Steamboat shuts down opponents


— The "ruggers" on the Steam--boat Springs Rugby Football Club weren't afraid of a wet Cowpie on Saturday. As the rain and field conditions for the first day of their 32nd annual Cowpie Classic tournament became worse, Steamboat's play became more fearless and unrelenting, winning all three of its games and outscoring its opponents 106-0.

Team captain Michael Hur--ley said the host team's first morning game, a 13-0 win against Breckenridge, provided Steam--boat's players with a much-needed wake-up call to step up their tournament performance.

"We had to blow the cobwebs out. I think last night's free concert took a toll," Hurley said.

With the Ski Town Field's lights on for a 1 p.m. match in pouring rain, Steamboat found their stride against Colorado Springs. Behind the strong play of centers Jimmy Gardiner and Max Clarey, a lethal tandem nicknamed "the Rapa Nui brothers," and dubbed by Hurley as the "men of the match," Steamboat tallied 43 points in a shutout victory.

Steamboat carried the momentum into its final match of the day against Fort Collins. The lopsided 50-0 win showcased Steamboat's athleticism as Rob Mercurio ran in a definitive try over a lone Fort Collins fullback protecting the goal line.

Winners of the "Green" brack--et, Steamboat faces a challenge today in its noon semifinal game against a skilled University of Wyoming alumni squad, the reigning Cowpie Classic champions who beat Steamboat in last year's finals.

"They worked hard against us in the scrum. They're strong, they run hard, and they're fast," said William Lipp, captain of the heavily favored Aspen team, which barely beat Wyoming, 12-10, in the closing minute of their match Saturday.

Playing in the focal position of Steamboat's scrum, tournament director JoJo Bucci thinks his team is prepared.

"If we play well, at the top of our ability, we could definitely win," Bucci said.

With a win, Steamboat would advance to play the winner of the 1 p.m. semifinal match between Aspen and Breckenridge. The championship game is at 3 p.m. today. Games are at the Ski Town Fields near Pine Grove Road and Lincoln Ave.

"We need to be absolutely mistake-free, win our possessions and play our best game. ... It's going to be tough, but if we upset Wyoming, anything can happen," Hurley said before moving on to the tournament's most pressing concerns -- the 2006 Cowpie Classic Toga Party.


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