Not all Ruggerfest crowns ‘fair and square’ |

Not all Ruggerfest crowns ‘fair and square’

The Denver Barbarians are estatic over a 29-25 win over The Gentleman of Aspen Sunday during Ruggerfest to take the title. Daniel Bayer photo.
Daniel Bayer © 2003 | Daniel Bayer © 2003

The Norfolk, Va.-based Sons of Beaches 45-and-older team revere rugby as a game steeped in integrity and pride.

“We play the game by the rules,” said SOBs captain Johnny Ellis after their 17-7 loss to the St. Louis “Da Bombs” in the finals of the men’s over-45 division. “And we rely on the integrity of other teams.”

Ellis claimed St. Louis played at least six men in the finals who were not members of their team, players who were illegally recruited from other sides involved in the tournament.

“You have to play for your team,” said a disheartened Ellis. “You have to play by the rules.”

Ellis said the men were taken from the Midwest and Florida teams, creating somewhat of an “all-star” St. Louis side, and that some were under 45 years old.

Dan Ward, the St. Louis captain, admitted he played men from other teams, but didn’t feel it violated any of the rules.

“They played with other teams in the old boys bracket,” Ward said, “but in tournament play, there’s really no rosters.

“Everybody knows someone, so many of us are from the Midwest,” he added.

But Ruggerfest chairman Doug Cigliana said the incident would unfortunately change the character of the usually casual and honest tournament.

“We’re going to start taking measures to prevent that from happening again,” Cigliana said.

Ellis and the SOBs, who were the defending champions in the over-45 division, didn’t know how St. Louis could swallow their victory.

“To accept a trophy like that will be kind of hollow,” said Ellis, who added that he didn’t plan on pursuing the issue. “We just got to get back [to Virginia] and clean up after the hurricane.”

In the men’s 35-and-older division, Kansas City stunned the Gentlemen of Aspen Old Boys, beating them 27-22 in the final minute of Sunday’s championship match at Wagner Park.

“Big hearty congratulations to Denver and Kansas City for playing incredible rugby,” Cigliana said.

In the women’s open division, the Eastern Rockies Select Side beat the Keystone Rugby Club from Pennsylvania 20-13 for the title. The two played to a tie in the first match of the morning, before turning around and facing each other again in the finals.

“In the second game, we had a vengeance,” said Tina Nesberg, of the Eastern Rockies side. Nesberg said teammate Bevin Luna had a great day.

“She scored the final try and it’s her birthday,” Nesberg said.

Despite the issue in the over-45 division, Cigliana said the 36th annual Ruggerfest went off without a hitch.

“It’s a beautiful town, we had beautiful weather – it was one of the best Ruggerfests in years,” Cigliana said.

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