Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club team members took off their tournament party togas and put on their game faces and muddied orange and greens for Day 2 of the 32nd annual Cowpie Classic on Sunday morning. With eight teams vying for the rugby tournament's coveted framed cowpie trophies, Steamboat came out hitting hard in its semifinal match against the University of Wyoming alumni squad. After winning its three Saturday matches, Steamboat looked to carry the momentum over for a championship run against the Wyoming team that beat them in last year's Cowpie finals.
After a series of gritty rucks --defined in the Steamboat rugby program as "free-for-all brawls where the ball is placed on the ground" -- near midfield, Wyoming grabbed the ball for an open-field breakaway and converted on the try.
"That was just a random, broken play," Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said.
Down 10-0, after another heated second-half ruck, Steamboat's JoJo Bucci snatched the ball and passed it to Stewart Beall, who slashed through the Wyoming defense to put Steamboat on the board.
"If we could've scored there, we would've won," Hurley said.
Unfortunately, Steamboat couldn't come back. In the dwindling minutes of the game, Wyoming scored again to win 15-5 and Steamboat fullback Rob Shine suffered a gruesome, season-ending injury that Hurley said was a fluke orbital and compound cheekbone fracture.
The Wyoming team, able to draw into a deep bench of former NCAA Division I athletes, went on to beat a skilled Aspen team 15-14 in the championship match.
"Once a year, our guys come together from across the country specifically for this tournament," Wyoming captain Dave Finnoff said. "It's the highlight of our year and the best tournament in the Rocky Mountain region."
Losing the cowpie, the Steamboat squad was happy to have at least, "won the party," and more importantly, Hurley felt proud to have fielded a strong, competitive team.
"We match strength to strength now," Hurley said.
With a 4-3 record, Steamboat plays its next game this Saturday in Park City.
-- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129
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