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Ski Town rugby comes to Vail

Preston Utley/Vail DailyNick Harding fights off a defender as he scores his second try of the game during the second half of Vails game versus Steamboat Springs Saturday in Vail.
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VAIL – There is a certain protocol to hosting the Ski Town Tournament – and the Vail Rugby Football Club will observe the custom when it hosts the annual tournament for the first time since 1999 Saturday and Sunday at the Vail Athletic Field.The thing is that the local 15 must be a good host. Common courtesy obviously calls for it. It also has strategic value.”I call out to all the Old Boys, especially the guys not playing to get out there on Friday night and shove beer down their throats,” Vail vet Greg Tarpey said. “There’s not a Ski Town I’ve been to that I haven’t been wobbling on Saturday morning.

“Saturday night, whoever we’re playing in the final, make sure we get them on the town, especially the younger players because they’re a little less experienced with playing with a hangover than us old guys.””I’ll leave that to the committee members to deal with,” Vail coach Steph Blair said diplomatically. “I’ll take care of the rugby side of it, but I’ll participate when needed.”Beyond its sudsy overtones, Ski Town is a gathering of eight top mountain sides who will be playing for Rocky Mountain bragging rights. Vail opens the single-elimination tournament against Santa Fe, N.M., Saturday at 9 a.m. If the Blue and White gets by Santa Fe, it faces the winner of the 10 a.m. game, Jackson Hole, Wyo. vs. Steamboat.

Aspen takes on Breckenridge on the other side of the bracket (11 a.m.) and Glenwood takes on Missoula, Mont., at noon.The Gentlemen of Aspen have to be considered the favorites, but it should be noted that Jackson Hole won it last year as the host. Missoula could well be a sleeper and Glenwood could be a challenge with its big pack.One thing for sure is that Vail would like to take the crown, something it hasn’t done since the 1980s.



“It would be nice – 11 seasons, 11 second-place trophies isn’t much to brag about,” Tarpey said. “It would be great on the home pitch. Aspen obviously has a strong squad, not to look past the opposition. It’s good to have some of the old guys – Tim Parker, Phil Bennett, coming out.”Vail has had a bigger turnout in its training sessions this week which is key. Though Saturday’s games are 40 minutes and Sunday’s final at 1:30 p.m. is 1 hour, a team needs numbers to win a Ski Town title.”It’s great to have those guys back,” Vail prop Will Mansour said. “One, it’s great to have extra bodies to give some of the guys who’ve been going or who are injured a break. Also, when you see those guys out there putting in the extra effort for you, it motivates a lot of the other guys.”

Another way to help things along would be to score early and build an big lead in the early games, allowing for Blair to use his bench.”If we’re winning and we’re up, then it will be easier to make the substitutions,” the coach said. “If we’re not winning, we’ll look at things. I’ll just use my experience to know when to sub and when not.”Tarpey for one is in favor of the depth strategy.

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“The key to Ski Town is you play two games on Saturday and one on Sunday,” he said. “Normally, we go with 16 guys and playing every minute of every game, no matter how good you are, isn’t a good thing. We expect our 21 year olds and 25 year olds to do that. Let the younger kids run around every second and let us old guys get off.”And don’t forget the beer.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or via cfreud@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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