Cowpie Classic rugby tournament returns for 43rd bash in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The plan was 20 teams, easily enough for a full day of rugby at the annual Cowpie Classic rugby tournament in Steamboat Springs.
There’s something about the sport and its players, however, that just makes it hard to say “no,” so as interest mounted and even after the tournament field filled, tournament directors made an exception.
This year’s Cowpie Classic, set to begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Ski Town Fields, will feature 24 teams, perhaps the most that’s ever suited up for what’s long been one of Steamboat’s biggest summer parties.
“It was 43 years ago the founders of Steamboat Rugby Club decided to bring in some ruggers to our town for a day of rugby at the rodeo grounds,” said Julian Bristow, Steamboat rugby team captain. “We’ve taken the feedback year after year, and it’s been so strong and positive that it’s grown into one of the biggest rugby tournaments on Colorado’s calendar.”
This year’s festivities kick off bright and early Saturday, then will play out the entire day with the men’s championship scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
There will be 14 men’s teams, six women’s teams and four old boys teams. Steamboat will be represented in each division.
Teams are coming from near and far. Some of the tournament favorites include fellow mountain teams like Vail and Aspen, but there will also be teams from Denver, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, as well as Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Montana.
“The appeal is it’s a combination of relatively easy to get to but still far enough that you have to pack a lunch to get to us,” Bristow said. “There’s a real feel of getting away on a rugby tour. These clubs can travel on Friday, get nice accommodations, play on a beautiful field in a beautiful setting all day, then we have a toga party that night, which is quite famous unto itself.”
Each team will be guaranteed three games. The top teams on the men’s side, those battling into the evening for the championship, will play six.
Bristow said the Steamboat men could be in line for a good run.
“We’ve won our first three games of the season. So many of our older players retired after last year, so we’re very young and fresh,” he said. “It’s exciting. They’re all young and fast but relatively new to rugby. Our games are sure to be fast and interesting.”
The exact schedule wasn’t available Thursday afternoon.
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.