VAIL — The drive for five is on.
The Vail Rugby Football Club downed archrival Aspen, 50-14, on Saturday afternoon, setting up a de facto championship game for the Mountain League title next weekend up in Steamboat Springs.
And while Vail remains focused on capturing its fifth consecutive circuit championship, and Steamboat of late has been the biggest roadblock for High County supremacy, there remains satisfaction in toppling the Gentlemen of Aspen, the local side’s ancient rival.
Unlike their previous fixtures against Mountain League foes, this one was an actual battle with Vail leading only 21-14 early in the second half before applying the hammer.
“The scrums were great with the tight five,” Vail coach John McGuire said. “The guys were in there. They did a really good job with the scrums. They kind of battled in the first half, but they took control in the second half, not only in the scrums, but in open play.”
Aspen’s Darryl Furlong took it in and touched down to start the second half, halving the Blue and White’s lead from 21-7 to 21-14. Vail, however, responded with Dustin Gordon’s second try of the afternoon — he had scored just before the half.
Up 26-14, Vail overcame a call of which the club’s old boys heartily disapproved — and there were a lot of alumni present for the annual tilt against the Gents —as Paul Rohr rumbled down the right side for what would be the back-breaking five.
Brian Maroney converted for the extra two points and the Blue and White had restored order at 33-14. Maroney booted through three penalty kicks and two conversions on the afternoon.
Maroney’s first penalty kick gave Vail a 3-0 lead, and Marcus Large got the Blue and White’s first try minutes later.
Winning the Day
Shortly after that, Aspen’s front pack was dealt a blow when the Gents’ Flemming Train went down with what appeared to be a serious left-knee injury. Vail’s front pack, however, was winning the day and halfway through the first 40 minues, blew up an Aspen scrum and Rohan Fenton was the eventual beneficiary. That was the first of two for the Vail fullback, who also filled in a scrum half.
Throughout the rivalry, Aspen has always had explosive back and this year is no exception. James Aldridge scampered in and put Aspen on the board. He nearly scored again, but for a key defensive stand by the Blue and White.
“It was really big, but we’ve practiced our defensive alignment a lot,” No. 8 Devin Vaughter said.
He should know. McGuire named Vaughter, aka The Red Dragon, the Man of the Match.
“He led the team on defense,” McGuire said. “He led the forwards in drive and work rate. He always is such a force out there.”
Vail is 7-0 over all and 4-0 in the Mountain League, and next week’s showdown in Steamboat for a fifth league crown looms.
“Every year, it means the world,” McGuire said. “Every year, it’s just a valuable. It’s the primary goal.”
“I’ve never come up here and lost it,” Vaughter said. “I don’t plan on starting now.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud