Rugby squad to play for title

Steamboat faces Vail in match

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Familiarity might breed contempt, but it also might lead to the Steamboat Rugby Club's second consecutive Mountain League title.

As has been the case the past three years, Steamboat and Vail will meet near the end of the season to decide the league title.

The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in Vail.

The teams have split their meetings this season, with Vail winning an early season game and Steamboat winning in the championship at the Cow Pie Classic.

"We're sort of in the same boat," Steamboat coach Graham Muir said. "They're a good team, but we're probably a little better at this stage of the season than the beginning."

Although last week's game against Aspen was canceled because of weather, Steamboat still remains the hottest team in the league.

Steamboat is 11-2 on the year and hasn't lost since late June.

Last year, Steamboat wrapped up its first league title by downing Vail at home. Although the situation is much the same this year, Steamboat will have to travel to Vail this time to take the Mountain League crown.

"It's going to take a big effort by the boys," Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. "It's going to require us to focus and stick to the game plan we have (had) since the Cow Pie."

Muir said he thinks Steamboat is the better team at this point in the season. Although that might be the case, he still knows it's going to take a strong effort from Steamboat to win.

"Our defense is what is going to win it for us," he said. "We don't really have a bunch of stars so we have to play as a team to win."

While injuries threatened Steamboat's season early on, the team has continued to get better and healthier as the season progresses. Hurley and Muir said No. 8 man Chris Baumann - who has battled a wrist injury for most of the year - is finally healthy and has been almost unstoppable the past few weeks.

"He was dynamic. He absolutely, single-handedly tore the Ski Town to pieces," Hurley said of Baumann. "If Chris plays like we know he can, and like he has the last couple weeks, he'll be really tough to stop."

Hurley said that because of the two teams know each other so well, the game will come down to who can react and do the little things - like tackling - better.

If Steamboat carries out that strategy, Hurley said the Mountain League championship again will spend the winter in Routt County.

"It's Steamboat's year," he said. "Hopefully we can show them that on Saturday."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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