Vail rugby holds off Boulder, 29-22 |

Vail rugby holds off Boulder, 29-22

Preston Utley/Vail Daily Steve Legro and other members of the Vail Rugby team prepare for impact before a scrum on Saturday's game versus Boulder.

It was Old Boys Day for the Vail Rugby Football Club, and there were plenty of familiar faces returning to the pitch and to the sidelines Saturday afternoon at the Vail Athletic Field.But likely the most welcomed of returns was that of Fred Waititi. He played in the Old Boys games and then took a run in the A-side game for Vail against Boulder, kicking and running his way to 19 points in the Blue and White’s gritty 29-22 win.”I enjoyed it. I loved it,” Waititi said. “I love coming over here when I get the opportunity. So I was glad to come back and play.”The feeling was mutual for the Blue and White.

“It’s always good to have Freddy,” player/coach Greg Tarpey said. “His experience is invaluable out there. He just came off the national 7’s circuit, so he’s fit. He’s one of the better players for us to play with.”Waititi flew to the first of his two tries early in the first half to give Vail a 5-0 lead. He missed the conversion, but that was the only miss on the day. His kicking late would be critical.Boulder’s Connor McMann replied with a try and Boulder took the lead, 7-5, on Rick Grumendi’s conversion. Vail’s Greg Ridl, who had an exceptional game, bulled his way down right side for five. Waititi, who was 3-for-4 on conversions, split the uprights, giving Vail the advantage for good at 12-7.With 10 minutes to go in the opening half, Vail won one of its few scrums on the day. It was textbook rugby as the pack pushed forward; Tarpey picked up the ball and swung it out wide to Waititi, who did the rest.The Blue and White appeared to be breezing along by the end of the half. A steal by Will Mansour started a beautiful chain of passes by Waititi, Cameron Turner and Ridl. Turner did the honors, and Vail was seemingly cruising, 26-7, at the half.

But Boulder came out with a bigger pack in the second half and took it to Vail early and often. Pieter Ruoen scored the first of three tries for the visitors. Boulder’s pack dominance was very evident as it scored its next two on pushover tries from the scrum. Both were credited to Chad Murra,y and Boulder only trailed 26-22.”They turned up the tempo,” Tarpey said. “It all went south on a mistake, and they kind of got their momentum going and they ran with it. They had two or three quick tries, and we had to regather. I don’t think we actually lapsed. We missed one tackle here or there. Our tight phases weren’t bad. We weren’t winning lineouts or scrums. It’s hard to stay in a rugby game when you don’t get the ball.”Finally, Vail’s resolve stiffened and the Blue and White mounted a drive. Vail picked up a penalty around 30 meters from the line and turned things over to Waititi. The New Zealander booted it through, giving Vail some insurance at 29-22.”It wasn’t a big one. It was probably 30 out,” Waititi said. “But every kick’s the same. You just try and strike it. It hit it nice. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going through.”

Soon the whistle blew and Vail moved its record to 6-3.”They definitely had the best of us up front in the scrums,” Tarpey said. “But, to the boys’ credit, they figured it out. You don’t often beat a team when you give up two pushover tries. All credit to the lads. That’s a good team we beat. They got to the top-16 of the nationals last year.”Lineouts: Vail hosts the Eagles U-23 team Sept. 11. … Other props from Tarpey went to Steve Legro and John Parker-Goldie. … In Old Boys action, Vail beat the Colorado Senior Old Boys before falling to Boulder. Doubtless, every Vail player scored at least twice because as we all know, “The older we get, the better we were.”Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or Colorado

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