Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mountain 15s: Vail v Aspen

Mountain 15s
Vail v Aspen
lineout contest

Ideal conditions at Vail Rugby Grounds for the annual rugby fixture between the two mountain powerhouses with temperatures in the 70s and a breezy wind out of the west. Each side undefeated and looking to stay that way. Aspen were coming off a championship weekend during which they’d bested all comers at the 42nd Annual Cowpie Rugby Tournament in Steamboat Springs the previous week, while Vail had come out on the winning end of the last several meetings between the Rugby SkiTowns.
It was lively through the initial ten minutes with the sides showing promising offensive patterns, though early match jitters caused mishandles that reversed possession.
Aspen with the wonscrum 42 meters out from their opponents’ goal spun swiftly, and the gainline made; then back across the pitch in a smoothly flowing movement that put Vail on its heels in muster defense. Flyhalf Matt Williams lengthy skip sling had his wing make swift progress along touch well inside Vail’s 22 before offloading perfectly for a grounding by outside center, Luke Cunningham; conversion by inside center Lincoln McGee and it was 7-nil for the travelers in the 12th minute.
Vail responded brilliantly from deep within their own 22 with standoff Sam Kitsch stepping neatly to space to free outside center, Bob Barrett, whose 60 meter sprint required a try-saving tackle from Aspen’s 15, Orbhan Brenner.
Williams, who currently works in the classroom and on the pitch at UCLA during the schoolyear, was directing the Aspen offense well, interspersing inside channel smashwork with skip-passes along his three-quarterline that spread Vail’s defense and opened holes for his capable backline.  
A penalty awarded Aspen by referee Paul Knowles for hands-in and Williams’ subsequent kick to touch had the visitors’ lineout seven meters from the counting grounds. Lineout toss captured by lock Ben Mitchell and a sideways maul slanting to goal before backrow lock Grant Pryor drove straight through the center into goal for the touch down converted by McGee: 14-0 after 33 ticks.
The Vail re-start directly to touch gave Aspen the scrum-put centerfield and the guests continued on the front leg, working the pill steadily forward in short, bruising pick-and-goes from the breakdown and first channel bashes.
Final shout of the half to Aspen as flyer Grant Reber picked up a jouncer in the midst of contested congestion and scampered for 25 meters to try for McGee’s additional deuce and it was lads to lockers for hydration and instruction with tallies of 21 and zero in Aspen’s favor at Knowles’ signal.
Crisp, clean method with probing p-and-gs from breakdown and skippy, defense-spreading communications by Williams in the three-quarters showed Aspen strengths, while Vail’s action came from captain and outside center, Bob Barrett, and his thrilling extended banging jags to open ground and the ensuing gains made, but ball retention an issue for the homeside in the first forty.
Homeboys got on the board at the hour mark after a 20-meter rocking, rolling maul begun at Aspen’s 10 meter line brought play into the 22 and breakdown. Swift service to the three-quarters had flyer Ralo Wheeler turn the corner and finish fast for five: 21-5 at ’60.
An Aspen infringement at breakdown led to a Vail lineout just outside the travelers’ 22 meter line. Ball won and spun saw replacement hooker Pat Doyle break the line in a powerful burst to within three meters of goal and the tackle where inside center Nik Griswold  picked the pill out the pile and dove across for five-made-seven by fullback Brian Maroney, and the match got a wee bit tighter at palindromic 21-12 in the 66th minute.
Aspen replied immediately with an unconverted grounding by Pryor and the scoreline became 26-12 at ’69.
A further score from Aspen as Cunningham got his brace and, after conversion by McGee, the numbers were 33 and 12 for the visitors.
Last try to the home team as Wheeler got his own brace for a result of 33-17 at Knowles’ last blast.
Majestic Magistrates

                Vail – Try: Wheeler (2), Griswold; Con: Maroney;
                Aspen – Try: Cunningham (2), Pryor (2), Reber; Con: McGee (4)

Match Officials: Paul Knowles (Referee); Dan Hattrup, Jon Windle (RAs)

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