Grand Gents rugby rides emotional rollercoaster
It has been an unmatched ride of ups and downs in recent weeks for the Grand Junction/Junior Gentlemen High School Rugby Club (Grand Gents), which includes several high school athletes from the Roaring Fork Valley.
On March 5, while playing Fort Collins to a 5-5 tie up to halftime on the road, tragedy struck when Fort Collins team captain Matthew Hammerdorfer fell to the ground as a result of a pre-existing heart condition, according to Grand Gents coach Rob Hurley.
“Realizing the seriousness of the condition, the teams suspended play and did not continue the match,” he said.
Hammerdorfer was flown to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, where he later died.
“Both teams had players in attendance at the memorial, where Matthew was remembered as a leader on the field and an active and jovial young man, in spite of his unfortunate health circumstances,” Hurley said. “The players, family and friends recognized how much the game of rugby must have meant to their brave fallen comrade.”
The following Saturday, the Grand Gents gave a sub-par performance playing the Littleton Eagles in Denver.
“The Eagles came out strong, and reeling from the past weeks’ tragedy the Grand Gents, understandably, seemed a bit off,” Hurley said.
Though losing most of the possession to the other team, the Gents allowed only one try and two penalty kicks, but lost 13-0.
On March 19, the Grand Gents traveled to Boulder to take on the returning Division II champs.
The Gents’ Weihan Pretorius, a sophomore from Glenwood Springs, struck first scoring a penalty kick early in the first half.
The Gents continued to have success when team captain Luke Leone, a senior from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, scored the first try of the day.
Pretorius also hit the conversion kick to give the Gents a 10-0 lead going in to halftime.
A second half shift in the wind gave a Boulder kick a boost, pinning the Gents back to their own goal line. Boulder quickly took advantage of the field position and scored 2 minutes into the second half. Boulder used the wind to their advantage again and scored another unanswered try, followed by the conversion kick to take a 12-10 lead.
The Grand Gents charged for the Boulder goal line multiple times, including some tough running from Basalt senior Ish Martinez, who dragged multiple defenders before being taken down.
Finally, Roaring Fork junior Felipe Gomez scored to put the Gents ahead for the final time, 15-12.
After enduring a long three weeks of road games, the Gents will take a welcome bye week this week, before taking on the Monument Hill Stormers of Colorado Springs in Carbondale on April 2.
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