Defiance shows signs of improvement
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The mood of the Glenwood Defiance Rugby Football Club on Saturday afternoon wasn’t the typical mood of a team that had just lost by four tries.
“That,” Defiance veteran front linesman Sean McDermott said as he came off the field at Glenwood Park, “was probably the best game that we’ve played in the past three years.”
Granted, the victorious Steamboat Springs squad made its fair share of great plays on its way to a 28-3 victory in the season opener for both teams. Steamboat took control early with three early tries, building a 21-0 first half lead that turned out to be too much for the Glenwood rugby squad to overcome.
But with seven minutes remaining in the first half through the end off the game, Defiance played the Steamboat squad even.
“I think what started happening was that a lot of our new players started to see what we’ve been doing in practice and were given a chance to run it at game speed,” first-year Defiance coach Rich McDilda said. “We made some adjustments and really turned it on defensively. Our effort was phenomenal.”
That defensive effort came against a Steamboat squad — nicknamed the Fighting Bull Trout — that traditionally is one of the better teams in the Mountain League. Defiance held Steamboat scoreless for more than 50 minutes, forcing turnovers and coming up with defensive stops when the Bull Trout were well within scoring range. Glenwood even cut into Steamboat’s lead with a little more than a minute remaining before halftime when Wiehan Pretorius’ penalty goal pulled Defiance within 21-3.
Steamboat, however, finally broke through with the try that sealed it when Rob Schwartz’s goal-line drop pass to Jason Troyer with 10 minutes remaining resulted in the game’s final points after Julian Bristow’s fourth conversion kick of the game.
Glenwood, however, had its chances earlier to cut into the lead even more.
A restart kick by Defiance with close to 10 minutes gone in the second half landed out of bounds a little more than 5 meters away from the Steamboat try line, but the Bull Trout forced a turnover not long after the restart. Five minutes later, Defiance got off a long grubber kick that bounced past Steamboat’s back line, but the Bull Trout was able to regain possession of the ball right before an oncoming rush of three Defiance players could reach it.
In once sense, some Defiance players were upset after the game for not taking advantage of some of their scoring opportunities. On the other hand, some of the team’s veterans, who endured games last season where outcomes were decided by 10 ore more tries, realized that having those opportunities was a step in the right direction for the team.
“We didn’t have many of those opportunities last year,” McDermott said. “Maybe that’s where we need to teach the rookies a little more. Things like that come down to game experience and just punching the ball in.”
Defiance came into the game with 12 players who were playing in their first rugby game.
The Glenwood squad continues Mountain League play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Glenwood Park when it brings back its annual Strawberry Days game against the Gentlemen of Aspen.
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ESPN’s Winter X Games is back in Aspen this week for the 20th straight year, although it’ll lack most of the usual flair. Out of precaution to safeguard against further spread of COVID-19, there won’t be any fans, any music and, well, really anything outside of the main competitions.