Gents avenge loss to Defiance, 39-25
ASPEN, Colo. The site of Mark Williams back in a red and black uniform underscored the importance of the Gentleman of Aspen’s Mountain League home opener Saturday afternoon.Three weeks after losing to downvalley rival Glenwood Springs for the first time in 14 years, Aspen found itself on its home pitch at Wagner Park with an opportunity to exact some revenge on its downvalley opponent and possibly turn around its season.Pride was on the line, and who better to provide some much-needed experience than Williams, the former Gents player and coach who starred for Aspen’s rugby club during its run of seven national titles between 1997 and 2002?
Williams’ deft kicking and on-field leadership proved critical in a 39-25 win. The veteran booted two penalty kicks in a sloppy first half to match two from PKs from Defiance. He then kept the Gents’ young charges focused in the second half as two late Glenwood Springs tries narrowed Aspen’s 26-point lead to 14.Following a late try from Roger Gassett at the end of the first half, Aspen entered the break clinging to an 11-6 lead. Early in the second, Aspen’s momentum disappeared in a blink when Kenyan national-teamer Caesar Ondula intercepted an errant Aspen pass deep in Glenwood Springs’ zone and returned it the length of the pitch for a try. Welsh-born fly-half Morgan Harris added the conversion.Down 13-11, the Gents refused to buckle. Jesse Pekkala plowed ahead for a try a few minutes later, and Williams was true on the conversion to give Aspen an 18-13 lead.
The Gents then went on to score 21 more unanswered points to take a 39-13 lead before Glenwood Springs rallied with its two late tries. One of the Gents’ tries came from Alan Hodgson, another from Gents coach Fred Waititi on a run that began when the shifty back slipped past two defenders with a fake pass to break into the open field.Defiance coach Graham Askew was proud of his team’s effort, but admitted that two many mistakes blew open the match for Aspen.”We missed a few tackles, and those guys are experienced rugby players,” Askew said. “They know how to run straight lines. They know how to run hard and fast, and we gave them a few cheap tries, and after that you’re always going to be going up that hill.”
Aspen next hosts Grand Junction on Saturday, the same day Glenwood Springs plays host to Steamboat Springs.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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