Between the whistles, Vail downs Breckenridge
Vail, Colorado CO
VAIL ” When a team of 15 players is looking to move a ball downfield and score against another team of 15 players, momentum is often the means to do so.
The Vail and Breckenridge Ruby Football Clubs had little of that Saturday in what was a lethargic, fragmented rugby match riddled with whistles, dropped balls and knocks.
After Vail scored on two lineout drives in the first half, the Blue and White held on to beat the Blue Goose, 17-7 at the Vail Athletic Field, and sweep the season series, 2-0.
Even with the win, Vail coach and player Steve MacKinnon lamented the slow pace.
“If anyone came out to watch their first game of rugby, it wasn’t really a showcase,” MacKinnon said. “It’s really hard ” you’ve got a referee whose is as poor as that guy, and it’s hard to play. He doesn’t play the advantage. It was all about him. It must have been awful for people watching the game because he blew the whistle every two seconds.”
Breckenridge coach Peter Shafroth thought his team had trouble stringing things together in the first half with all the whistles.
“There is no flow to the game when he blows the whistle that much and I felt that he was inconsistent all the way around,” Shafroth said. “I don’t think he did one thing for either side, but we couldn’t get any flow going.”
Neither side helped themselves much either, dropping passes and knocking the ball on, which set up many scrums.
Vail controlled the ball for much of the first half and took an early 5-0 lead when flanker Brian Peters touched the ball in the try zone following a lineout and rolling drive. The Blue and White would miss the long conversion attempt.
Near the end of the first half and following a Breckenridge penalty, Vail kicked out of bounds about 10 yards from the try line, setting up a lineout. After Vail won the lineout, the other Vail flanker, Enos Otieno, brought the ball in to give Vail its second try. Again, Vail failed to convert.
Breckenridge had one good chance deep in the Vail end, but the Blue and White defense held strong, and won possession back.
Not much changed as far as overall tempo in the second half, although Breckenridge earned more possession and threatened several times in the Vail end.
“We thought we played a much better second half,” Shafroth said. “We just made so many mistakes. We started to get the ball out to our backs more, so we put a lot more pressure on Vail, but I felt we made critical errors and drops. The game could have been a lot closer if we hadn’t made those. We were attacking, had a drop and then they came back and scored, and it effectively ends the game for you.”
A little while after Breckenridge held the ball deep in the Vail end, the Blue and White won the ball close to midfield and started to spin it wide. Vail’s No. 8, Trefor Davies, positioned out by the backs, took a pass and made a run at the Breckenridge backs.
Davies then spun a perfect pass to surging Vail wing Greg Schwartz, who blazed into the try zone. Right after he passed the ball, Davies got nailed by a Breckenridge’s Patrick Stoter, but figured the pass was worth taking the hit.
“I knew it was coming,” said Davies, who made the conversion. “I just about saw the ball get into (Greg’s) hands, and I knew he couldn’t get caught.”
In the dying minutes Stoter took a pass off a penalty, broke through some Vail backs and made his way into the try zone. The conversion bounced off the inside of left upright to close the gap to 17-7.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve beaten Vail, but I feel every year it gets a little bit closer,” Shafroth said. “They used to be laughers, and they’re not anymore.”
MacKinnon had little to offer as to his team’s performance.
“It’s difficult to play rugby under those circumstances ” we had no momentum. And that goes for both teams,” he said. “Today was all about the referee and I don’t have much else to say other than it was good to have Enos for his first game.”
Vail’s pack had a good game, containing the fringes on defense and getting ball to the Vail backs.
With the win, Vail moves to 2-1 in the Mountain League.
“Steamboat is the team to beat this year,” MacKinnon said. “We have the players to do the job against Steamboat, but we just need to have guys out (for training).”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.