Holiday rugby tradition returns Saturday
The Aspen Times
The tradition of rugby on the Fourth of July weekend returns to Aspen in style Saturday.
Wagner Park, a showcase for food and wine just a couple of weeks ago, will become a stage for rugby when it is rechristened Wagner Rugby Stadium for the day.
“We’re excited to have rugby back at Wagner this summer,” said John Staub, president of the Gentlemen of Aspen rugby club. “We’re hoping for a big crowd on Saturday afternoon.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Wagner Park. A large holiday weekend crowd is expected. There is, of course, no admission.
There will be refreshments and rugby gear and memorabilia for sale.
Long a staple on the Fourth of July weekend agenda, the rugby game will feature the Gentlemen of Aspen against the rival Denver Barbarians, who have a habit of playing well in Aspen. The Barbarians have dominated the annual Aspen Ruggerfest, held in the fall, winning a half-dozen consecutive tournament titles.
“I think they’ll probably bring a pretty good side,” Staub said of the Barbos. “They like to play here.”
Staub said the rugby game could be an interesting matchup of the Barbarians forwards and the Aspen backs.
“It should be a good day of rugby,” Staub said.
The Gentlemen of Aspen full side is coming off a dominating victory last weekend over the Defiance club from Glenwood Springs.
The high-scoring Gents put more than 100 points on the scoreboard, with the back line racing around the field at will against the inexperienced Defiance side.
A week earlier the Gents finished fourth in the Denver 7s tournament., won by the Barbos. That came on the heels of the Gents winning the inaugural Aspen 7s tournament earlier last month.
“We’re getting there. We’re building back up,” Staub said, extending an invitation to sports fans to check out rugby at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wagner Park.
After hosting the holiday weekend contest against the Barbarians, the Gentlemen of Aspen will head to Kansas City, Mo., for the annual Kansas City 7s tournament.
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Peter Arnold’s playing career ended after high school, but his time on the ice continues a few decades later. A longtime USA Hockey official and new Aspen resident, Arnold is searching for the next generation of hockey referees among the youth ranks here in the Roaring Fork Valley.