Gents put up 75 vs. Blues
Sharp words from rookie head coach Mick Melrose followed a decidedly sluggish, ungentlemanly first half, then the new-look Gents exploded for 61 points in the second, fueling a 75-8 blowout of San Francisco’s Olympic Club Blues at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale Saturday afternoon.
In just his second Super League game wearing the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club red-and-black, back Albert Tuipulotu scored one of Aspen’s two tries in the first half – as the Gents took a 14-8 lead – and ran in three more after halftime.
Flyhalf and kicker Brendan Walsh, another Gents newcomer, added two tries on the ground and booted 10-of-11 after-try conversions, totaling 30 points.
“We got it right for a half today,” Melrose said after.
During halftime, “I basically told ’em that we weren’t concentrating well,” Melrose continued. “We were playing dumb football and making it easier for them. In the second half, we played physically, moved forward and executed well.”
Gents veteran Rata Going scored two tries, one after a nifty back-and-forth sideline dash with new linemate Matt Blouin.
“It just took us awhile to get our heads in the game,” said Going. “It’s only our third or fourth game together as a team, obviously with a lot of new faces out here, and hopefully with a few more games we’ll be fully clicking.
“It’s definitely getting there.”
Aspen improved to 2-0 in USA Rugby Super League play, while the Olympic Club dropped to 0-2.
If only via scoreboard-watching on the Internet, Aspen’s 11-try outburst put the rest of the Super League on notice that the 2004 Gents – new coach, new players and all – will again be a force to reckon with. Last season, Gents observers will recall, the Gents saw their unprecedented streak of six consecutive USA Rugby national titles, and two consecutive USA Rugby Super League national crowns since the top two American leagues merged in 2001, ended at the hands of Belmont Shore of Long Beach, Calif., in the semifinals of the national tournament last spring.
Meanwhile Saturday, Belmont Shore, the 2003 USA Rugby Super League national champs, was upset by Golden Gate of San Francisco 33-32 on the last play of the game in Long Beach.
Now Aspen, by virtue of scoring four or more tries in both of their victories to date (29-10 over Potomac Athletic Club on the road March 20 in the Super League opener), earned bonus points for both wins, which puts Aspen on top of the Blue Division standings.
This Saturday (either in Aspen or at Roaring Fork High School, depending on the weather), Aspen hosts the 1-1 Dallas Harlequins. The Harlequins bested Boston 38-24 on Saturday in the “Big D.”
As usual, however, Aspen players remained focused on themselves, not their next opponent.
Said Aspen scrumhalf Isaac Mbereko, “It’s always tough with new guys in there, but it’s coming right.
“We’ve just got to stick with it and believe in each others’ capabilities.”
Flyhalf Walsh put Aspen on the scoreboard first with a try in the 11th minute, capping off a passing sequence through the hands of veterans Mbereko and Tasi Mounga.
In the 22nd minute, Mbereko came away with the ball on a muffed Olympic Club lineout, then dished over to Walsh as the next man out the line. Walsh, in turn, kicked the ball out to Tuipulotu, the next man out as inside center, who slashed to an open lane and into the try-zone.
With conversions from Walsh, Aspen led 14-0.
Then, Aspen began to wilt.
The Blues took advantage, with a David Guest 3-point penalty kick in the 29th minute and an Andrew McNaughton try, unconverted, in the 41st.
“I thought we put on a good show in the first half,” said Olympic Club coach Paul Limbrey.
“Then they blew us apart in the second half. Congratulations to Aspen.”
Going said coach Melrose told the team to “tighten it up in the second half – and it’ll come.”
And Aspen came out inspired, scoring five tries – courtesy of Tuipulotu (No. 2), Mounga, Walsh (No. 2), forward Justin Stencil and Going – in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Later, Tuipulotu added scores No. 3 and 4, Going added his second and hooker Cameron Adams got his first.
The game was delayed briefly in the second half when Aspen forward Mark Wisroth, a former tight end at Wisconsin, barreled toward the try-zone with a horde of Aspen forwards supporting him. Instead of pushing Wisroth into the try-zone, however, the horde drove him straight into one of the goal posts, which wobbled sideways upon impact and promptly collapsed. With a bit of duct tape and help from the sidelines, the upright was jury-rigged back in place.
Melrose singled out Tuipulotu and flanker Sean Maguire for top performances.
“Those were the two players who stood out to me,” he said.
“I didn’t envision how it ended up, but I’m happy we played well enough in the second half to get the score up there,” he added.
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