Gents look to be tested vs. Dallas
In the 2-week-old USA Rugby Super League season, the Gentlemen of Aspen already have two wins.
But on Saturday, Week 3, when Aspen hosts the Dallas Harlequins (1-1), the Gents expect their Super League season to open in earnest.
The game against the Harlequins – to be played at Rio Grande Park in Aspen or Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, depending on the weather – serves as the first of five remaining regular-season games for Aspen, all against top contenders.
In short – after wins over the Potomac Athletic Club in Week 1 and San Francisco’s Olympic Club Blues, by 75-8 blowout, in Week 2 – the Gents’ preseason is over.
“All the teams we’re about to play have the potential to make the final four [of the playoffs],” Gents coach Mick Melrose said Thursday. “So we’ve got five good, hard games ahead of us.”
“And to be honest, I’d rather it be that way, instead of playing sides that we should be beating comfortably. We need good, hard games.”
Kickoff against Dallas is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday. A high school game between the Junior Gentlemen and Bailey (see related story) will precede the Super League game at 1 p.m.
Due to foul weather in the forecast this weekend, the Gents may decide as late as this afternoon on the venue for Saturday. Call the Gents’ hot-line number at 384-3181 for updated information.
Melrose, in his first year as the Gents head coach, expects to see a strong back line from the Harlequins.
“Our players have mentioned that they’ve got some good strong backs, and that they like to run the ball, like we do,” he said.
“But that’s about as far as it’s gotten. We’re just trying to take care of our own business.”
Aspen’s 61-point second-half outburst against the Olympic Club last Saturday in Carbondale should bolster the team’s collective confidence, Melrose said.
“We’re all starting to understand what we’re trying to do in training, but transferring that onto the game field, that’s our main issue at the moment,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, we tend to start slowly, but I’d prefer it to be the other way around – start fast. But you can’t change things like that quickly, so we’re working on it.”
Aspen has the Easter weekend off. On April 17, the Gents host the Kansas City Blues before traveling to the East Coast April 24 and May 1 to face the New York Athletic Club and Boston, respectively. On May 8, Aspen welcomes longtime rival OMBAC (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club of San Diego) for their regular-season finale.
The USA Rugby Super League playoffs open on May 22 with quarterfinal action.
“This is it,” said Melrose. “We’ve got five tough games to go to try and get one of those top-two spots in our group [for the playoffs].”
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.