Gents rugby rallies, holds off Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits to win Aspen Ruggerfest
For the third straight year, it looked like the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club was going to get run off its own pitch in the finals of the annual Ruggerfest tournament.
Instead, third-year coach Will Herborn and the Gents manned up to rally for a 40-38 win over the Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits on Sunday at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen, their first Ruggerfest title since 2015.
“He told us to keep our heads up, like everybody should. Keep our heads up. We made it to the finals for a reason,” Aspen first-year player Rodrick Waters said of Herborn. “We started making a run here at the end of the first half, so we just kept coming with that energy.”
This was the fourth straight tournament the two teams had met in the finals at Ruggerfest, which was being held for the 51st year. The last time Aspen won was three years ago, a 51-27 victory over the Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits. But the past two seasons, it was the Misfits winning in a rout: 47-20 in 2016 and 50-22 in 2017.
With the Misfits leading 26-7 late in the first half in Sunday’s final, it looked like more of the same.
“The last couple of years it was decided by a couple of tries and the problem with that is the score never really reflected the game. It doesn’t do those previous teams justice,” Herborn said. “The beauty of it is, we have players that have played in all three of those games and they understand that and to win this is sweeter.”
Aspen led the Misfits 7-0 after it was awarded a penalty try early in Sunday’s contest. But four straight tries later and Dark ‘n Stormy was on its way to a third straight championship.
However, the Gents went into the half with a bit of momentum after scoring on a late try to trail only 26-14 at the midway point.
“They were up at that point and I thought it was over. But we kept grinding and came out on top,” said Aspen player Gabe Furnivall, who played for the Steamboat Springs side during the summer. “We came out and we were going downhill in the second half. That was good for us. Will was just telling us, ‘Hey, it’s time to work, boys. It’s time to get back at it.’”
The Gents came out in the second half and played a bit possessed. Two quick tries and the match was suddenly tied at 26, and not long after Aspen scored yet again to take a 33-26 lead. The advantage reached as much as 40-26 midway through the second half, a run of 33 unanswered points for the Gents.
Dark ‘n Stormy did get two tries back, but a missed kick on the final conversion attempt left them two points short, and the Aspen defense was able to fight them off over the final few minutes to earn the win.
En route to the championship, the Gents had to beat each of the Misfit teams entered into the open division. This included wins Saturday over the Denver Misfits and the Utah Misfits. Aspen finished the two-day tournament a perfect 4-0.
“Three years in the making, four years of watching, and finally the big ‘W,’” an overjoyed Herborn said following the trophy presentation. “That gave you everything. It went back and forth. The leads changed. We saw players get sent off. That was a really amazing game of rugby to watch.”
Best of the rest
The Salt Lake City Sister Wives wrapped up a dominant tournament Sunday by beating the Denver Black Ice in the women’s championship match, 43-12. The master’s (35 and up) division title went to the Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits over Time, 29-22. Olympic Rugby Club won the Old Boys 45s title, while the Cardinals won both the 50s and 55s titles.
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The Aspen High School girls soccer team looks a lot different from the last time it played, with many new players and a new coaching staff. But winning has become part of the culture, and it’s so far, so good for the Skiers this spring.