Defiance Rugby takes silver at Ski Town Tourney
Defiance Rugby Football Club closed out an adversity-packed campaign with a silver finish at the past weekend’s Ski Town Tournament in Breckenridge.
The Glenwood club powered through four games on what head coach Bob Herrell dubbed a “long, hot day.” And Herrell’s injury-riddled squad had to recruit a little help.
“We were helped tremendously by five players from the Glendale Raptors, four from Steamboat, two from the Denver Harlequins, one from Aspen, and our super-sub old boys – Scott ‘Archie’ Archuleta and Brian ‘Big B’ McNamara,” the Defiance frontman said. “I should note that, of the 12 players from other teams, seven are either former players or regulars for us at mountain tournaments, and each and every one of the 12 were absolutely team players, melding with us as if they had been here for years.”
Still, Glenwood had plenty of its own players on the pitch, even if some were sporting injuries.
“Our walking wounded mixed and matched with our brothers from another mother seamlessly and put together a team of skill, pride and heart to make it to the finals in a year when we were just trying to survive,” Herrell said.
There was Dave Crawford and his cracked ribs, who said, “It only hurts when I breathe,” or Eric Olson, who, with a bad foot, muttered, “I’ll be able to walk again in a few minutes.”
Josh Wolfe, who played in every minute of every game this season, cramped up in the Ski Town Tourney’s third game and said, “I’ll be fine by the finals.”
And then there’s the steely veteran Chris Woods, who, taped and braced from head to foot, said, “Play me or sub me, I just want to win.”
In the most physical match of the tournament, Defiance came out flat and Park City scored on the opening possession.
Defiance settled down, got a penalty kick and, minutes later, Woods scored in the corner on a grubber.
The rest of the game was back and forth.
With a three-point lead and five minutes left on the clock, Glenwood’s defense withstood a Park City surge to escape with the win.
“I was having a series of small heart attacks on the sideline as we held up not one, but two, try attempts in goal,” Herrell joked.
Defiance prevailed in what Herrell characterized as “the most emotional game of the day.”
Glenwood was taking on a rival that had just clinched the Mountain League championship with an undefeated season.
Both back lines held strong, shutting down scoring opportunities and breakaways.
Defiance’s tournament MVP, Max Statler, came up huge at fullback. He put the game away with a penalty kick as Glenwood picked up a shutout.
“We finished the match with a shutout of the vaunted Vail offense, and our brothers from the Glendale Raptors scored on a long back movement,” Herrell said.
Defiance’s forwards put on a clinic against a large Missoula pack, with Wolfe and Jason Troyer leading the way, banging up on the sides of rucks, scooping loose balls, pop-passing to following forwards and creating havoc all over the pitch.
“The backs were extremely effective with such excellent possession and ran at will against a disheartened Missoula line,” Herrell said.
After three games and a rather lengthy layoff, Defiance played tourney host Breckenridge in the finals.
Defiance struck first with a long run by Statler, followed by a give-and-go to Gregg McCorkle, who got it back to Statler for a score in the corner. Statler drilled a difficult conversion and Glenwood took a 7-0 lead.
It started to go south from there for Glenwood.
The Blue Goose maintained strong possessions in the forwards, building a 12-7 halftime lead.
With five minutes left in the game, Breckenridge managed a try but missed the conversion to go up 17-7.
Defiance responded by stealing a ruck with two minutes left and then getting a try from its Glendale Raptor subs. Statler made the kick to close the gap to the final margin of three points.
Although Defiance lost, Herrell left the pitch proud of his side.
“In an extremely tough season, these boys stepped it up and performed in every game, every situation, every play,” he lauded. “I could not be prouder or more impressed with the quality of these players, young and old, rookies to old boys. As our late brother and coach James Montaine said, ‘You can’t coach heart,’ and these guys have it to spare. It has been my honor and my pleasure to coach them.”
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