Gents of Aspen win thriller |

Gents of Aspen win thriller

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
The Denver Highlanders (in red) and the Gentlemen of Aspen lock up in a rugby game Saturday afternoon at Rio Grande Field in Aspen. The Gents 38-36 on a late try and conversion.
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

The Gentlemen of Aspen turned a Saturday afternoon rugby match into a fall classic.

With the willing help of the Denver Highlanders, of course.

The Gents scored after an efficient passing exchange with barely 5 minutes to play to forge a dramatic 36-36 tie against the visiting Highlanders.

Cyle Bilger boomed the conversion up and between the uprights to send the Gents into the lead at 38-36, much to the delight of the rugby crowd that had gathered at Rio Grande Park on a brilliant autumn day in Aspen.

Wiehan Pretorius, a product the Junior Gents rugby program, scored the tying try after taking the last pass along the back line and cutting back from the left sideline and across the try line.

The conversion came at a slight angle that proved no problem for Bilger.

The Gentlemen of Aspen had to endure one last comeback bid by the Highlanders, who played a spirited game from the opening whistle.

The Highlanders forced the Gents into a penalty.

Opting to kick for goal, the Highlanders’ possible go-ahead kick from 30 yards out drifted just wide left and into the skate park at Rio Grande.

The contest was back-and-forth with the Highlanders scoring the first two tries early in the opening half.

Aspen answered with consecutive tries, including Pretorius’ first of the game.

The Highlanders regained the lead only to watch Darrel Furlon score for the Gents, who assumed the lead again.

But not for long.

The Highanders’ powerful forwards bulled across for another try to close the first half.

The teams traded scores again in the second half with the Highlanders eventually leading 36-31, setting the stage for Aspen’s comeback victory.

The solid Gents’ roster included veterans James Aldridge and Simon Dogbe, among others.

“We weren’t very pretty or constructive, but we still put some great tries together,” said Aspen Gents coach Gary Williams. “There was a lot of heart there. We were very pleased to play at home.”

Even happier to win — and protect their home turf.

“No matter what sport, you don’t give it up at home lightly,” Williams said. “Right?”

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