Blue and White notch another win
VAIL – Welcome to Vail Gibson Weru. The Kenyan flyhalf may not have been adjusted to the altitude in the Vail Rugby Football Club’s match Saturday against Boulder, but that didn’t stop Weru from wreaking havoc throughout the Boulder backline.Weru had several long runs and wide passes that led to tries in Vail’s 36-26 win over Boulder at the Vail Athletic Field.”He’s a find,” said Vail player/Coach Steve MacKinnon. “We’ve made a few finds this year, and he’s right up there.””It was a good experience,” said Weru, who arrived in Vail Thursday. “We won – that’s a good thing. There were good passes and we made several nice breaks, but I still need to work on my boot. Come next weekend, I’ll be on fire.”For most of the first half, the entire Vail team was on fire. After surrendering an early try to Boulder, the Blue and White responded with five consecutive scores to amass a 31-7 lead.”At times we played awesome,” MacKinnon said. “Gibson had an excellent display in the first half. Phil (Bennett) played a really good first half. He was there at the breakdowns and didn’t give (Boulder) much over the game line. All the boys played really well.”Before Vail’s offensive explosion, both teams did a lot of kicking.
“It started off as a very territorial game,” said Boulder captain Lief Gibson. “We were unwilling to spin it wide and played it pretty conservative.”Scoring machineBoulder got board first with a try that came off a dummy switch.”We scored off a nice set play, then we made a couple mistakes and had a couple missed tackles, and (Vail) put three tries up on us quickly,” Gibson said. “They had some fast backs, their sets were good, they had a good scrum and good lineouts, which was putting us under pressure.”Shortly after Boulder’s try, Vail used a set play to tie the game. Weru made a quick move, and then spun the ball wide to Tom Vallentine, who eluded two Boulder defenders and danced into the try zone. Bennett converted the try.A few minutes later, with the ball deep in Boulder’s end, Brian Peters picked up a loose ball at the back of a scrum and plowed through several defenders to give Vail a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.On Vail’s third try, Weru again spun the ball to Vallentine, who made his way 20 meters down the field before returning the ball to Weru. Several meters before the try line, a Boulder player took down Weru, but fellow Kenyan Aggrey Omiyo was there to bring the ball in for a score.
The Blue and White’s fourth try came on a great defensive play by Greg Ridl. With Boulder looking to kick into touch, Greg Ridl blocked the kick, and then grub kicked the ball into the try zone where Vallentine touched the ball down to extend Vail’s lead to 24-7. MacKinnon, who at the time was on the sideline, showed some displeasure with Vallentine’s score, but only in jest.”Tom scored a couple today, which puts him two ahead of me (for the team lead),” MacKinnon said. “But it was a team game, and they were two team tries.”Right before halftime, Weru set up another Vail try with his deceptive speed and crafty moves. Greg Tarpey send a ball out to the backs, and Weru grabbed the ball on a bounce then took off. With only 10 yards until the try line, Weru popped the ball wide to another Kenyan, Tony Muturi, who legged it in for a score.”I think that was the best try of the day. It was a clever play,” MacKinnon said.ReboundBoulder took advantage of a relaxed Vail side to start out the second half, and scored twice to close the gap to 31-21.”That was the biggest disappointment, really,” MacKinnon said. “I think we thought it was in the bag, and teams like Boulder aren’t going to lie down for you. And certainly Aspen isn’t going to lie down for you.”Vail hosts Aspen next week in the rubber match, which will also could decide the Rocky Mountain Rugby League title (The league has yet to determine if Aspen is eligible for the title, as it may not have played a complete schedule).
With 10 minutes remaining in the game, Vail ended Boulder’s comeback hopes with an overpowering try. On a scrum deep in the Boulder end, the Vail forward pack pushed Boulder’s pack 10 meters back, into the try zone, where Tarpey jumped on the ball.”Roger (Raper) and I came in for the front row, and we were already strong there. We dominated (up front), which showed with a pushover try,” MacKinnon said. “(That’s) psychologically damaging to a forward pack.”Because of the solid performances of his players, MacKinnon isn’t sure who his starting 15 will be next week. “I have a lot of thinking to do, which is a good thing,” MacKinnon said.Old BoysBefore Vail’s A side marched onto the field, Vail’s Old Boys played three matches. The over-50 match against the Colorado Ol’ Pokes featured some of the more legendary Vail players.Mike Monaco, who captained the Old Boys over-50 squad, used his ankle-breaking moves to pick apart the Ol’ Pokes defense.
“The team elected me captain, and I felt I needed to be out there and show them the way,” Monaco said. “I felt the other team was tough, but we looked strong this year.”Monaco’s first of two assists came when he broke free deep in the Colorado end, only to meet several Ol’ Pokes defenders. Monaco quickly unloaded the ball to Joe Zevin, who scored one of his two tries. Zevin spends much of his time officiating games, and used this to his advantage.”I stay fit,” Zevin said. “I’ve learned more as a player since I became a referee. You learn how to cheat better.”John Nichols, who, with his full head of non-grey hair, was the most youthful-looking Old Boys’ player, controlled the ball well in the midfield.”There was plenty of action in the middle and nobody seemed to want the ball, so I figured, it mind as well be mine,” Nichols said.With the Old Boys leading 15-5, Scott “Beef” Halstead engineered a long drive that led to Vail’s final score. Halstead stormed down the sideline and looked like he was headed into the try zone, but a Colorado defender took him down five yards short. Monaco picked up the ball and fed it wide for the try.”You don’t get bragging rights five yards short,” said Halstead, who was just too fast for his body. “I’ve got Porsche wheels on a pickup truck.” Late in the match, the Ol’ Pokes resorted to some guerilla tactics. One of Colorado players put on a blue jersey that was nearly the same shade as the Vail colors, and promptly took a pass from a Vail player and went in for a try.
“He slipped in and took everyone by surprise,” Nichols said. “I thought he was on our team. I was ready to hook up with him and run down the field.”Both the over-35 and over-40 Old Boys’ teams dropped their matches. Bounces:Bart “Golden Toe” Cuomo played in all three matches, despite injuring his ribs early in the first match. Later in the day, Cuomo was seen on the sidelines applying ice to his injury. Teammate Monaco said to Cuomo, “That’s my injury. You’ve gotta find something else. I’ve trademarked it.” While Monaco was proud to have won the only game in which he played, several of his teammates were quick to point out he sat out earlier matches with a “grueling tummy cramp.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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