Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat's Nigel Hammond tries to cut up through the defense Saturday as the Steamboat Men's Rugby Club beat its opponents from Grand Junction.
Steamboat Springs For as much as the Steamboat Men’s Rugby Club can boast about the past three seasons, there has been something missing.
The team hasn’t won a Mountain League title in the past two years. That title remains in Vail.
That could change July 28, however.
Steamboat, with a smaller-than-usual roster and missing two of its key pieces, beat Grand Junction, 29-17, on Saturday, setting up what’s looking like a Mountain League decider.
Steamboat and Vail remain the only two unbeaten teams in the league and meet up July 28.
A time and place for the game are undetermined.
“Vail and us are probably the two best teams in the Mountain League right now,” said Jason Troyer, who served as Steamboat’s captain Saturday.
Although Aspen still figures into the equation with its lone loss coming against Vail earlier in the season, the July 28 match — with two teams that don’t like each other — should settle the Mountain League championship.
Before Steamboat could gaze ahead, though, the team had to get through Saturday. Without coach/player Julian Bristow, who was forced to referee, and captain Chris Baumann, Steamboat’s side looked much different.
Inevitably, the results were the same.
The Green and Orange jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead on the heels of tries by Nigel Hammond, Tucker Brock and Vince Ferenczy.
Junction was far from done.
The team cut Steamboat’s lead to 17-7 early in the second half, and after Troyer scored a try to make it 22-7, Junction again scored to make it 22-12.
Grand Junction seemingly had momentum, when Steamboat’s Joe Lauber had a jaw-splitting collision that seemed to turn the tide.
Lauber split his chin open in the collision, drawing shrieks from the crowd midway through the second half.
“He set the tone for the match with his physical presence on attack and defense,” Bristow said about Lauber. “He was punishing on defense.”
After Lauber left to get stitches — he made it to the afterparty because this is rugby — Steamboat was invigorated.
Ferenczy added his second try to put Steamboat up, 29-12, before Junction scored a late try for the final result.
“We know this is our pitch, and we needed to perform,” said Ferenczy, who was named man of the match. “We have a lot of first-year guys. We expected a lot out of everyone.”
Now after dominating the Cow Pie for years, Steamboat again has its eye on the Mountain League title.
One that should be decided July 28.
“No doubt it’s a good rivalry,” Ferenczy said. “We expect a challenge.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com