Gentlemen of Aspen come up short against nations No. 1 | AspenTimes.com

Gentlemen of Aspen come up short against nations No. 1

Nate Peterson The Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado
Aspens Alec Parker rumbles through the Palmer College defense during Sundays consolation playoff match at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. (Courtesy Chuck Johnson)
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AUSTIN, Texas In their second Division I season, the Gentleman of Aspen finished in the exact same spot as their first. That, at least, is according to postseason finish after Aspen fell Saturday to the countrys top-ranked side, San Franciscos Olympic Rugby Club, at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. When asked to compare the last two seasons, however, Gents coach Fred Waititi said there was no comparison. As a club, the Gents were tougher, deeper, unquestionably better in 2008. Saturdays match served as the closing argument in the matter. Aspen led 7-0 after a spirited first half, went up 12-0 early in the second and remained tied with the Olympic side 15-15 late in the half before eventually wearing down in a 48-15 loss. The final score wasnt indicative of how close the match was, Waititi said. In the last 10 minutes of the match, we were tiring, Waititi said. Wed given it everything and we were just trying to hang on. In extra time, the clock seemed to just keep running. To prove a point, Waititi added that Olympic players acknowledged after the match just how much theyd underestimated the 16th-seeded Gents. They sort of thought going in as the top seed and us being the bottom seed, it should be a pretty easy game for them, Waititi said. They were hoping to take all their starters out before halftime and rest them for the next game. That never happened. The Gents strategy from the outset was to slow down Olympics high-powered offense, hoping that the San Francisco side would only hurt itself by trying to force tries. The plan worked better than expected.

The Olympic side dominated the opening 20 minutes of play, with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. They pretty much kicked us around, but we managed to keep them out, Waititi said.Aspen then took advantage, further frustrating the San Francisco side with a run for a try, followed by a successful conversion. What the Olympic side expected to be a rout from the outset settled into a tight defensive contest in the second half. Aspen locks Alec Parker and Matt Doubek held their own in lineouts, while Aspen centers Merritt Johnson and Brian Dalrymple continued to snuff out any offensive momentum the Olympic side tried to muster. Chris Bauman, in only his fourth game as Aspens prop, also rose to the challenge, playing his best match of the sesaon. He was absolutely outstanding, Waititi said. Aspens undoing was the clock. As it continued to wind down, the Gents chances of pulling off the colossal upset became more and more tenuous. With thirteen minutes to go, it seemed like there was an extra eight minutes of [extra time] play after that, Waititi said. It was disappointing, heart wrenching to think that we lost after being in front, but we gave it everything we had. We threw the kitchen sink at them. Theyre definitely the best team in the country, Waititi added. Theyve played three Super League sides and beat them all by 30. Im guessing were probably the toughest game that theyve had all year. Even tougher than the loss was the prospect of playing a consolation match Sunday against Palmer Colleges club side. Fielding a team from what looked like a trauma unit, the Gents managed to pull out a win, nonetheless. Waititi said he was arguably more proud of his players for that effort, compared to Saturdays near upset. We didnt save anything for the next day [on Saturday], Waititi said. We physically had nothing left in the tank at the end of the game. We come out of it pretty beaten up. We had to go out and play a game on Sunday and it was really a case of getting up in the morning and seeing who we had left. Everyone was hurting. It really showed a lot of character out of the guys that we dragged ourselves out there and got a win. Now that the Division I season is over, Aspen can regroup and focus on the upcoming summer Mountain League season. The local side plays its first match June 7. Well need the two weeks, just to recover, said Waititi, whose team will look to make up for a disappointing summer showing last year. Were in a better position than we were last year. We kept a lot more players and our program is starting to grow. The level of players weve got in the program right now is a lot higher. npeterson@aspentimes.com


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