Nick Nespeca breaks a tackle during the semifinal match of the Cowpie Classic rugby tournament Saturday at Ski Town Fields.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Nick Nespeca breaks a tackle during the semifinal match of the Cowpie Classic rugby tournament Saturday at Ski Town Fields.

Steamboat men's rugby team falls in semifinals

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Matt Kelly, of Chicago, plays for the Steamboat Springs rugby team Saturday during the Cowpie Classic tournament at the Ski Town Fields.

— One kick.

That was the difference in Steamboat advancing to the finals and winning back-to-back Cowpie Classics and getting an early start on an epic toga party.

But the last-second loss took the air out of the crowd, a deflating 8-7 loss in the last seconds.

There was silence. It felt like this wasn’t supposed to happen.

“What else can you say?” Steamboat coach Julian Bristow said. “We came up empty.”

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Steamboat would make the finals. The green and orange rolled through pool play Saturday, nary a challenger.

But Vail was different from the start. The team went on to beat Boulder, 15-10, in the finals.

Vail planned on coming to the Cowpie, and this year, it was planning to walk home with the cow manure trophy.

“We won this sucker four years ago, and it felt damn good,” said Matt Stephenson, Vail’s captain. “We’ve come close. We didn’t come here for second.”

And that was it.

It was a struggle. A much-needed rainstorm blanketed the fields in the late afternoon, lightning strikes providing entertainment for umbrella-toting onlookers.

But eventually, the sun came, and so did Vail.

The match wasn’t for the beautiful.

Steamboat scored early, Vail answered and then the match became of one of attrition. Neither team had a great opportunity to score. The two sides traded possession, scrumming in the middle of the field.

As time ticked down, though, Vail had possession. It got inside Steamboat’s half and earned a penalty kick. Down 7-5, Vail poked one through the upright as time expired. The exuberance of Vail was evident in pelvic thrusts and one-finger salutes.

“This,” Stephenson said, “was good.”

Steamboat, though, rolled through pool play. The team rarely was challenged, outscoring opponents with ease. Bristow said the loss was humbling, but he knew that Vail was a worthy opponent.

“It was a huge match, and Steamboat and Vail both brought it,” Bristow said. “Vail didn’t give us any opportunities. The big thing was we got to play in our hometown in front of our home crowd.”

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Sarah Tiedeken tries to tackle a Boulder player during Saturday's Cowpie Classic at Ski Town Fields.

Women's team loses two

The Steamboat women's team lost a pair of matches Saturday. The team lost its first game in the morning to Denver before narrowly falling to Boulder, 20-17, in the afternoon.

“There was lots of blood,” Steamboat’s Tori Allen said.

Allen scored a couple of back-to-back tries in the second game. Laura Sutton and Heather Biewick also added tries.

Old Boys roll up a win

The Steamboat Space Station Old Boys, consisting of players young at heart but 40 and older, controlled Boulder, winning 40-24.

Eric Dorris and Mark Hermacinski each scored a pair of tries.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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