Rugby: Gentlemen of Aspen hold off Defiance
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — All of the new but inexperienced players playing for the Defiance Rugby Football Club on Saturday helped the Glenwood squad hold its own against the traditionally strong Gentlemen of Aspen. The Gents, however, used all of its experience to pull away down the stretch.
Mackie Hirsch’s try and conversion kick with three minutes remaining in the game capped an Aspen run of 21 unanswered points after Defiance had pulled within a try late in the second half of the Glenwood squad’s 43-17 loss at Glenwood Park.
“I felt good about everything but the first 10 minutes [of the game] and the last 10 minutes,” first-year Defiance coach Rich McDilda said.
No doubt, Defiance (0-2), which has proven to be a much-improved team this season compared to the past two years, more than held its own in that middle-of-the-game stretch. During that 60 minutes of play, Defiance actually outscored the Gents 17-10 to pull within 22-17 of Aspen with just a little more than 16 minutes remaining in the game.
The Gents, however, stole the momentum of the Glenwood squad with a turnover that stopped a defiance drive, which sparked the open-field play that quickly made the final score much more lopsided than the game was.
“Their experience made such a difference right at the end,” said fullback Gilbert Hernandez, one of the new players on this year’s Defiance squad whose first-half penalty try pulled Defiance within a conversion kick of tying the game. “A lot of us are still learning, and I think our inexperience helped lead to what the outcome was.”
The game was a revival of the annual Strawberry Days rugby game that has taken place each Saturday of the annual event. The annual game, however, had not been played during Strawberry Days during the past two years.
Hirsch converted on 6-of-7 conversion kicks and also nailed a penalty goal to open the scoring in the second half while Felipe Martinez, Wiehen Pretrius and Hirsch all scored tries during the game’s final 10-minute stretch. The Gents had also opened the game with a 12-0 lead before defiant Defiance began to rally.
“We still have … at least half a dozen players who haven’t come out yet because of other commitments,” said first-year Gents coach Cameron McIntyre, who has been associated with the Aspen squad for more than two decades. “So really, I’m not overly surprised by the way the game went. But they’ve got a lot of young players who are making them competitive, so they’ve done good with that they have.”
It didn’t look like Glenwood would do good at the start when Aspen’s Hayden Horsford powered over the try line to make it 12-0 Gents following Hirsch’s conversion kick. Seven minutes later, however, Defiance got on the scoreboard when Trevor Lindberg dove over thee try line in the 27th minute. Ten minutes after that, Hernandez was awarded a penalty try when Aspen was called for a high tackle, cutting the Gents’ lead to 12-10 before the speedy Garrett Lincoln weaved his way past the Glenwood defense for a try from about 35 meters out for a 19-10 halftime lead for Aspen.
After Hirsch’s kick made it 22-10, Defiance pulled within a try when Jeremiah Medrano scooped up an Aspen fumble and scored on a penalty try from close to the try line, making it a 22-17 Glenwood deficit with 16 minutes remaining following the conversion kick from Hernandez. Aspen, however, got a turnover when Cory Fox intercepted a Defiance pitch and, within 20 seconds, made it 29-17 on a try from Martinez. Pretorius scored four minutes later, and Hirsch capped the scoring and essentially sealed the game when he crossed the try line with three minutes remaining.
“I think our guys got a little fatigued at the end,” McDilda said. “We’re definitely going to work on that this week.”
Defiance will continue Mountain League play on Saturday when it travels to Grand Junction.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament Saturday.