Gentleman of Aspen dispatch rival Vail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Welcome to the rivalry, Zeke Camusio.
Just six minutes into Friday’s match against the familiar Blue and White of Vail, the 25-year-old Gentlemen of Aspen center faked a pass, then burst up the middle and converted an acrobatic try. It would be a familiar sight.
The Argentinean scored twice more, his teammates followed his lead and Aspen cruised to a convincing 36-13 Mountain League win in its first home game of the summer at a packed Wagner Park.
“We were kind of nervous before the game with it being July 4, playing here and it being Vail,” Camusio said. “We wanted to win. There was a lot of pressure.”
He and the Gents hardly looked apprehensive. They controlled the ball at the outset, scoring twice in the first 14 minutes to jump out to a 10-0 advantage.
Vail coach Steve MacKinnon said Thursday that his team planned on being deliberate on offense in an attempt to maintain long possessions and neutralize Aspen’s attack. The Blue and White had no such luck Friday. The Gents seemingly had free reign on the outside, and their aggressive back line generated a host of scoring chances.
Alec Parker shook free on a run up the right side 14 minutes in, then passed off to Gents coach Fred Waititi, who pushed the ball deep into the Vail zone. After Waititi was dragged to the ground, Aspen alertly reversed field and Camusio, spotting an opening, bulled his way in for the try.
Spencer Scott followed suit 20 minutes later, scoring deep in the corner. Waititi hit the conversion from a difficult angle to give the Gents a 17-0 cushion.
“We could’ve attacked the fringes more, but we were kind of drawn into an open game,” MacKinnon said. “We fell into their trap. … They got off to that early lead, and they seemed to gain confidence.”
Scoring chances abounded for Aspen in the first 40 minutes, but so did missed opportunities, Waititi said.
“We did [get the ball outside], but unfortunately some players took that too literally and tried to run with the ball,” he added. “They’d forget that we each have a job to do and tried to create plays themselves. … When it worked, it worked well, but we also fell out of some plays.”
After a Gents possession stalled one minute before halftime, Vail capitalized on one of it’s rare opportunities deep in Aspen’s end. The Blue and White’s persistence paid off during one exchange in which they managed to push the pile past the goal line for a try.
Three minutes into the second, Vail converted a penalty kick to pull to within nine.
The Gents weren’t about to give up any more ground, however. Aspen spread the field, then Camusio scored four minutes later when he eluded three defenders with some quick footwork, then outrun the Blue and White to the goal line.
“If we’d just scored that next try, we’d be well in the game,” MacKinnon said. “We were five meters from their line, and then they scored, going the length of the field for a try. … I think our heads were down a little at that point.”
Five minutes later, newly-inserted Gent Simon Dogbe faked a pass from about 40 yards out, then sprinted in untouched for the try. Waititi’s conversion stretched the lead to 29-8.
Order was restored.
“It was a really nice game, and our forwards made our job so much easier,” said Camusio, who was playing in just his second match with Aspen. “They gave us really good balls to play.”
Vail answered with a try of its own, but Beni Roko finished off the Blue and White when he rumbled across the goal line in the final minute.
“They dominated,” MacKinnon said. “They deserved to win.”
And now, Vail has company in the standings. With the victory ” its second straight over the Blue and White in as many years ” Aspen created a three-way tie atop the Mountain League standings. The Gents, the Blue and White and defending-champion Steamboat Springs are all 3-1.
After outscoring Glenwood Springs and Vail, 84-13, in its two wins since a loss in Steamboat on July 21, Aspen appears headed in the right direction, Waititi said. The contributions of Camusio and others will help during the rest of the summer.
“Zeke’s been a good addition, but so have a lot of guys,” Waititi added. “We’ve been lucky.”
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Trailing to Aspen early in Sunday’s championship, the American Raptors came back to lead 24-15 at halftime and held a two score lead well into the second half before the Gents took over the match. This was the Gents’ 22nd championship at Ruggerfest, a tournament that dates to 1968.