Gents ‘raring to go’
Like most contests in sport, rugby games are won long before opening kickoff. It’s a fact not lost on the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club, the six-time defending U.S. national and Ruggerfest champions.”We get ourselves prepared hopefully better than the opposition, so we can dominate the way of the game. That’s the key to it,” Gents coach Brian Going said after Aspen’s final summer league match Aug. 31.Aside from regular training, in the pre-Ruggerfest interlude Going put the team under the direction of captain Jason Walker and vice captain Rata Going, his son. “They concentrated on getting the boys’ fitness up, which was very, very good. It’s kicking in after a couple runs up Smuggler,” Going said on the eve of the 35th annual Aspen Ruggerfest. “Now we can concentrate on the game plan.”The game plan, however, is less complex ? everyone knows Aspen’s open style. In New Zealand, where coach Going played with brothers Sid and Ken for the All Blacks in the 1970s, the name is synomous with the open, flowing brand of the game. Fifteen-man, use-the-whole-field, a style intended to beat the opponent, not stall him, squander his ball.That being said, stopping the Gents is about doing, not saying. Aspen’s string of big game victories is unmatched in U.S. history.”There’s not much changed. You can only do so much. Sure, you try a few tricks, but it’s keep-it-simple-stupid,” Going said.In a last-mintue switch, Aspen enters the 35th annual Ruggerfest with a bye in the first round of the 14-team championship bracket. (See revised bracket page A39). The Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union (ERRFU) is out and Aspen’s B-side, playing as Ute City, is in.Three of Aspen’s regular Super League rivals are in the field, including the 2001 runnerup Denver Barbarians, the Chicago Lions and the Kansas City Blues.”We always seem to meet Denver in the finals,” said Going. “They always gear up for a grueling match. They don’t like to lie down and lose either.””Then the Kansas City Blues are always are force. They always bring some ringers who strengthen up their team, so it makes it exciting. And last year, Chicago was really tough too. They’ve got a strong exciting side. We were lucky to beat them.””A lot of them do respect us, but at the same time they want to knock us off our pedistal. And they play way above their normal level to try and achieve that.”The last time Aspen lost a Ruggerfest, or rather didn’t win, was 1995 to OMBAC (San Diego) in the final, Going’s second year at the helm. And, though a lesser-known quality, the only thing longer than the Gents’ winning streak is their memory.”The tradition is that Aspen provides stern opposition to anybody that’s willing to come over,” Going said. “They don’t like breaking that tradition. They want to keep it up year after year for their hometown.””We can’t wait. I’m getting pretty ‘toey’ myself. They’re raring to go.”
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