.”

“We’ll try to stay loose going into Sunday for the finals ? at this age, you don’t want to seize up,” he said with a laugh.

Old boys, part II

The over-35 old boys division kicks off this morning at Wagner and Rio Grande parks. Fifteen teams make up the bracket, including the 2001 over-35 old boy champion Gentlemen of Aspen side.

The Gents old boys open at 10 a.m. at Wagner against Atlanta Old White.

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