Gents take pitch for 40th year
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The Gentlemen of Aspen have been a fixture in the community and in the rugby world for 40 years. And at 3 p.m. Saturday, they begin their fifth decade competing here in town when they host Park City at Rio Grande Park.
Today’s game as well as next weekend’s home game with Glendale will both serve as tune-ups for the team’s campaign in Division I this spring. The Gents dropped out of the U.S.A. Rugby Super League two years ago after winning six consecutive national titles.
They may be in a different league ” Aspen decided to make the switch in part because Division I competition is organized regionally, which makes travel less demanding ” but the team’s history of success has continued. Last weekend in Nebraska, Aspen dominated the Omaha Goats, 65-7, to keep themselves in contention for a Division I national title. Western region playoffs continue April 27 and 28 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re getting better week to week,” first-year coach and five-year club veteran Fred Waititi said in a news release. “Six weeks ago I would have said we had little chance, but now I say we have every chance to succeed in this division. We have a team that will fight for each other.”
The New Zealander, who replaced former coach Steve Blair, has led the team in the year’s first five matches. He said his team, which is comprised mostly of Americans, but, in typical Gents fashion, includes players from New Zealand, Scotland, Australia, South Africa and England, has great potential.
They will be tested with a full slate of games. In addition to this spring’s Division I competition, the Gents will enter the National Sevens tournament and play a full Summer Mountain League schedule.
The Gents will look to rebound in 2007 after Vail soundly defeated them for last year’s title. The two rivals square off June 30 in Aspen and again in Vail on Aug. 25. In between, Aspen will compete in the Cow Pie Tournament (July 7- 8) and the Ski Town Tournament (Aug. 18), which will both take place in Steamboat Springs.
All the competition culminates with the 40th edition of Ruggerfest on Sept. 13-16. The tournament title trophy has stayed at home in 16 of the event’s 39 years. The Gents won the championship in nine of the last 11 years, including 2006. They held the Denver Barbarians scoreless for the final 40 minutes ” and surrendered just three points in the final 75 minutes ” of last year’s final and cruised to the 32- 6 victory.
Saturday’s game is tentatively scheduled to be played at Rio Grande Park, although weather may change both the time and location. For updated information, visit http://www.aspenrugby.com.
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