Gentlemen outlast Steamboat
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Steamboat lined up a kick after a try in the waning seconds of Saturday’s rugby match in Aspen; it sailed wide of the far post.
It was a familiar sight.
In a game that came down to just three points, Steamboat’s kicking deficiencies proved to be the difference between extending its unbeaten streak and walking off the Wagner Park pitch with a loss.
The Gentleman of Aspen overcame deficits early in the first and second halves to pull out a 27-24 win and avenge a loss to Steamboat early this summer ” its first since 1978.
“This doesn’t mean the ship has turned over, but it’s a good place to start,” Gents coach Fred Waititi said. “They had a lot of momentum going their way, but we brought ourselves back in it.
“It’s been a long hard summer, and I was pleased to get a commitment like that. It’s something to build on.”
Steamboat seized the momentum just eight minutes into the match when it executed a perfect lineout deep in the Gents’ zone, then passed wide to a fast-charging forward for the easy try. The accompanying conversion, however, sailed wide.
Steamboat, 14-0 entering Saturday’s match, set up a similar scoring chance 20 minutes later, but a wide pass went through its forward’s hands and out of bounds. It settled for a penalty kick on its ensuing possession to pull ahead, 8-0.
“We could’ve folded,” Waititi said, “but we dug in.”
And took advantage of a miscue. Minutes after Steamboat missed a chance to extend its lead with a penalty kick from close range, Mark Williams converted one of his own to help the Gents pull to within five.
Simon Dogby took over from there. The forward, playing in first game in nearly a month after battling a right hamstring injury, capitalized on Aspen’s deep push into Steamboat’s zone seconds before the half. He took a pass in the far left corner and barreled his way in for the game-tying try ” the first of his two scores.
“That try in the corner gave everyone the confidence to take it to them,” Dogby said.
The two were deadlocked 8-8 after Williams’ wayward conversion.
“Some of our decision-makers made the wrong decisions, and you can’t come to Aspen and win when that happens,” Steamboat coach Graham Muir said. “We’ve played better, so we’re a little disappointed.” Steamboat converted two penalty kicks in the first four minutes of the second half to pull ahead, 14-8. But it was the missed opportunities during the final 40 minutes that ultimately sealed the side’s fate.
After tries from Hayden Horsford and Dogby gave Aspen a 20-14 lead with 15 minutes remaining, Steamboat responded by driving its pile over the touchline for the try; two Gents players blocked the ensuing try and Aspen clung to a 20-19 advantage.
Seven minutes later, Steamboat positioned itself once more to take the lead but was foiled when its penalty kick faded to the right.
Aspen responded with a try in the 77th minute; Williams calmly split the uprights with his conversion. The Gents’ 27-19 lead was big enough to absorb Steamboat’s final-minute try. The conversion, which missed to the right, was inconsequential but a cruel reminder of how Steamboat let victory slip away.
“We’re confident enough to come back, but we gave away three or four silly plays,” said Muir, whose team is 14-1 this season.
The win extended the Gents’ modest winning streak to two. After a trying summer replete with frustrations and poor play, it seems that order has been restored in the Mountain Rugby League.
At least for now.
“They have real good players, and I’m sure they expected to come here and beat us,” Dogby said. “But Aspen doesn’t like to lose, especially at home.”
Jon Maletz’s e- mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Now 40 years old, the downhill racer from Utah is still speeding along with no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Sure, his back sometimes aches but it’s not enough to deter him from chasing after the feeling of a perfect race.