Steamboat flexes rugby muscles in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Steamboat Springs flexed its rugby muscles in Aspen on Saturday afternoon.
The visiting Steamboat club, coming off a tournament championship last weekend at home, parlayed that momentum into a hard-fought 42-27 victory over the Gents in front of an entertained crowd at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.
The Gentlemen, missing a number of regulars who were out of town, started to rally from a halftime deficit when Alan Hodgson scored in the right corner on an Aspen attack triggered by player-coach Freddie Waititi.
The try cut Steamboat’s lead to 28-15.
But Steamboat answered by exploiting a series of turnovers and miscues by the Gents, scoring three consecutive tries to lead 42-15.
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The Gentlemen managed another late change with Jonny Medrano scoring for Aspen.
Minutes later, Matt Williams triggered a quick restart and launched a long pass to set up Wiehan Pretorius for an Aspen try for the final 42-27 margin.
“It all starts with the pack,” said Steamboat’s Nigel Hammond, who was in the middle of the scoring plays. He also handled the kicking duties.
“We’ve added some pieces to the back line, and it’s all working out.”
He said the team’s cohesiveness was developed at the Cowpie tournament a week ago.
“Then, we had a good week of practice. We were riding into this game pretty high, and we always want to bring it to Aspen,” he said of the hard-hitting game that featured a number of yellow cards and time in the sin bin.
Hammond, a former football player at Steamboat Springs High School, learned rugby at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“We definitely had a lot of training,” said teammate Jason Troyer, who led the Steamboat pack that controlled lineouts and scrums. “The guys are picking it up quick.”
He said regular training and excellent coaching helped the team develop.
“At the Cowpie (tournament), you saw everything gel,” he said after Steamboat extended play, especially in the first half.
“Ball control, that’s what we do,” said Troyer, a snowcat mechanic at Steamboat Ski Area.
The Gentlemen of Aspen will return to action next week at the Kansas City 7s. They will play at the Vail Rugby Club on Aug 9.
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U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Monday announced three freeski and snowboard Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the February Winter Games in Beijing, with stops scheduled at Steamboat Springs, Copper Mountain and Mammoth Mountain.