Defiance RFC outlasts Steamboat, improves to 2-0
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Defiance Rugby Football Club outlasted Steamboat Springs, 24-20, in a hard-fought forwards battle at Glenwood Park on Saturday.
The win pushed Defiance to 2-0 on the summer season.
What Defiance coach Bob Herrell affectionately referred to as the “boat people of Steamboat Springs” showed up with a dominating pack.
Playing “short ball” and banging it up the sides of rucks, Steamboat controlled possession from the opening kickoff. Defiance never touched the ball on the opening drive and Steamboat pushed the ball across the try line for a 5-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Steamboat committed a player obstruction penalty. Defiance’s A.J. Miller drilled the penalty goal from 30 yards out to slice Steamboat’s lead to 5-3.
Both teams settled into a war of attrition among the forwards with sloppy rucking and short, driving runs in the middle of the field. Steamboat had several opportunities inside the Defiance 22-meter line, but sharp, tactical kicking by flyhalf and captain Chris “Woodsie” Woods kept Steamboat at bay.
Scoring action resumed at the 35-minute mark when Steamboat and Defiance traded penalties and points back to back at opposite ends of the pitch to make it 8-6, Steamboat.
Steamboat then turned up the heat, camping out inside the Defiance 22-meter line in the waning moments of the first half.
A bruising 20-meter run led to a score in the 39th minute. Scrumhalf Dan Duncan blocked the conversion attempt to keep the game tight.
Defiance answered back seconds later with a penalty kick after a high tackle call against Steamboat.
At the half, Steamboat clung to a 13-9 advantage.
“I was a bit concerned at halftime with our tackling and lineouts,” Herrell commented. “The referee had the whistle stuck in his throat, but the calls were wildly inconsistent. The ones that did go our way were somewhat negated by the difficulties we had in lineouts. I was also perturbed by the fact that we were letting Steamboat dictate the play and staying in the forwards. We needed to swing the ball wide and use our superior speed in the backs.”
Defiance came out in the second half on a mission.
Eight minutes in, Duncan picked up the ball off the back of the scrum and broke several tackles to score in the corner. Miller made the conversion kick and Defiance had its first lead of the day, 16-13.
Three minutes later, Steamboat picked up a penalty for punching and Duncan took the quick tap. Drawing tacklers to him, he spun the ball out to hooker – and man of the match – Rich “Danny DeVito” McDilda, who scored in the corner.
“I am not a big fan of quick-tap ball when there is plenty of time left on the clock, as Dan is well aware,” Herrell said. “I prefer to take the easy three points, but I can’t complain when one of my veterans sees an opportunity and takes it. Now, if we hadn’t scored … “
But Defiance did score, taking a 21-13 lead in the process.
Play continued in ferocious forwards ball as Steamboat did not allow Defiance to spin the ball out with solid tackling and rucking. Moving the ball downfield in the forwards again, Steamboat stole a scrum at the 5-meter line and a score under the posts resulted.
Up 21-20, Defiance got a second win after a momentum-lifting clearing kick by Woods that sailed some 60 yards. Steamboat picked up a penalty for a late hit on the Defiance captain, setting up a 35-meter kick by Miller that extended Glenwood’s lead to 24-20 with 15 minutes left to play.
“Steamboat has traditionally had an extremely strong finish in the games that I have coached against them, and I was very concerned that our young team would crumble under the pressure,” Herrell said.
Steamboat lived up to its “closer” reputation and spent the final 15 minutes of the game in Defiance territory.
Once again, the last five minutes of the game were played inside the Defiance 10-meter line. Once again, Defiance held.
The final play was a desperation kick out of bounds by Duncan, under pressure in his own goal. But the whistle blew and Defiance eked out another win against an experienced team. Defiance’s first win of the season came against Aspen.
“I don’t think nitroglycerin will be enough with this team,” Herrell joked. “I’m going to need paramedics and a defibrillator on the sideline. I was proud of the boys for the excellent effort they showed, and the heart on this team is amazing, but we need to learn how to close out a game. It wouldn’t hurt to tackle a few guys, either.”
Defiance plays the Breckenridge Blue Goose this Saturday in Breckenridge.
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