Vail RFC shocks Aspen
Vail pounded its archrival 40-21 for its first win over Aspen since 1998. The Blue and White’s B-side made it a clean sweep with a 22-14 win over the Baby Gents. And then, well, the party began.”We’re staying in Aspen tonight and we’re going to tear this town apart,” joked Vail RFC president Scott Marino.Vail has plenty of reasons to celebrate. The Blue and White rolled out to a commanding 35-7 behind a bruising effort from the front back and a great play on both sides of the ball from the backline.”I’m at the proverbial top of the world. You can say that,” Vail’s Will Mansour said.In the second half, Vail didn’t let up. Aspen made a charge, while the Blue and White had two sent off to the sin bin. But this was truly Vail’s day.”It’s huge. I’ve never, ever been on a team that’s dominated them. I’ve been in Vail since 1995. I’m used to losing to losing four times a year to them,” Vail vet Greg Tarpy said. “The first time we won here it was close. This time we beat them convincingly. Basically, if you asked me, the difference between this time and last was that this early in the season we just aren’t ordinarily this good. That’s the difference. It’s not that they fielded that bad of a team.”And good things usually happen when you’re up 35-7 after 40 minutes. Vail gave the six-time defending national champions their due, but were not so overawed as to ask for autographs before the game.That much was certain when player-coach Fred Waititi picked Aspen’s pocket deep in the Vail zone and went off for a long scamper. Eventually run down, Waititi found a streaking Andrew Banks for five.”One of them them coughed it up. I managed to pop it up with my boot into the air and catch it,” Waititi said. “I managed to make it 50-odd meters without getting caught. I ran around looking for someone. I found one of our forwards hanging out on the wing. It was the quick ball off the breakdowns that really did it for us. In all of our tries we scored, we got the quick ball out of the breakdowns, which was the difference.”It also didn’t hurt that center Marcus Dracup went 5-for-6 on conversions. “I’ve never seen a kicker so accurate in my life,” Tarpy said. “We scored almost everything in the corners and he put them all through.”Dracup was equally adept in the flow of play. Five minutes later, Dracup served a nifty up-and-under kick, which Ben Smith scooped up neatly for a 14-0 lead. Banks scored his second try of the afternoon minutes later and the rout was on.Vail mounted another drive down to within five meters of the Aspen line. There, Vail broke down Aspen’s scrum and Dan Knox grabbed the steal and touched down for a 28-0 lead.Vail’s dominance in the scrum continued on its next possession. Deep in Aspen territory, the Blue and White’s front pack shoved the scrum forward five meters, allowing Smith to scamper in, making it 35-0.Aspen scored a try late, but the largely pro-Vail crowd at Wagoner Park was buzzing at intermission. Vail had entered the game with high hopes, but a 35-7 halftime lead at Aspen and how to handle it usually isn’t discussed in a team’s practice sessions leading up to a game.”It’s a difficult situation to address, especially when you’re playing a team like Aspen,” Mansour said. “We’ve just got to approach it professionally. with all the cliches that go with it. It’s a 0-0 game right now. We just refocused. These players have got heart. They want to win so they’re not going to bow down to anybody.”And Vail did not. Aspen closed to 35-14 and Vail’s lead was further endangered when Brandon McDonald and Graeme Moffet were sent off to the sin bin. Vail answered with a try from Waititi and a stellar defensive effort, focused on winding down the clock and keeping possession..”We were disciplined,” Waititi said. “We talked long and hard about how intense of a rivalry it is. Things can dust up. We just tried to get through to our guys that if something went wrong, we had to be there in numbers.”Speaking of numbers, the Blue and White had a large pack of partisans in Aspen, making Wagoner Park look more like the Vail Athletic Field at times.”The support we got from our Old Boys and the people of Vail coming down here is a big reason why it happened today,” Marino said. ‘There were more people here supporting Vail than Aspen. The sideline erupted every time Vail scored and touched the ball. There were just tons of Old Boys here.””Well, it certainly doesn’t make me want to put my boots on, but it makes me proud to see the club still managing to take one off Aspen in Aspen,” Vail Old Boy Chris Chantler said. “It’s going to be a monster in Aspen tonight.”
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