Provo Steelers Banned

(From the 9/29/00 issue of Rugby)

Aspen, CO September 16,2000

Three Provo players were arrested and charged with third degree assault after a pool match between the Provo Steelers and Denver Barbarians ended in blows. Ami Finan, 24, Keloveni Tonga, 36, and Feinga Valtohi, 27 were taken into custody, after sending Brent Taylor, Tom Smith, and Eagle fullback Andre Blom to the Aspen Valley Hospital.

Following the brawl, which is said to have lasted less than one minute, Provo was asked to leave town. The Ruggerfest Committee is reportedly planning to permanently ban the Steelers.

According to witnesses at Wagner Park, the fight began when Finan elbowed Taylor in the back of the head. As a result of this attack, both benches emptied onto the field. While Taylor was down, the 5'6", 220 pound Keloveni Tonga repeatedly kicked or stomped him in the head. Taylor was unconscious for six minutes.

Meanwhile, Valtohi, 5'1 1 " and 200 pounds, is said to have run the length of the field to "cold-cock" Blom from behind, breaking the orbital bone around his eye. Smith was hit from behind by an unidentified Provo player. Taylor, Blom and Smith were released from the hospital after treatment.

The match, which Denver was winning 24-6, allegedly featured high tackles by the Steelers. According to witness accounts, once the brawl began, other Barbo players were hit randomly by the Provo players. Observers said there were as many as three Steelers attacking a single Barbo player. Billy Tomb of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said that when police arrived, several Steeler players took off their jerseys and ran down an alley.

This is not the first time a Provo team has been in trouble for violence. On April 27 of this year, a high school competition in Murray, Utah between Provo High and Murray ended with nearly a dozen players and spectators being carted off to the hospital following a 15-minute brawl. The brawl began when a Murray player was kicked on the ground by a Provo player. Spectators and players took to the field and even the wife of Murray's coach was punched by a woman. Police and paramedics were called to the scene, but no serious injuries were reported.

Another riot involving Provo erupted back in 1992 during the Great Basin High School championship semifinal between Provo and Skyline. During the match, a couple of Provo players suddenly punched, tackled and kicked the referee. Skyline needed a police escort from the field. Provo's players and coaches were supposedly banned for life.