Vail wins Mountain League rugby title | VailDaily.com

Vail wins Mountain League rugby title

Luke Graham
Vail, CO Colorado

Vail's Zach Strom dives for a score on Saturday as his team beat Steamboat, 49-36.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – In the three rounds the Steamboat Springs and Vail Rugby Clubs have waged this season, maybe none meant more than Saturday’s game at Whistler Field to decide the Mountain League championship.

The two preeminent mountain town clubs – who each had one victory against the other this season – waged in another heated battle on a sun-soaked field, with Vail deciding the game early in the second half en route to a 49-36 win.

“These guys keep coming back every Tuesday and Thursday and for me that’s a big thing,” said Vail coach Shawn Van Rensburg, whose team’s only loss came last weekend at the Ski Town tournament in Jackson, Wyo. to Steamboat. “I’m unbelievably proud. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve beaten teams like this. I take my hats off to these new young boys.”

The win gave Vail its third Mountain League crown in the last four seasons of play. The Blue and White own titles for 2006, 2008 and 1010, while Steamboat won in 2007. There was no Mountain League play last year because of the economic downturn.

From the start it looked like it would be a back-and-forth affair. With penalties, scrums and scraps dotting the first 15 minutes of play, Vail jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a penalty kick and try by Zach Strom.

The two teams traded tries midway through the first, before Steamboat’s Nate Pritchard scored just before time expired in the first half to cut Vail’s lead to 17-14.

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But that’s when Vail barraged Steamboat with its athletic forwards. The Blue and White came out in the second half and scored four straight tries, two by Old Boy Cameron Turner and one each by Mike Joslin and Strom, to take a commanding 41-14 lead.

“I was surprised going into the second half after getting done with the first half we scored and were within a couple points,” Steamboat captain Robbie Shine said. “I don’t know what happened. They got two big scores in a row and then two more. It was just too much to overcome.”

Steamboat certainly played with pride the last 20 minutes. The Green and Orange got a try from Eric Okoma and one from Tony McKendrick to cut Vail’s lead to 41-26.

Joslin tacked on a penalty kick to make it 44-26.

Steamboat’s Eric Wernig and Eric Dorris bookended tries around Strom’s third of the day to make it 49-36.

“When we played in the Ski Town tournament, it’s three games in a day and that’s tiring on the body,” Van Rensburg said. “We had a small squad and they had a huge squad. They had a strong side up there. I just don’ think they were loaded like they were last week.”

Vail plays the Denver Highlanders on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Vail Athletic Field