Gents ready to settle score with Vail
Forget the 55-5 whooping Aspen dropped on Vail on July 1, followed by the 3-0 squeaker Vail won in a rematch in the Ski Town Rugby Tournament final on July 30.Gentleman of Aspen coach Steve Blair said the only score that matters heading into his team’s final Mountain League match today at Vail is 1-1.The Gents have a win, and the Blue and White have a win, albeit in a game that doesn’t figure into the league standings. Regardless, whoever is leading today when the final whistle blows should be crowned the Mountain League champion, Blair said.At least he hopes that’s the case. Recently, there has been talk among opposing Mountain League teams that Aspen, even if it beats Vail today, shouldn’t be awarded the five-team league crown because it failed to play a home match against Breckenridge.
The Mountain League schedule is set up so that all five teams play twice – once on each team’s pitch.The matches that Mountain League teams play against each other in annual tournaments throughout the summer – like Vail’s win against Aspen at the Ski Town Rugby Tournament final – don’t count in the final league standings.Aspen is undefeated thus far this summer in all of its league matches and was set to play out its full string of league games. But, according to Blair, Breckenridge reneged on its commitment to travel to Aspen next Saturday.”They said they don’t have enough players, and that they can’t make it,” Blair said.Aspen demolished Breckenridge in the first match, 82-17.The situation of whether or not Aspen should be penalized for not playing the match is pretty cut and dry, Blair said.
“We wanted to play [Breckenridge],” he said. “To be honest, if you’re in a competition and someone reneges, you should get the point. You shouldn’t penalize the team that wants to play.” Blair has already explained the situation to the representatives of the Glenwood Springs’ side and the team from Steamboat Springs. He still hasn’t gotten a definitive answer from anyone, however, as to whether Aspen can really fail to win the league title because of the missing match.”I am going to speak to the guys in Vail [today],” he said. “I wouldn’t be happy if everyone groups together and says it’s Aspen’s fault. I may get all the teams together to explain the whole situation. It’s common sense. It’s simple. If we have the best record in all the matches we were supposed to play, then we won the Mountain League. We shouldn’t be penalized if someone doesn’t want to play us.”And if Vail feels it should be league champ, just because Aspen didn’t play Breck?Blair has a pretty simple answer.”If that’s the case, that means we don’t play Vail and they’re in default,” he said. “We’ll just say, ‘We won’t play and they’ll be penalized.’ To me, it’s just a no brainer.”
In an interview with the Vail Daily this week, Vail coach Steve MacKinnon said he and his players are treating Saturday’s match as the decisive contest for the league title.The missed game against Breckenridge only has to do with Aspen, not his team, MacKinnon said.”If Aspen has been affected by other teams … we want it to be legit,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned and most of our players are concerned, tomorrow’s winner takes the league.”Aspen’s loss to Vail came, ironically, in Breckenridge at the annual Ski Town Rugby Tournament. The two teams met in the final where Aspen, depleted by injuries, was unable to gain any momentum on offense while Vail – buoyed by the addition of a handful of new international players – hung on for the win.”This is a massive game for us to get our team back,” Blair said. “Unfortunately, we were running really low at that point. We basically had six or seven guys who were hurt and their injuries were lasting a little longer than I’d like. … Hopefully this game will be a big build-up for the next two to three weeks. We’ve got a bit of a mixed old boys team and young boys. We’ve got a lot of experienced people who will be playing this weekend.”Aspen will be back in Vail for the following two Saturdays after today’s game. The Gents will meet Steamboat Springs and Vail again at the Mountain Select Tournament, followed by a showdown with the Denver Barbarians of the Super League on Sept. 9, a warm-up before this year’s Ruggerfest in Aspen, Sept. 14-17.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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