Glenwood Defiance tops Steamboat, takes second in league
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The Glenwood Defiance Rugby Football Club defeated Steamboat Springs, 32-26, in a Saturday thriller to close out the season and secure second place in the Mountain Division.
“These guys are going to give me a heart attack,” Defiance coach Bob Herrell joked, “but they held on at the end to polish off one of our toughest opponents.”
With a new, fast style of play, Defiance sprinted to an early lead on a quick tap penalty by flyhalf Dave Stewart to the Steamboat 20-meter line, a fast ruck and a slashing run by center A.J. Miller. After a missed conversion, Glenwood held a 5-0 lead.
Steamboat roared back with a banging run off of a five-meter scrum, but captain Chris Woods blocked the conversion to maintain the 5-all tie.
“Steamboat requested uncontested scrums before the game, and that did not work to our advantage early on,” Herrell said. “An uncontested scrum means no pushing and automatic possession. For a team like Steamboat, with a very physical No. 8, it is almost a gimme for runs up the side.”
Possession changed several times as the half progressed, but Defiance made several key errors.
“During the game we had not one, not two, but three forward passes that were absolute tries. We also missed three penalty kicks and had a knock on in goal, so we left, conservatively, 20 to 25 points on the field,” Herrell lamented.
Glenwood regained momentum on a well-struck penalty kick to touch at the Steamboat five-meter line, won the ensuing ruck, and scored on a driving, diving try by rookie prop Chuck Campagna. The conversion was missed and Defiance took a 10-5 lead.
At the 33-minute mark, Glenwood was awarded a scrumdown at the Steamboat 22-meter line. A streaking Stewart took a backward pass and touched down under the posts. Stewart made the conversion and Defiance went up, 17-5.
Steamboat was awarded a five-meter scrum minutes later and drove to the three-meter line, from which the scrumhalf spun it out to the outside center and Steamboat scored under the posts to pull within five (17-12).
In the final minutes of the half, Defiance forced Steamboat back into its own goal to pressure a clearing kick. Hooker Ike Fitzgerald blocked the kick and second row Rob Hurley fell on the loose ball in goal to give Glenwood a 22-12 lead at the break.
“We discussed at halftime that we needed to close plays out with good passing, and I honestly thought we had the game well in hand at the half,” Herrell admitted, “but Steamboat is always strong in the second half, so we decided to try to keep it deep in their end with long kicks and pressure them inside their own 22.”
Steamboat was as good as advertised in the second half. Six minutes in, Glenwood bobbled a lineout on its own 20-meter line. Steamboat drove it in for the score and conversion to pull within three at 22-19.
Play went back and forth, but Glenwood continued to shoot itself in the foot with forward passes and a heartbreaker of a long run by inside center Dawon Reed.
“D had been breaking long, spinning, side-stepping, juking runs all day, and he broke one for 50 yards into goal,” Herrell said. “As he was putting the ball down, an alert Steamboat defender stripped the ball and we missed the try by inches.”
At 30 minutes, Stewart converted his only penalty of the day to increase the lead to six, but it was anybody’s game going into the final seven minutes. With a slim lead, and the game on the line, man of the match James “Big Lew” Lewis side-stepped one defender and ran another over for a score in the corner. Stewart made the difficult conversion and Defiance upped its lead to 32-19.
“Just as I started to breath again, Steamboat kicked off to us with six minutes left and my best forward dropped the kick,” Herrell said. “Steamboat picked it up, rucked and scored, made the conversion, and now we are in a six-point game, kicking off to them.
“On the kickoff, the same forward – unnamed, but we’ll call him Biscuit – came offsides and gave them a kick to touch inside of our 15-meter line with two minutes left. Their lineout, their momentum, and all I could think was, ‘How could we lose this?’ and, ‘I’m going to strangle Biscuit!'”
Defiance stole the lineout and, in two minutes of frenzied action, got it out of bounds. The whistle then blew on a 32-26 win for Glenwood.
“I was proud of our guys for the constant offense, angry about all of the mistakes, relieved that we didn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and weak in the knees,” Herrell said. “I need a bottle of Maalox in one hand and a bottle of nitroglycerin pills in the other to survive these guys, but they won it.”
A jubilant Defiance team then retired to Veltus Park for the end-of-season party and gave out the awards for 2010.
Most valuable forward went to Matt “Biscuit” Martin, who was not strangled but was forced to drink many beers.
Most valuable back went to Woods, who was strangely well behaved with his wife and children present, and president Eric Olson won the coach’s award for service to the team on and off the field.
Justin “Gravy” Unrein won rookie of the year, rookie Sean “Killer” McDermott won most improved and rookie Campagna won the captain’s award.
“As you can see from the awards, we had an amazing class of rookies this year, and extremely timely help from our old boys,” Herrell lauded. “I think it is the hallmark of a strong team when the two groups that are singled out for thanks are the rookies and the old boys. I was very happy to take second place in a year when we only had 12 guys on the active roster at any given time, and I am proud of these boys for a great effort in a difficult season.”
Defiance has now finished third, first, and second, consecutively, in the last three years in the Mountain Division, and will resume play in April of 2011.
The Glenwood Defiance Rugby Football Club beat the Breckenridge Blue Goose, 35-17, at home on Aug. 7 to remain in the hunt for second place in the Mountain Division.
The first 10 minutes were played in Defiance’s end of the field, with a sluggish start by the Glenwood forwards and dropped balls by the team’s backs.
Center Max Statler changed the momentum with a driving tackle at the Defiance 15-meter line, ending up with seven yards of field position and possession at the 22-meter line. After several rucks, Defiance moved the ball to the 50-meter line. There, Statler received a pass from Justin “Gravy” Unrein and broke for a 50-meter try. The conversion missed its mark and Glenwood went up, 5-0.
Shortly after the resulting restart, the ball was shipped to the wing and Dustin Gordon scored on a 30-yard break around the outside. Dave “Soonshine” Stewart converted to give Glenwood a 12-0 lead.
Breckenridge struck back at the 22-minute mark on a long break after a penalty for a high tackle. With the conversion, Breckenridge sliced the Glenwood advantage to 12-7.
Glenwood immediately answered back with a penalty kick by Stewart on an offsides call at the 22-meter line. Defiance took the resulting restart straight down the field and, in a strong display of ballhandling and fast play, Statler broke free for a 30-yard try, diving into the corner, under pressure, to seal the score.
Halftime came moments later, with Glenwood nursing a 20-10 lead.
The second half started all Defiance’s way, with an immediate penalty kick on an offsides call to notch another three points.
Breckenridge threatened early with a long movement to the 40-meter line, but Statler intercepted an errant pass and scored on a 30-meter try under the posts. After a missed conversion, the score stood at 28-10.
Breckenridge mounted a second-half push with a try by its inside center, but it was all Defiance from there. Captain Chris “Woodsie” Woods made a perfect skip pass out to Gordon for the try. Stewart converted to round out the count at 35-17.
“We had a new game plan designed to take advantage of our ballhandling skills and speed up play from the forwards,” Defiance coach Bob Herrell said. “Breckenridge has larger, more powerful forwards and their game plan is usually a slower, forwards-dominated attack with the backs coming back into the forwards for support. We negated that with excellent tackling, strong possessions and fast ball to the outside.”
Glenwood’s man of the match was Unrein, who, according to Herrell, was instrumental in the team’s defense with several key tackles. Herrell added that Unrein was a big part of the offense in forcing Breckenridge to commit two tacklers to him to spring Statler at the outside.
Defiance had only 13 players to field a side in the game, but “two old boys, Scott Archuleta and James “Big Lew” Lewis, filled in for a full game and helped us secure a victory,” Herrell said.
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