Breckenridge After 79 minutes of play on a sloppy pitch at Breckenridge's Kingdom Park, the entire match came down to one kick or, rather, a non-kick.
The score was knotted at 18 as the Gentlemen of the Blue Goose Rugby Club held possession in a ruck - a contested scramble for the ball - near Steamboat Springs' end line. Then Steamboat was called for a penalty, allowing the Goose a choice between a free kick - which would have been relatively short and straight-on - or taking possession. In a rash decision, the Goose took the ball, not the kick, and eventually missed a much more difficult kick in the final seconds.
"I think it was a rush of blood to someone's head," Goose head coach Peter Clark said about why his team made the quick decision. "We should have taken the game at the end. That last (kick) was actually harder than the first one we would have had."
So, in their first home match of the season, the Goose couldn't overcome their opponent or the weather, ending with an 18-18 draw.
"Steamboat's been the best team in the league the last couple of years, so 18-all isn't bad at all," Clark added.
Steamboat player and coach Michael Hurley was impressed with the performance of his team, especially with it being early in the summer.
"I was really impressed with the effort from the guys. We had a lot of new players, a lot of guys who haven't played rugby before," Hurley said. "Overall, no one likes to get a draw, but for a first time out, I was really impressed."
As far as the weather goes, Hurley didn't have too high of expectations heading into Saturday's match.
"Every time you come to Breckenridge in the summer, you expect it to either hail, rain or snow," he said. "That's just Breckenridge for ya."
Well, by those standards, the driving rains, wind gusts and frigid temperatures at Kingdom Park on Saturday could be considered average, though it's doubtful any of the parka-clad spectators would agree. As players not in the game huddled in sweatshirts and rain coats underneath the park's gazebo, one home player even looked to a sip from a flask for some added warmth.
Clark, understandably, wasn't exactly thrilled about the conditions or how it affected his undersized team.
"Your hands are freezing cold, and the ball is bouncing off everybody," he said. "The game gets slowed down, and there's going to be lots of knock-ons. So, you have lots of scrummages and lots of line outs. That goes against what we want to do."
Regardless, the Goose controlled much of the game, and took an early lead off a try from Brian Jones. But a failed conversion kick left the score at 5-0.
Steamboat answered quickly with a pair of penalty kicks to take a 6-5 advantage.
Then a mistake by the Steamboat defense allowed the Goose's John Waddick to take in an easy try. Breck failed for the second time in the match to complete the conversion, and the score was 10-6.
Steamboat's Roudy Manic then gave the visitors the lead with a powerful try amidst a pile up at the Goose's end line, and Steamboat took a one-point lead at the half.
"We had a lot of problems in the set piece, but the guys came back well in the second half," Clark said about his team.
The Goose and Steamboat traded tries early in the half, with Breck's Drew White and Steamboat's Charlie Modle taking it in for their respective teams.
But the home team once again missed its conversion, and Steamboat had an 18-15 lead.
Then, after the Goose tied the game on a penalty kick, the two rivals settled for a draw, which neither coach was overly pleased with.
"The times they scored, we just had some silly errors," Hurley said. "Credit to Breckenridge. They've got a great squad, an awesome coach and a lot of young, hard players. ... I'm glad to see them back as a force in mountain rugby again."
Steamboat next plays on Saturday at home against Aspen.