Video: Steamboat wins Cowpie Classic |

Video: Steamboat wins Cowpie Classic

Luke Graham

— What started out as a team goal became a reality Sunday.

The Steamboat Springs Rugby team is the champion of the 33rd annual Cowpie Classic.

“Mate, this is the best feeling,” said Steamboat captain Michael Hurley after Steamboat beat Wyoming, 6-0, and Vail, 15-10. “We started four and a half years ago with seven guys in training and a broken down rugby club. But this is the best feeling. Our club has come so far. We’ve put ourselves back on the map.”

While it wasn’t easy – and it involved a bit of luck – Steamboat showed just how versatile of a team it is.

In the early game against Wyoming, what gave Steamboat the victory gave Wyoming fits.

Steamboat’s Justin Wootton converted two of his three penalty kicks to give Steamboat all the points it needed.

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Wyoming, however, missed two penalty kicks – one in the first half and one in the second half – and couldn’t punch it across the line, despite four chances in the Steamboat zone the last 10 minutes of the game.

Steamboat got on the board first after a Wyoming violation gave the green and orange a free kick.

The win was a bit of redemption for Steamboat, who lost the past two years to Wyoming in the Cowpie Tournament.

It was the first time Steamboat won the tournament since 1981.

“The win against Wyoming was almost as good as the win in the finals because we were the brides maids two years in a row,” Hurley said. “For us to sneak by Wyoming was huge.”

Steamboat continued the stellar defense against Vail in the championship game. The team also showed it could get up from a punch.

Within the first minute of the game, Vail scored a try and quickly went up, 7-0. Steamboat responded when Andrew Milne took the ball across to tie it up at 7-7.

In the second half, Steamboat converted a penalty kick to take a 10-7 lead. After Vail missed a penalty kick, the team made one with less than five minutes to go.

But in the final minute, Steamboat wouldn’t be denied.

Jimmy Rapanui broke open across the right side and lunged in for the game-winning try.

“Yeah, we played together and did what we do at training,” Steamboat coach Graham Muir said. “We were also a little bit lucky. We got the rub of the green. I guess that’s what it comes down to when you play with an oval shaped ball.”

With the win at the Cowpie, Steamboat improved its record to 8-0 on the season. Hurley said with goal No. 1 complete the team can look forward to trying to win the Ski Town rugby tournament (July 28 and 29 at Whistler Field) and the Rocky Mountain Cup.

While there’s still work to do, Hurley said the green and orange are going to relish this win.

“We learned how to win again,” Hurley said. “Now, we’ve got the right mixture of locals, youth and experience. This is absolutely great.”

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