Semifinal pits rugby team against Wyoming at Cowpie Classic | SteamboatToday.com

Semifinal pits rugby team against Wyoming at Cowpie Classic

Luke Graham

Mark Perle, left, a member of the Denver Barbarians rugby team, and Dale Thayer, a member of the Steamboat rugby team, discuss a game from the sidelines of the 33rd annual Cowpie Classic rugby tournament in Steamboat Springs on Saturday afternoon.

— One went the way it should have, and the other raised some eyebrows.

Either way, the Steamboat Springs Rugby team made it through the first day of the 33rd annual Cowpie Classic unscathed and in position to win the whole thing.

“It was a good start. We opened up and clicked,” Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. “The second game was a wakeup call. We need to learn to play to the ref and play to the whistle.”

The wakeup call Steamboat got came in the form of a pesky Breckenridge team.

After Steamboat rolled through Fort Collins in the morning, 45-0, the green and orange looked like a different team in its 15-10 win against Breckenridge.

After Steamboat’s Chris Bauman scored a try in the first five minutes, the Steamboat offense stalled for the rest of the first half. Breckenridge thwarted several Steamboat efforts near the goal line at the end of the half and added a try of its own to tie the game.

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“The last time we played them they had five to seven less players,” Hurley said. “They played a lot better today.”

After the two teams traded penalty kicks, Bauman – who played rugby in Scotland during the winter and Australia in the spring – again came to the rescue. The forward-pack star broke through the Breckenridge defense for another try and the game-winning score.

“You can definitely learn from it,” Steamboat coach Graham Muir said. “We’re still rushing and not playing together. We need to work on our continuity.”

Part of Steamboat’s struggles can partly be attributed to the shortened halves. Most rugby games consist of two, 40-minutes halves. But teams only play 20-minute haves during the Cowpie.

“With the 20-minute halves it’s tough to get momentum,” Hurley said. “It makes it a mess sometimes.”

Today, Steamboat will match up with pre-tournament favorite Wyoming. Wyoming lost to Vail, 17-13, but led for the first 35 minutes of the game.

Hurley said he knew to win the Cowpie – the team’s main goal of the year – Steamboat eventually would have to go through Wyoming. Although the team may have struggled at times Saturday, Hurley remains confident for today’s game.

“Hopefully it was a wakeup,” he said. “Hopefully we blew off the cobwebs and realized what level we have to play at. We’re looking forward to the semifinal against Wyoming.”

The team plays at noon today at Ski Town Fields next to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com