Steamboat Springs The rough and fun-loving men of the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club probably would have headed for the beer cooler no matter what happened Sunday, the final day of the club's annual Cow Pie Classic Rugby Tournament.
But there was no crying in the beer for Steamboat - instead, the squad drank in jubilant celebration Sunday afternoon, moments after defeating Vail, 26-3, to claim its second consecutive Cow Pie championship.
"We were under pressure before, so it feels great to win our own tournament," Collins Akwanyi said. "We had to win it. When we came today, I knew we would win it."
The party didn't kick off until both teams cleared the field. Steamboat even took the time to pose for a team picture.
There was no need to wait; Steamboat had the game in the bag in the first half, ensuring early and reminding often that it was the team to beat at its home tournament.
Steamboat's Mark Brewerton scored his side's first points, capping off a drive in which Steamboat spent five minutes near Vail's endline. Brewerton finally took the ball and, with the help of teammates, plowed his way to five points.
Steamboat did it again, moments later, with Brewerton again crashing to the goal and nearly the entire Steamboat side pushing him in to build a 12-3 lead.
The orange and green didn't do it all with muscle, either. A five-player relay in the first half ended with Akwanyi slipping around Vail's flank for a score.
"Part of it was just our fitness level," said Steamboat's Shane Dooley. "They've been working us pretty hard, and I think that was the difference in the game."
In the second half, it was more breakaways, and Steamboat added some insurance points. Dooley took a pass after a long run to adjust the scoreboard for the final time.
"I was a little surprised, honestly," said Steamboat coach Graham Muir. "They are a great team, but we matched up against them. We're really starting to come together, and I think our guys had a little more gas in the tank."
The win carried plenty of significance for Steamboat. Although the players' pride in winning their home tournament can't be understated, the victory was about more than defending their turf.
Last year's Cow Pie championship was the club's first since 1981, a part of the best season in the program's history. Steamboat slipped early this summer, however, losing two games.
Making Sunday's win even more dramatic, one of those losses came in an ugly game against Vail.
The weekend's dominating run through the Cow Pie Classic was a huge boost, Dooley said.
"We just played a much better game this time. We played a lot more with our style," said Dooley, comparing Sunday's win with the earlier loss to Vail. "It feels like we're starting to get our rhythm back like we had last year."
- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com