Cowpie is all rugby

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After nearly 30 years of hosting the Cowpie Classic, members of the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club know the recipe for a successful event.

They start with 12 of the best rugby teams in the region, add a dash of beer (20 kegs) and let simmer for two days under the Yampa Valley sky on the fields at Ski Town Park.

Club captain Michael Hurley said the ingredients have created one of the best weekends of summers past -- especially if you happen to enjoy rugby, beer or both.

"It's a big part of rugby," player Mark Hermacinski said. "We are very competitive on the field, but once the game is over, you will find us all hanging out together."

Hurley said the intent of the Cowpie is to bring the sport to Steamboat and make sure everyone has a good time.

The weekend also is shaping up to be a good time for the Steamboat Rugby Club, which is off to one of its best starts. The team is 4-1 in matches this season and is coming off a 2-1 showing at a June 27 tournament in Jackson Hole.

The team has not always been successful with winning the tournament, but they typically are successful at partying after the games.

"In the past, we were happy if we won a game and the party," Hurley said. "This year, our goal is not only to win the party, but to make it to the finals and win the tournament."

With clubs from Aspen, Wyoming and Boulder in town, winning the Cowpie will not be easy. However, Hurley doesn't think it's out of reach for the local players. Other teams will include Vatos from Las Vegas, Park City, the Denver Highlanders, Fort Collins, Santa Fe, Glenwood and the Golden Dragons from Denver.

"There will be several very good clubs in town this week, but we have come a long way this year," Hurley said. "I think we have a shot at winning the title."

The Cowpie was started in 1974 in a field at Howelsen. Hermacinski said the field used to be a cow pasture, so naming the tournament the Cowpie Classic was the natural choice.

This year's event kicks off Friday night with the team captains' meeting at the Old Town Pub.

The first matches of the weekend will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Ski Town Fields. Aspen faces Vatos, and Park City takes on Wyoming. Steamboat's first game will be against Fort Collins at 10 a.m.

In addition to the 12 teams playing in the official bracket, there will be an old boys division featuring teams from Steamboat, Breckenridge and Colorado Springs.

Hurley said the teams have been split into three pools for the first day. The winners will advance to an upper, "cup" division to take part in the semifinals and finals. The middle teams will play in the "plate" division, and the last place teams will compete in the "bowl" division.

"We want all of the teams that come to Steamboat to be playing for something," Hurley said."

The championships game will take place at noon Sunday. The fifth-place match will take place at 10 a.m. and the third-place match is scheduled for 11 a.m.

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