Aspen tops Vail R.F.C., 33-19
VAIL — The good news in the world of rugby is that even after a tough day on the pitch, there’s always a keg of beer.
That was the consolation for the Vail Rugby Football Club as visiting Aspen jumped out to a 21-0 first-half lead as the Gents got the best of the Blue and White, 33-19, on Saturday afternoon at the Vail Athletic Field.
“We had a game plan to spread the ball early and not necessarily kick early,” Aspen coach Cameron McIntyre said. “I think we did that well for the first 25 minutes. The second part of the first half the wind was prevailing and we used that to get deep down into Vail’s half.”
Aspen takes early lead
And about that wind coming steadily out of the west all afternoon. It was not the deciding factor as both teams had it for 40 minutes, but the Gents used it better.
Aspen had Vail pinned in its end for pretty much the entire first half.
“That takes time and energy and that tired us out,” Vail coach Brian Dalrymple said.
Luke Cunningham touched down in the 11th minute for Aspen’s first try. The Gents’ Lincoln McGee converted, going 4-for-5 on the day.
Truth be told, Vail’s defense held very stoutly in the first half, given the action in its end. The Blue and White stopped Aspen’s charge at least three times in the shadow of the try line.
Aspen, which by virtue of Saturday’s win holds the top spot in the Mountain League, extended its lead to 14-0 on a Grant Prior try. The backbreaker, however, came in stoppage time, when Grant Reber rambled for a long score.
Vail shows fight
Vail had the wind in the second half, played better, but didn’t use it as well as it could.
“We were on the front foot. We found where we were on the field,” Dalrymple said. “We didn’t have good understanding of what we had to do in our half of the field, which was kick and play in their half.”
For the American fan more familiar with football, kicking the ball usually implies the end of a possessi0on, a negative. In rugby, kicking improves field position and, with a gust at one’s back, can lead to tries.
Vail’s aim was to kick the ball out of bounds, resulting in a lineout and then to win the ball during the ensuing rucks and mauls in Aspen’s end.
Roland Wheeler put Vail on the board after a multi-phase drive, including a much-needed kick. Pat Doyle pulled the home side within 21-12 before tries by Aspen’s Hayden Horseford and James Aldridge salted it away for the Gents.
“It was kept close because of some tenacious defense,” Dalrymple said. “We’ve got some new guys out there, some new faces, and I was really impressed with their effort.”
Aspen has the week off before hosting Glenwood Springs at the end of the month. Vail hosts Breckenridge next week before heading up to Steamboat Springs. Everyone reconvenes in Vail Aug. 6-7 for the annual Ski Town Tournament.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.