Steamboat Rugby Club captain Michael Hurley might have been the team's biggest skeptic four games into the season.
Sitting at 2-2 with losses to Vail and Breckenridge, the idea of defending titles in the Cow Pie Classic and Ski Town tournaments seemed like a long shot.
But after a 14-hour road trip up to Missoula, Mont., for the Ski Town tourney last weekend, Steamboat now has won nine games in a row, defended both of its titles and is the hottest rugby team in the Western region.
"Credit the boys with turning things around," Hurley said. "It's one thing to win the Ski Town at home, but it's another thing to go on a 14-hour road trip and win. It was huge."
Despite a smaller than anticipated field, Hurley said the trip to Missoula couldn't have gone much better.
With the tournament shortened to one day, featuring two pools of three teams each, the 30-plus players Steamboat brought helped the squad pound its opponents.
Steamboat beat Missoula 20-12; Park City, Utah, 29-0; and Breckenridge, 32-0, to come home with the championship.
Hurley cited Shane Dooley, Chris Baumann and Bert "Grubby" Blackwood for having standout games throughout the tournament.
"Ever since that Breckenridge game (Steamboat's last loss) back in June, we've just sort of continued to wake up," Hurley said. "We know we have to turn up focused and prepared to every game now."
With the win, Steamboat improved to 11-2 on the season and now controls its destiny in the Mountain Rugby League. With a couple of wins at Aspen on Saturday and then at Vail on Aug. 16, Steamboat would all but wrap up its second straight league title.
"We really made a big point that our goals were to win back the Cow Pie, and we've done that," Hurley said. "We wanted to defend the Ski Town, and we've done that. Now, with the win, we're still in the running for the Mountain League.
"We feel we probably got the best chance to go through with it," he continued. "But we've never won at Aspen on the Aspen field. That's one we think we'd like to get done."
Steamboat's next home game is Aug. 23 against Glenwood Springs at Whistler Field.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com