Heifers charge to Cowpie Classic victory

Following their finals victory over Boulder in the Cowpie Classic, the Steamboat Charging Heifers embrace on the field to celebrate their win Saturday at Ski Town Fields.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The bumps, bruises and scratches were all worth it for the Steamboat Women’s Rugby Charging Heifers on Saturday after winning the 49th annual Cowpie Classic at Ski Town Fields.

In their 11th season, the Heifers have won the Cowpie trophy several times already, but with the local men’s team struggling to get a win, the women knew they had to step up.

In the finals, Steamboat was up against the Boulder Babes, a team the Heifers had lost to earlier in the day on a last-second try. This would be their opportunity for revenge. 

Veteran Shay Villeneuve was first to put points on the board with an early try for Steamboat. She said scoring first boosted the Heifers’ confidence.

“I just saw this beautiful opening, and I thought I was long enough and I thought I could make it,” Villeneuve said. “It set the mood for the rest of the game, put everyone’s spirits nice and high. It really got everyone turning and realizing this is something we can do.”

It is Villeneuve’s mission to grow the sport in Steamboat and show everyone how great it can be. She said getting players from Steamboat can be challenging, so the Heifers pull players from all around.

“I love rugby and I want to play rugby as long as I can,” Villeneuve said. “With these mountain towns, it is hard to get numbers, but we bring in girls from everywhere because they want to play with us because we are nice.”

Ciara Pettinos of Jackson, Wyo. is one of those women who competes on the Steamboat team, and has for nearly six years.

Pettinos put the game to bed with a breakaway as time ticked down in the second half. She juked two Boulder defenders to earn the Heifers’ third try of the game and solidify the 21-14 victory. 

Pettinos said the team was really tired but happy to earn the win. She acknowledged how hard every girl played and it clearly paid off. 

This was the Heifers’ first Cowpie win in “a few years,” according to Villeneuve, and it could not have come at a better time for the team.

Per tradition, all rugby competitors at the Cowpie Classic close out the night with a toga party in celebration. The Heifers have a few tournaments remaining this season, including a prom dress-themed competition in Boulder and a potential run to Arizona. 

“We’re just happy to be here,” Pettinos said. “It’s fun to get to play rugby into your 20s and 30s so that’s always nice. I never expected that and now here we are.”

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