Steamboat looks to capture Cowpie

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— Months ago, when the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club had its first early-season meeting, the team set some goals.

Starting Saturday, Steamboat has a chance to complete its first - and most important - goal of the summer.

At 10 a.m. Saturday against Fort Collins, Steamboat begins its quest to win the 33rd annual Cowpie Classic.

"This is the highlight of the year for us," Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. "At the end of the day, at the Cowpie, we certainly aim to do the best."

While Hurley wouldn't go as far as to guarantee a victory, he's confident in what the club can do on the field.

"If we play to our ability, we should be very close," Hurley said. "Our goal is to make the finals and get there and play, and then anything can happen."

To get to the finals, Steamboat will have to be one of the two teams to make it out of the four-team pool B.

Steamboat plays Fort Collins, Breckenridge and Grand Junction on Saturday.

The other pool consists of teams from Wyoming, Crested Butte, Vail and Boulder.

The top two teams from each pool advance to championship play Saturday.

There also will be an Old Boys tournament with teams from Steamboat, Boulder and Colorado Springs.

Coming into the tournament, Hurley called the team from Wyoming the favorite. Wyoming has won the past four Cowpie tournaments with a large, talented roster and one of the most respected coaches around in University of Wyoming coach Rich Cortez.

Still, don't count out Steamboat.

Experiencing a resurgence, Steamboat's off to a 4-0 start and has wins against longtime powerhouses Aspen and Vail.

Hurley said Steamboat's mixture of dedicated locals and experienced foreign players have made the biggest difference for the team this year.

"We're confident," Hurley said. "We have really experienced players and a good core group of locals. It's a nice mix. We have a great coach. I'd say we have a very good chance."

Along with the on-field action, Steamboat Rugby will host the 13th annual Toga Party at Sunpie's Bistro on Saturday.

Play runs through Sunday with the championship games taking place at 3 p.m. All the games will be played at Ski Town Fields next to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

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