Gentlemen of Aspen will face Misfits in Ruggerfest open finals on Sunday
Coach Will Herborn called the day stressful. The look of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club players as they came off the pitch for the final time on Saturday told of exhaustion.
But, it’s all manageable knowing they’ll get to lace it up again Sunday in the championship match of the 50th annual Ruggerfest rugby tournament in Aspen.
“When you add it all up it’s almost two and a half, three full games of rugby in one day. The boys are just not used to it,” Gent captain Darren Barth said of playing four matches on Saturday. “The last game we played against New Orleans, they put up a good side. Our defense was very resolute, but they bashed us. They came out firing. The boys stuck to it.”
The Gents went 4-0 on Saturday, the first day of open division play, and will entertain the Dark ‘n Stormy Misfits in Sunday’s 4 p.m. championship match at Wagner Rugby Stadium. Aspen went 2-0 in pool play, beating Boulder Rugby, 50-5, and Olympic Club RFC, 31-13.
In bracket play, the Gents trounced Heart of America, 65-0. In the semifinals, Aspen had to hold off a tough New Orleans Rugby Club side, 30-0, to advance to the finals. The Gents led 17-0 at halftime in the semifinal.
“We got some good calls for us and some hard calls for them,” Herborn said of the match with New Orleans. “But we definitely had some really good passages of play where the guys linked it together. They got it settled in the first half and just sort of controlled it in the second half.”
The Misfits also went 4-0 on Saturday. They beat the Westie Warthogs, 49-0, before a 50-5 rout of the Rocky Mountain All Stars to conclude pool play. In the quarterfinals, the Misfits beat Olympic Club RFC, 38-12, and then beat the Denver Barbarians in the semifinals, 21-12.
“They looked like they were ready to go today. The have a great side. They’ve got some good players; some big boys,” Barth said of the Misfits. “We’ll see what tomorrow has to say. Leave it out on the field and see what happens.”
The teams are not strangers — this will be the third consecutive Ruggerfest finale between the two squads. The Gents won in 2015, their first Ruggerfest crown since 2009, but lost the rematch in 2016.
The Misfits, founded in 2008 by Evergreen’s Whitey Nelson, have become a frequent summer opponent for the Gents. Although, their Ruggerfest roster is always much different than the one they put on the field in June and July.
“It is a grudge match. There is a lot going on between Aspen and the Misfits. It’s going to be a big one,” Herborn said. “We got the combinations clicking. Now it’s just a matter of the big dance on Sunday.”
The Gents and the Misfits also will meet in the 35s division final at 2:45 p.m. at Wagner. Aspen’s 45s side will take on Cardinals Rugby in the 11:50 a.m. final at Wagner, giving the Gents a chance for three Ruggerfest titles.
The 10:05 a.m. 50s final will be between the Misfits and Mosman Rugby. Mosman beat the Gents’ 50s side 10-8 in the semifinals on Friday. The 9:05 a.m. 55s final will be between Cardinals Rugby and Minnesota Old Gold Rugby. The Gents did not field a 55s side.
The women’s open final will take place at 2:15 p.m. The women’s semifinal matches will be played Sunday as well.
For complete scores and updated brackets, visit http://www.tourneymachine.com.
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Aspen High School girls soccer coach Chris Ellis could have told you the team would be facing a strong opponent in the first round of the state playoffs well before the bracket was released on Sunday. With only a 16-team field this spring, any squad that found itself among those few had to be solid.