Rout(e) 66: Gentlemen of Aspen roll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – The Gentlemen of Aspen entered Saturday’s Mountain League home opener looking to atone for an early-season loss – just their second in 19 years – to Defiance Rugby of Glenwood Springs.
It’s safe to say order in this valley rivalry has been restored.
The Gents exploited their muscle on the front line and their speed on the outside, overwhelming the Defiance defense on a sun-splashed afternoon at Rio Grande Park. Aspen led by 35 at the break and continued the onslaught in the second half en route to a 66-8 victory.
“Actually, I’m a little dumbfounded [by the margin of victory], but it’s good to see,” said Gents interim coach Chris Morrow. “The guys had fun. It was great running rugby.”
Defiance was doing the chasing on this afternoon. They struggled mightily to contain a talented contingent of Aspen backs that included veteran Simon Dogbe, Fijian speedster Peceli Rinakama and former Notre Dame fullback James Aldridge.
Rinakama and Aldridge are members of a Gents sevens squad that next week will head to Kansas to begin vying for a national title.
“They brought out their Fourth of July roster,” joked Glenwood’s Chris Woods. “We knew that coming in. … They have lots of experience, lots of great players.
“I thought we’d be more up for the challenge.”
Defiance struck first, in the fifth minute, when penetration into the Gents’ zone resulted in a penalty and an accurate kick that put the visitors up 3-0.
Aspen’s Morgan Frothingham provided an answer soon after; the Basalt High alum received a pass out wide, shed a tackler and sprinted in for the first of his two first-half tries.
The Gents converted a total of six tries in a 28-minute span in the opening half to break things open. Dogbe scored twice and Merritt Johnson and Aldridge each converted once during the run.
“We’ve got some really good backs and some forwards that work hard to get those backs through,” said Dogbe, suiting up for his first game of the season. “They do all the hard work, and we just look pretty and score. I’m fine with that.”
Added Woods: “They had speed, but we’ve got to learn to tackle properly, not around the chest. You can’t run without legs.”
No amount of good tackling could have slowed Rinakama early in the second half. He received a crisp pass and trotted in for a try in the opening minute, then blew by no fewer than three Glenwood defenders on a dazzling run that covered nearly the entire length of the pitch.
Aldridge followed with a quick burst up the middle for a try, and the ensuing conversion stretched the Gents’ advantage to 59-3 with 26 minutes to play.
“We’re a very young team, and that definitely showed,” said interim Defiance coach John McDermott, filling in for Bob Herrell. “There were moments of really good rugby, but we never capitalized on them. … We weren’t winning the loose balls. If we were able to contain their forwards, it would’ve been totally different.”
With all the swinging and missing from Defiance defenders, the match felt a little like baseball, too.
Moments after Glenwood scored its first try, with 12 minutes remaining, Johnson executed a perfect drop-kick, slipped through a wall of defenders and caught the ball in stride mere steps past the try line, capping the scoring and Aspen’s impressive performance.
Added Woods: “We started well and ended well I think. It was the 60 minutes in between that we thought we were playing soccer. Or tag.”
Next up for the Gents’ 15s squad is a trip to next weekend’s Cow Pie Tournament in Steamboat Springs.
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