Gents dominate warm-up matches
While players and coaches have changed one constant has remained for the Gentleman of Aspen Rugby Football Club during the past 40 years: winning.Saturday’s 58-17 win over Steamboat in the Gents’ second Mountain League contest was the latest in a string of convincing victories to open the 2006 season. In four wins – one in a friendly with Boulder – Aspen has outscored opponents 234-61.”It’s good to see what we’re doing behind the scenes come together,” first-year coach Steve Blair said Monday. “This team has good spirit going. The guys have really started to perform.”A group of players getting lost on their way to Steamboat was the only thing that went wrong Saturday for Aspen. The Gents used their size and speed at the goal line to push across an early score. After a momentary “lapse in concentration,” resulted in errors, Steamboat squared the match moments later. Following a few choice words from their coach, however, Aspen took command.The Gents opened the second half with a score by flanker Cameron Turner. Matt Upton, a prop from the University of Oklahoma, crossed the goal line multiple times as Aspen pulled away. The match was over with 20 minutes to play.The lopsided result was nothing new for the Gents, whose roster of 23 includes players from New Zealand, Scotland, Argentina, England, South Africa and the U.S. In their first Mountain League game against Blue Goose RFC from Breckenridge, the young Gents – the team’s average age is 21 – took a commanding 50-17 lead after just one half. Aspen’s back line gave Breckenridge fits as Eric Meyers and Zech Cameas ran in two early scores. Fullback Steve Newman and forwards Shane Vogts, Pat Grist and Merritt Johnson each crossed the line in the second half as Aspen cruised to the 83-17 victory. “We started well, and I was impressed with the strong running of our midfield and good support by the forwards,” said Blair, who recently coached Colorado’s U19 squad to a runner-up finish in a national tournament in Aurora. “Last year’s team had more experience, but we’ve moved on. We have our own style.”We’re trying to be entertaining. We’ve had some great individual performances. You can’t hold these guys back.”That style revolves around relentless offensive pressure. It was again on display against nonconference foe Santa Fe Aardvarks on May 20 at Rio Grande Park. The Gents, many of whom had been in town for little more than a week and had played just one match as a unit – a friendly in Boulder that Aspen won, 38-12 – led by 25 at halftime. The Gents, whom Blair said lacked consistency in the second half, outscored the Aardvarks by 10 en route to the 55-15 victory. “We’ve been able to score, but being consistent is what we’re looking for,” Blair said. “It’s important to have good base structure to our game. We’re not there yet, but I can see it coming.”The Gents continue to impress, overcoming their youthful inexperience and a few early-season setbacks. The team lost hooker Hayden Horsford, who broke three bones in his hand against Breckenridge; Spencer Scott has been sidelined ever since he dislocated his elbow against Santa Fe. The players, three of which are returning contributors from last season, have bought in to Blair’s coaching style and strict off-pitch workouts. In addition to juggling work, two practices and a game each week, the Gents expect every player to train for two days on his own. As early results have indicated, things are progressing according to plan.”They realize [the training] is for their own benefit,” Blair said. “Things are really starting to jell.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Perhaps, Radamus’ brief moment on top was a preview of coming attractions. He hopes so. Radamus certainly got the season off to a great start by finishing 27th in the opener.