Steamboat Springs While Steamboat Springs remains Ski Town U.S.A., it might be time to recognize it as a rugby hub as well.
With four wins Saturday at the Ski Town rugby tournament - including a 20-10 triumph against Vail in the finals - the Steamboat rugby club punched its name as one of the elite teams in the state and the best the Western Slope has to offer.
"The size, the pace, the ability - it's unbelievable," said Steamboat's Graeme Blackwood about the talent Steamboat brought to Whistler Field on Saturday. "The game of rugby certainly isn't lacking here."
Blackwood is one of three transplants Steamboat received from Scotland this summer. He was also a big reason the green and orange took home the Ski Town for the first time ever.
After Steamboat trampled through the team's first three games of the day - outscoring its opponents 130-3 - Steamboat faced rival Vail in the championship game.
Vail beat Breckenridge on a late try in the final minute of an earlier semifinal game.
Within the first five minutes of the finals, Blackwood broke through the Vail defense for a try and Steamboat lead. Justin Wootton's conversion put Steamboat on top 7-0.
But then, something that hadn't happened all tournament happened: Steamboat found itself down.
Vail put together a penalty kick at the end of the first half and a try at the beginning of the second to take a 10-7 lead.
After Wootton missed a long penalty try, he had made good on a second opportunity with less than 10 minutes left in the game, tying the score at 10.
Steamboat looked to get the go-ahead score minutes later when Robbie Shine busted around the right side for a try. Unfortunately, he was ruled out right at the goal line.
It didn't matter.
Local Shane Dooley picked up the slack for Steamboat, barreling across the goal line for the game-winning try.
Wootton added a penalty kick as time expired to give Steamboat a 20-10 win and its first Ski Town win.
"The boys trained hard," Wootton said. "It's nice to see all the practices and all the gameplans are finally paying off."
The day and win were a compliment to the condition and program Steamboat coach Graham Muir has been running, Wootton said.
Playing four games in one day, amidst temperatures crawling into the 80s, Wootton and Blackwood said the fittest and deepest team won Saturday.
"There's no such thing as an easy game," said Blackwood, noting he's played rugby all his life but never played four games in one day. "Man, I couldn't cope with the heat. I was struggling. Fortunately, we had time in between to go back and rest."
With the win, Steamboat improves to 14-0 on the year. They next play at Aspen on Saturday.