Steamboat gets its revenge
VAIL ” Payback.
The Vail Rugby Football Club squeaked by Steamboat Springs three times last summer ” 28-25, 14-12 and 27-23 ” by a total of nine points. That did not escape Steamboat’s notice in Saturday’s Mountain League opener at the Vail Athletic Field.
The visitors dominated possession, capitalized on poor Vail tackling and had two big tries from Chris Baumann to gain a measure of revenge in a 22-12 victory over the Blue and White.
“Last year, every game we lost, we lost by less than three points (sic) to Vail,” Steamboat captain Michael Hurley said. “This year we turned it around. It’s the biggest win in Steamboat rugby in 20 years. It’s that big.”
“It’s a long time coming,” Steamboat veteran Tony McKendrick said. “We always work hard at it. We always know that Vail is always a big game, a tough game. I think it’s just deserts finally. We’ve been pinched at the post a few times.”
To add salt to Steamboat’s wounds from last year, all three of Vail’s wins in the series came in the waning moments. The Blue and White closed to within 14-12 on a try by Greg Schwartz with 10 minutes to go.
Vail’s confidence was surging and Steamboat had to be getting that sinking feeling again.
“For a minute, I thought we were going to do that again,” Vail coach Steve MacKinnon said.
Instead, Steamboat settled and closed out the deal. Putting together a drive into Vail territory, the visitors got a penalty because the Blue and White was a little too verbose. Steamboat opted for the points and Shane Dooley split the uprights for three.
Up 17-12, Bjorn Utu broke Vail’s back with a rumble for a try to ice the match.
“In the past, when they scored and we were leading by two or three, we didn’t know how to finish,” Kelly said. “We had all the tools last year, and we didn’t know how to finish. This year, we now know how to finish games off.”
While a Vail comeback would have suited the nature of the series, Steamboat deserved to win the game. The visitors, coming off a 24-7 win against Boulder, were the better team, especially when it came to tackling and possession.
“We didn’t have enough possession today,” MacKinnon said. “I thought we were a bit soft. The boys are going to have to harden up. We can’t just have the bell ring and be ready to start. We have to toughen up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I think that was the biggest thing. Sure, they had played a game already. But we were missing tackles.”
And Baumann ran wild. He touched down midway through the first half. After Vail’s Tony Matori scored his team’s first try of the season, Baumann struck again in the second half.
“We’ve been building for three years,” Kelly said. “We’ve been a team with a lot of potential. No we turned that potential into a result. Vail’s the team to beat in the mountains right now. The Aspen Era has hopefully come to an end and we want it to be a Vail and Steamboat rivalry from now on.”
Steamboat will have an opportunity to prove that Saturday at Whistler Field at 4 p.m. when it hosts the Gentlemen. Vail will try to bounce back at Breckenridge.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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