Gents: ‘We will be competitive’
After the Gentlemen of Aspen were soundly defeated last month by rival Vail for the Summer Mountain League title, club chairman Clayton Day started to worry. It was the second straight loss to the Blue and White – a team Aspen has dominated in years past. And with Ruggerfest fast approaching, Day fretted that the local club team might struggle at its own tournament.Nearly three weeks after that humbling 31-3 loss, Day’s fears have been quelled. On Saturday in Vail, the Gents rebounded with a huge 29-17 win against their fiercest rivals, the Denver Barbarians of the Rugby Super League.It was the Barbos who came from behind to edge the Gents in last year’s club final, 35-31. After Saturday’s win, Day felt good about the Gents’ chances at this year’s fall classic, now in its 39th year. The tournament kicks off today with matches in the 45- and 50-plus old boys divisions.
“We’re ready, and we will be competitive,” Day said. “I was frankly worried about the Barbos, but we went out and kicked their butts in the first half. We were up 22-0 before they came back. It was rumored that they were minus a couple of big players, but still, it was the same team that played in the Super League this summer. I guarantee that we’ll be competitive this weekend.”The 35-plus bracket starts play Friday before matches in the club bracket begin Saturday. The finals for all four divisions are on Sunday.All told, more than 40 teams will compete over the next four days, including a handful of teams in the women’s club division.The Boas, a team made up of old boys from Boulder and Aspen, will compete in the 45-plus bracket, while Aspen will have its own side in the 35-plus bracket. Last year’s 35-plus Gents team beat the Virginia Cardinals in the Sunday final to take home the trophy.
The Gents won’t enter a team in the oldest old boys division.”We’ve got a lot of aging stars on that 35-and-older team,” Day said. “A lot of the same guys from that team will also be playing on the club team.”Day also noted that a team of Aspen and Boulder players actually won the first 45-and-older title the first year that there was an old boys division at the tournament.”I was on the team,” Day said. “It was something like 20 years ago. There’s a real strong connection between the two clubs.”
The key to success for Aspen’s club side this weekend is to limit mistakes and maintain possession, Day said. The focus in practice has been on the front two lines of players. After some sloppy mistakes in the loss to Vail, Aspen wants to be crisp on its lineouts and set plays.Experience should play a factor. A number of former players who were on Aspen’s teams when the club won seven national titles between 1997 and 2002 will be back in town this weekend, Day said. And, if all goes as planned, the Gents will end up back in the final at their own tournament – just as usual.”It’s the most important tournament of the year for the club, so the expectation is to do well,” Day said. “We are ready to go.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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