Aspen blisters Breckenridge in rugby opener
The Aspen Times
The Gentlemen of Aspen flexed their rugby muscles Saturday in the home opener.
The Gents, who opened the summer season with a win at Defiance in Glenwood Springs last weekend, overwhelmed the visiting Blue Goose rugby club from Breckenridge, winning 72-5 on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon at Rio Grande Park.
The Gentlemen got off to a slow start before marching down the field for four tries in the opening half. Wiehan Pretorius, a product of the Junior Gents rugby program, scored one try and passed to Alan Hodgson for another in the first-half run.
Johnny Mondragon also scored a try as the Gentlemen worked to a methodical 26-5 halftime lead.
Aspen put the game away on the first two possessions of the second half when James Aldridge broke loose on a pair of scintillating broken-field runs resulting in tries for the Gents.
One try run came after the former Notre Dame running back picked up a bouncing kick and dashed down the sideline for a score.
Hodgson, Garrett Lincoln, Felipe Lopez, among others, added points for the Gents in the second half.
“I liked that we were able to link some phases together,” said Cameron McIntyre, the head coach of the 2015 Gentlemen of Aspen. He’s a former standout player on the Gents’ national championship clubs.
He said the team’s organization on the field progressed as the game went along. McIntyre mixed a lineup that included veteran Gents’ players with Junior Gents and products of the Junior Gents’ program.
At one time, he said, 10 of the 15 Aspen players on the field had been Junior Gents.
“They accounted for themselves very well,” he said, crediting Gary Williams with the development of the Junior Gents’ program.
He said the Gents will continue to work on a style of play that allows the Aspen back line to exploit opponents.
“There’s a style of play we’re trying to get to,” McIntryre said. “Games like this get us there a little more each week.”
He said by working just outside the ruck, the Gents can get the ball out to the backs who can use their speed and agility.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve been able to put out a back line that will rival even some very good teams,” he said.
First-year player Mackey Hirsch played up front and handled some kicking duties for the Gents in his first rugby game in Aspen.
Hirsch is a senior at Louisiana State University and a rugby player for the Tigers.
He connected with the Gentlemen of Aspen through John Staub, and he’s in Aspen for part of the summer before completing his final semester at LSU.
“I started playing rugby my sophomore year at LSU,” said Hirsch, who plans to move back to the area after he graduates to pursue rugby with the Gents.
“It’s exciting to play with the Gentlemen of Aspen,” he said, adding that the play is more cohesive with the Gents than with his college club.
“The cohesion is better, especially with the backs,” he said. “Here, the backs really have it down pat. It’s nice to pass out and watch a former Notre Dame running back going to town. We’re working better as a team … we’re having trust in each other. You have to have 15 players playing as one.”
Hirsch said he is particularly looking forward to next Saturday (12:30 p.m.) when the Gentlemen of Aspen host the Denver Barbarians in the annual Fourth of July rugby game at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
“I’m stoked for that game,” Hirsch said. “I’ve got a lot of friends coming in. I’ve been waiting for this. It will be the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
McIntyre said the Barbarians will provide a special test in the annual holiday game — a rugby contest that’s been going on for nearly 50 years.
The game is set for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff next Saturday at Wagner Park.
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