Rugby tourney wide open | SteamboatToday.com

Rugby tourney wide open

Steamboat in mix for Ski Town

Luke Graham

Robbie Shine prepares to hit a pad at Rugby practice on Thursday night. The Steamboat Rugby club will try to win its first-ever Ski Town rugby tournament today.

— Today’s Ski Town Rugby tournament will require a complete effort to win.

Not that a single rugby game doesn’t take everything a player can muster, but this year’s version of the Ski Town is a little different.

This year, the champion will have to play four games in one day against a field where as many as five teams could be favored to win.

The normal two-day tournament was turned into a one-day effort after it was decided it might be better run and more effective if teams packed Whistler Park for an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. day of rugby.

The tournament features nine teams in three brackets, with the top team from each bracket and a wildcard advancing to semifinal play.

Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said Steamboat; Park City, Utah; Missoula, Mont.; Vail; and Aspen all have a legitimate shot to win.

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“It’s as wide open a Ski Town as there has ever been,” Hurley said, noting Steamboat has never won the tournament. “It comes down to whoever is playing better on the day.”

While Hurley may put Park City and Vail as the favorites, it’s hard not to like the Steamboat green and orange.

Steamboat (10-0 overall, 4-0 in the Mountain Rugby League) comes in with victories over Aspen, Vail and Wyoming, including winning the Cowpie Classic with single digit victories against the latter two.

With a team that’s 100 percent healthy and is riding a wave of confidence, Hurley said Steamboat’s in a position to advance through the tournament.

“We believe if we play to our potential and make it to the finals, we’re in good shape,” Hurley said. “There are a lot of teams who can win it, but obviously we’re clicking very well.”

More than likely, the tournament will come down to two factors – what team’s in the best shape and what team can adjust to the shortened 20-minute halves.

Hurley said in a normal 80-minute game, teams are afforded the luxury of feeling a team out and sticking to a strategy.

Today, teams will have to rely more on their ability, Hurley said.

“As the day goes on, the team that wins is the most conditioned,” Hurley said. “A lot of it comes down to the team with the most depth. Four games in a day tests your depth and endurance.”

Vail – last year’s champion – will team up with players from Glenwood Springs to put together a strong team, making them the favorite, Hurley said.

Hurley said to also keep an eye on Park City and Missoula where both teams have established programs that draw some of the best players.

“To win the Ski Town tournament was another one of our goals at the beginning of the year as well as being undefeated at this point,” Steamboat hooker JoJo Bucci said. “We’re happy where we are, but we’re not surprised and winning this tournament wouldn’t surprise us either. It’s our expectation.”

Steamboat opens pool play against Jackson Hole, Wyo. at 11:20 a.m. today. The team then plays Santa Fe, N.M. at 1 p.m.

Semifinal action starts at 4:20 p.m. with the finals scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The rugby team also will sponsor a 1980s theme party at 9 p.m. tonight at Sunpie’s Bistro.

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com