Jackson Hole Moose Rugby

University of Wyoming and Montana State University rugby players square off Saturday in Alpine.

If you build it, they will come.

There wasn’t corn, and there definitely weren’t any ghosts Saturday at the Field of Dreams in Alpine. However, there was some top-notch rugby on display.

The University of Wyoming and Montana State University rugby teams made the trip to the picturesque Moose pitch Saturday for a preseason exhibition match.

The surreal Alpine mountain setting was a creation of one of the Moose’s original founders, Kiwi David Cadenhead. Cadenhead built the pitch for the Moose and in hopes of attracting college clubs and hosting developmental rugby camps.

The Moose have gotten two years of use from the pitch and, for the first time so did the college clubs.

“There are several University of Wyoming players who play for the Moose during the summertime,” Moose veteran Scott “Smitty” Smith said. “They are in communication with Cadenhead, and Cadenhead offered the pitch.”

Alpine is about a four-hour drive from Bozeman and about a six-hour drive from Laramie. It was the perfect place to host an exhibition match between the two schools, but it was more than location that brought the ruggers.

“It’s such a field of dreams, and these guys jumped all over the idea of playing there,” Smith said. “These young college guys, most of them have never seen a pitch like this.”

In the shadow of the Wyoming Range near the Palisades Reservoir, the two teams battled it out in front of spectators and even a herd of bighorn sheep.

UW was the better team throughout the day and dominated the action from start to finish.

At halftime the Cowboys led the Bobcats 24-12. By the end of the second half UW had scored 27 more points to Montana State’s zero.

Wyoming ran away with the inaugural match 51-12.

“It was a really good game,” Smith said. “Both teams are really disciplined teams. The Wyoming team was just more skilled and more veteran than the Montana team.”

The score was of little importance, as the match meant nothing in terms of regular-season standings. But the match was an important step for the Moose to help fulfill Cadenhead’s goals for his pitch.

“We want to promote this,” Smith said. “It’s one of the visions that Cadenhead had is to promote more university opportunities and even see some developmental teams that want to come up here and have a three- or four-day camp.”

Ruggers are a proud bunch, but they are small in numbers.

Smith said exhibitions between Division 1 schools such as Montana State and Wyoming will only help advance the sport in this remote region of the country.

“The rugby community is a small community, so the word will get out and it’s getting out,” Smith said. “The whole Jackson/Alpine scene, people are really attracted to it. It’s a great way to have a small town like ours offer something that you just can’t get anywhere else.”

The college match was a summer highlight for the Moose, but they aren’t done quite yet.

The Jackson club welcomes the Missoula Maggots to the Field of Dreams this Saturday in the Battle of the Buses. The match got its name from an incident that occurred between the two clubs in a previous match.

“The Moose went up and played, and their bus broke down,” Smith said. “The Maggots club let them use their bus to drive back, so now they’re going to exchange the buses back. It’s just kind of how rugby rolls.”

The season finale for the Moose kicks off at 4 p.m.

A lively party featuring food and drinks will follow the match at the field’s clubhouse.

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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