Gentlemen stage Boston try party
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – For the second straight game, the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club won by a huge margin: 50-plus points. And for the second straight game, the Gents took little comfort in it. Saturday’s 78-14 win over Boston only brings the team closer to its national championship goal.That quest for a record sixth straight U.S. national title begins in earnest this Saturday as the No. 4-seed Gents host No. 6 Life College in the first round of the eight-team Premier League playoffs.”I think that we’re rising nicely toward the final to be quite honest, and it’d take a good side to knock us off just right now,” said coach Brian Going after the win Saturday.Aspen came out flying in the Boston blowout under sunny skies Saturday, just west of the city. In one spurt that helped Aspen cement the win and build a 54-0 lead at halftime, the Gents scored on three consecutive possessions and tallied a total of four tries and 28 points in under six minutes of play.”Forward dominance,” Going explained. “Our forwards dominated and gave us the ball for our backs going forward. And when you’re going forward, your backs can function correctly, so it was a combination of good forward play and good back play today.”Wings Bobby Lochrem and David Yavala scored four tries apiece on the day, and 6-foot-6 Alec Parker, a 1993 Aspen High graduate and former U.S. national team player, scored Aspen’s first and third tries while playing his first rugby game in two and a half years.”When both your wings score four tries each, that’s saying something about the rugby you’re playing,” said Aspen captain and eight-man Jason Walker. “I’m very happy about it.”Aspen improved to 5-1 on the season, while Boston wrapped up its season at 1-5.”Not taking anything away from our locks, but the injection of Alec Parker in there, there’s a whole dimension to your game,” Walker continued. “A big, rangy guy like him belting around the field, it gives us so many options.”Walker and backs Rod Guillouta and Mark Williams also figured into the try party with one each in the second half. And Williams, handling the kicking duties, booted 18 points through the uprights with a 9-for-12 effort on two-point after-try conversions.”That was a very, very good side,” conceded Boston coach Rupert Gordon. “Relentless, fast and experienced, and we couldn’t counter it.”The only team to beat Aspen this season, Belmont Shore, undefeated and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, beat Boston 40-7 a week before Aspen did. “But these guys [Aspen] were much better than Belmont Shore,” Gordon said. “It was very well orchestrated. An awesome display really.”Saturday’s highlights, however, were tempered by two Boston tries in the second half (by Mike Kelleher and Dean Topodas, with conversions by Jason Trenouth) and the fact that greater challenges still lie ahead for the five-time defending U.S. national champions.”You don’t want to look good in phases of the game. You want to play well all 80 minutes,” said Aspen scrum half and vice captain Isaac Mbereko, upset with selfish play in the second half.”We let ourselves down by not concentrating, not thinking about the basic things that help us put points on the board. We go up, we have a big lead, everyone forgets and thinks it’s all about them getting to the try line. We need to have that thing in our head saying, ‘You know what, let’s keep working, keep working, keep working’ and not stray away. ‘We’re up 50 points, you can do whatever you like on the field.’ Against Life, that’s not going to happen.”Both Mbereko and Walker recalled a match two years ago in the Super League final against Life. Aspen had beaten them earlier that season and was just coming off U.S. national championship No. 3. (This season, Aspen already beat Life 47-10 on April 6.)”They’re going to be ready, they’re going to be fired up and they’ve been sitting for two weeks,” Mbereko said. “Two years ago they had two weeks on us and they beat us. So we cannot rest on our laurels and say we’re playing well just because we won by 70 or whatever- we had a nightmare in the second half.”Added Walker: “You have to be relentless. It’s a series of phases and if you relent, take a little break in any game, a team can come back on you. And you can’t do that, especially going into the playoffs. We have to be at the top of our game now.”Coach Going expects a spirited week of practice for Aspen as the players battle to solidify positions on the starting 15 for the playoff opener Saturday. (Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.)”There’s going to be a lot of pressure on the guys to perform,” Going said.”Guys have got to want it,” Mbereko added. “That’s what it is. And we’ll see if guys are there mentally next weekend. We’ll see.”
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Katelyn Maley was the first across the finish line on Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center, winning the Class 3A girls state championship in 18 minutes, 39 seconds. She came in more than 34 seconds ahead of second place.