Cowpie tourney returns Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Cowpie tourney returns Saturday

Steamboat's rugby team plays last month again Glenwood Springs. The team will play host on Saturday to the Cowpie Classic rugby tournament in Steamboat Springs, welcoming 12 men's teams and six women's teams for a day of action at Ski Town Fields.

— The Cowpie Classic is back, not necessarily bigger than before but, according to Julian Bristow, coach of Steamboat's side, better than it's ever been.

The annual tournament is set to kickoff at 8 a.m. Saturday morning when the host team Steamboat squares off against Grand Junction.

"It's going to be crazy," Bristow said. "This year, the competition is a lot stiffer than it's been."

On the men's side, the tournament remains as it has been, with 12 teams. About 20 different clubs from around the country showed interest in this year's tournament, and organizers considered expanding.

Larger versions of the Cowpie pushed the limits on Saturday itself, stating action earlier in the morning and running the final later in the evening.

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That proved a bit too much, however, and there were fears that plans to expand, with a few matches Friday evening and perhaps the finals on Sunday morning, would also overwhelm.

"The problem with rugby, you play three days in a row, and the quality of your finals would be diluted," Bristow said. "Everyone would be all beat up. You can usually nurse yourself through one day, but over two or three days, it's very difficult."

So, Saturday's the day, and each of the 12 teams will get in at least three games. Those who push on to challenge for the championship, set to begin at 6 p.m., will play five.

Steamboat's games fall at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

All the day's games will take place on two fields at Ski Town Fields, on Pine Grove Road next to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

The competition will include teams from Wyoming and Montana as well as from around Colorado.

Steamboat will be trying to get back to the championship game after falling short last year when it lost to Vail in the semifinal. The team is 1-1 on the season, getting a win against Glenwood Springs but getting, in Bristow's words, "handsomely beaten" on the road against Aspen.

"We're not brimming with confidence, but Cowpie certainly brings out the best in the local Steamboat players," Bristow said. "It's a special weekend."

While the men's field won't see any expansion, the women's field will. There will be six teams as there has been in recent seasons, but this year, each team will play with 15 players, a regular full roster for rugby, instead of 10, as has been done in recent years to allow for more teams.

"We definitely have our strongest numbers this year," the team's Heather Biewick said. "We have gotten big enough to play a full side of rugby."

The women's team will start its day at 9:30 a.m. against Boulder, then will play at 11:45 a.m. against Colorado Springs, finishing off a short round-robin bracket in that side of the tournament.

The winner of Steamboat's pod will then play the winner from the other side, which includes teams like Salt Lake City's Vipers, a Grand Junction squad and the Front Range-based Black Ice team.

"This tournament is a sign of our longevity as a club," Biewick said. "We've reached our fifth season now, and we're going in with lots of rookies. Our strong numbers showcase our growth and our strength."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Cowpie Classic schedule

8 a.m. Steamboat vs. Junction, Vail vs Wyoming

8:45 a.m. Misfits vs Gunnison, Aspen vs. Highlanders

9:30 a.m. Steamboat W vs. Boulder, Junction W vs. SLC

10:15 a.m. Jackson vs. Colorado Springs, Littleton vs. Boulder

11 a.m. Steamboat vs. Misfits, Vail vs. Aspen

11:45 a.m. Steamboat W vs. Colorado Springs W, Junction W vs. Black Ice

12:30 p.m. Junction vs. Jackson, Wyoming vs. Littleton

1:15 p.m. Gunnison vs. Colorado Springs, Highlanders vs. Boulder

2 p.m. Boulder W vs. Colorado Springs W, SLC vs. Black Ice

2:45 p.m. Steamboat vs. Gunnison, Vail vs. Highlanders

3:30 p.m. Junction vs. Colorado Springs, Wyoming vs. Boulder

4:15 p.m. Misfits vs. Jackson, Aspen vs. Littleton

5:15 p.m. Mens third-place match, Womens third-place match

6 p.m. Mens final, Womens final