Steamboat Rugby Club falls to rival Vail |

Steamboat Rugby Club falls to rival Vail

Vail team wins Mountain League title with victory

Vail's Zach Strom catches a pitch from Shawn Van Rensburg on Saturday as Vail beat the Steamboat Rugby Club, 49-36. Strom scored on the play to end a Steamboat comeback.
Joel Reichenberger
Vail’s Zach Strom dives for a score Saturday as his team beat Steamboat, 49-36. Vail next plays against the Denver Harlequins on Saturday.Joel ReichenbergerSteamboat’s Jeff Collins runs the ball up the field Saturday. Steamboat Rugby Club lost to Vail, 49-36.Joel Reichenberger

— In the three rounds the Steamboat Springs and Vail rugby clubs have waged this season, maybe none meant more than Saturday’s game at Whistler Field to decide the Mountain League championship.

The two pre-eminent mountain town clubs — who each had one victory against the other this season — waged another heated battle on a sun-soaked field, with Vail deciding the game early in the second half en route to a 49-36 win.

“These guys keep coming back every Tuesday and Thursday, and for me, that’s a big thing,” said Vail coach Shawn Van Rensburg, whose team’s only loss came last weekend at the Ski Town Rugby Tournament in Jackson, Wyo., to Steamboat. “I’m unbelievably proud. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ve beaten teams like this. I take my hats off to these new young boys.”

From the start, it looked like it would be a back-and-forth affair. With penalties, scrums and scraps dotting the first 15 minutes of play, Vail jumped out to a 10-0 lead on a penalty kick and try by Zach Strom.

The two teams traded tries midway through the first, before Steamboat’s Nate Pritchard scored just before time expired in the first half to cut Vail’s lead to 17-14.

That’s when Vail barraged Steamboat with its athletic forwards. The Blue and White came out in the second half and scored four straight tries, two by Old Boy Cameron Turner and one each by Mike Joslin and Strom, to take a commanding 41-14 lead.

“I was surprised going into the second half after getting done with the first half we scored and were within a couple points,” Steamboat captain Robbie Shine said. “I don’t know what happened. They got two big scores in a row and then two more. It was just too much to overcome.”

Steamboat certainly played with pride the last 20 minutes. The Green and Orange got a try from Eric Okoma and one from Tony McKendrick to cut Vail’s lead to 41-26.

Joslin tacked on a penalty kick to make it 44-26.

Steamboat’s Erik Wernig and Eric Dorris bookended tries around Strom’s third of the day to make it 49-36.

“When we played in the Ski Town tournament, it’s three games in a day, and that’s tiring on the body,” Van Rensburg said. “We had a small squad, and they had a huge squad. They had a strong side up there. I just don’t think they were loaded like they were last week.”

Steamboat tentatively is scheduled to play Glenwood Springs or Boulder at 3 p.m. Saturday at Whistler Field.

Vail plays the Denver Harlequins on Saturday.

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