Vail Rugby Football Club tops Ski Town Classic

Staff Report

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Vail Rugby Football Club won the Ski Town Rugby Classic Tournament in a close match over the Jackson Hole Moose 7-5 Sunday at Glenwood Park.

“The championship game opened with extremely strong defense from Jackson Hole, as Vail hammered away inside the Moose’s 22 meter line,” said tournament director Bob Herrell. “At one point the Moose defenders turned away Vail’s pounding offense for five straight minutes inside their own five meter line.”

Herrell said a long clearing kick from Jackson Hole gained the team much-needed breathing room as players regrouped at the 30-meter line.

“Brilliant back line play and punishing running by the centers and they finally punched over a try midway through the first half,” he said. “Conversion made, Vail 7, Jackson Hole 0.”

On the ensuing kick-off, Jackson Hole regained possession inside the Vail 40.

“Banging and scrambling their way back into the game, the Moose were able score in the waning minutes of the first half, but missed the conversion,” Herrell said.

With Vail leading with seven points and Jackson Hole trailing at five, Herrell said Vail went on the offensive and played most of the second half in Jackson Hole’s end of the pitch.

“The Moose put together several strong phases, but Vail’s defense was sound, and Jackson Hole had an extremely difficult time gaining any significant yardage. The long tournament was taking its toll as the Moose made several mental errors resulting in penalty kicks for Vail,” he said. “As the minutes ticked off the clock, Vail tried three straight penalty kicks to put away the game and missed all three.”

With two minutes remaining, Jackson Hole players counterattacked but were unable to crack Vail’s defense. Vail won the championship 7-5.

Herrell said the tournament winners squeaked into the semifinals Saturday with a 2-1 bracket record and a tiebreaker. In the semifinals Sunday, Vail beat Steamboat Springs 15-0 to earn a spot in the championship game.

“The Jackson Hole team cruised through its bracket 3-0 on Saturday, beating Vail in the bracket rounds along the way,” Herrell said. “Grand Junction, the dark horse surprise of the tournament, also won out in the bracket rounds before losing to Jackson Hole.”

Grand Junction took third place in the tournament by way of a Steamboat Springs forfeit.

On the women’s side, the Albuquerque Atomic Sisters beat Grand Junction and Steamboat, and tied with Salt Lake City. Grand Junction beat Steamboat and Salt Lake City and lost to the Atomic Sisters.

Under the point differential tiebreak rules, and by virtue of beating Grand Junction, the Atomic Sisters were named women’s division champions on Saturday.

The women’s teams opted to play an additional game Sunday by combining players and choosing teams from one common pool. A rousing game of co-ed one-hand touch beer rugby followed. The game, commonly known to ruggers as PBR, requires players to carry a beer in one hand and pass and catch with the other hand.

“One hand touch is down, and beer spillage is penalized. The impromptu game was greatly enjoyed by the spectators and all participants were roundly applauded,” Herrell said. “This tournament was a huge success for us. We particularly enjoyed having the women join us. Their camaraderie and spirited play reminded all of us of the sheer joy of playing a sport we love.”

Herrell said the Defiance team turned a corner in its rebuilding season during the Ski Town Classic, playing its best rugby of the year and hosting a lively event for the rugby community.

“I’m very proud of our Defiance boys,” he said. “The whole team pitched in to ensure pitches were lined, burgers were cooked, T-shirts were printed, the beer flowed, and all while playing in a very bruising bracket.”

Herrell applauded the Defiance team and the efforts of club president Scott “Archie” Archuleta for the tournament’s success, which coincides with the team’s 20th anniversary.

“Without Archie’s unflagging enthusiasm and unrelenting drive this tournament would have never happened,” he said.

Defiance plays The Gentlemen of Aspen in Aspen Saturday, Aug. 10.

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