Steamboat Springs women's rugby falls short of consecutive Cowpie championships |

Steamboat Springs women’s rugby falls short of consecutive Cowpie championships

The Steamboat women’s rugby team, Charging Heifers, gathers ahead of a game against Ronin, a team from the Denver area, during the Cowpie Classic on Saturday, July 13 at the Ski Town Fields.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the second straight year, the Steamboat women’s rugby team earned a spot in the championship match. 

The Charging Heifers used two straight shutouts to get there, opening the tournament with a 27-0 win over Boulder and defeating Ronin 36-0 a few hours later. 

In the final, Ronin and Steamboat Springs met again, but this time, the game didn’t fall in Steamboat’s favor. A slow start doomed the home squad, as they fell 19-14 from the Ski Town Fields on Saturday, July 13. 

“We didn’t turn it on in the first half. We were so flat,” longtime player and former coach Tina Nesberg said. “We had no intensity, and I could tell in the warmup. We didn’t dial it in. We dialed it in a little bit in the second half, but not consistently enough. You have to play more consistently. Mental toughness wins championships.”

The Charging Heifer’s shutout streak ended quickly as Ronin, a team of players from the Denver area, scored three straight tries to take the lead.

Following the third kickoff, which hit the ground behind a Ronin player, Steamboat got the ball at the doorstep of the goal line. After multiple efforts just inches from the line, the Charging Heifers passed back, but a second pass went awry, allowing Ronin to take back the ball. 

Early in the second half, the Charging Heifers broke through as Nesberg hauled the ball straight up the middle.

Later, she stepped up again, stealing the ball before a few quick passes to the outside allowed a teammate to run straight up the middle to score. The Charging Heifers mustered a final effort, but time ran out before they could score again.

Steamboat Springs women’s rugby player Tina Nesberg yanks the ball from a Ronin player during the Cowpie Classic Championship on Saturday, July 13, at Ski Town Fields.
Shelby Reardon

“I just got fired up,” Nesberg said of her efforts. “It’s a championship game, the second half, we’re on our home field, we could repeat. I feel like the people who could lead should step up and lead in games like this. We need more leaders and more people to take it on their own and become leaders.”

Earlier in the day, Steamboat was definitely dialed in. 

At the conclusion of the second game, Nesberg addressed her squad, saying, “There wasn’t a selfish bone on that field.” 

Team captain Sarah Tiedeken-O’Brien echoed that sentiment, pointing to one thing for the team’s success.

“Teamwork. We worked really well together,” she said. “Like our coach Tina was saying, we were really selfless and moved the ball as a unit as opposed to just playing for yourself, and that shows.”

The first score came just minutes into the match, as the Charging Heifers moved the ball from player to player, just inches from the goal line. Finally, one broke through, putting Steamboat on the board. Also in the first half, the women in green and pink used a breakaway try to double the score.

Steamboat women’s rugby player Sarah Stinson keeps pushing forward in a semifinal against Ronin during the Cowpie Classic on Saturday, July 13 at the Ski Town Fields.
Shelby Reardon

The final score of the game came in a similar fashion, with no one running after a Charging Heifer who hauled the final 10 meters or so alone before touching the ball on the ground in between the uprights. 

“I think it just shows we’re well-rounded,” Tiedeken-O’Brien said. “Our pack was playing really well together which allows us to do those close, moving tries, and then we’ve obviously got some really fast people who are able to finish it off.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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