RECAP: Kansas City Blues D1 vs Milwaukee Barbarians
The One Where the Gang Gets Back Together
On a 90 degree day in Kansas City, pickup trucks and men in blue polos began to set up field 5 for a rugby game. At the height of the afternoon heat, under a sun that felt more like an oven, the support staff, the admins, the D3 roster players, alumni and helpers, moved pads and poles and tables and gate ropes as they sweat their proverbial asses off. But they were back! Faces that hadn’t been seen since last spring, fall of ’19 or even beyond. Because that night, the Kansas City Blues would play their first official Midwest Premiership League game since November of 2019. The Blues were back, and the community was back with them. Ready to take on the Milwaukee Barbarians at 7 PM sharp.
The lineup featured the return of several impact players. Cody Weber, the War Child, was back to flank the scrum and strike fear into the heart of the opposition with his long haired battle cry and unrelenting physicality. Jabari Leopold was back! After spending the spring in STL with the Royal Ramblers and putting some moves on the Blues in a wet spring game in STL, Bari was back in the back line dressed in his hometown Blue. “It’s more fun to run behind and support and ruck over him than it is to have to try and tackle him, that’s for sure” said Blues flanker Danny Apgar. After the stint in STL, Jabari has been in Cape Town South Africa. But now he is back! With the coolest hair and the fastest cuts on the team. Brendan Nachbar, who last time played in a Blues uniform in Atlanta, Georgia against the APL All Stars in November of ’19 was also dressed in his number 13. Last time Nachbar had stepped on the field for the Blues he was a high ranking employee at the KC based empire of Cerner, who is infamous for working their people to the bone. This time, Nachbar steps on as a shareholder in a healthcare tech startup based in Kansas City that produces, sells and licenses Artificial Intelligence software to hospitals that can pick out early signs of emerging cardiac aneurysms in otherwise healthy looking patients, allowing the hospital to identify patients with higher risks and start heavier monitoring and testing, leading to earlier detection and saving lives. While doing those big things off the field, Nachbar and his wizardry ways were back on the field of carving up defenses, using his fend to control defenders before they get inside on him and generally being in the right spot at the right tim. And, last but certainly not least, the biggest man on the field at any given time, the big lock Matt Wirken has returned to the Blues roster after a season playing MLR for the New England Freejacks.
Along with the prodigal son returns of the aforementioned players, there are several who took time off over the summer 7s and are now back with the Blues Brethren for the ultra important MPL fall campaign. Blake Baty, Jimmy Lillis, Afa Tapusoa and Kevin Schwartz (who coached 7s) all were on the starting 15 for Saturday. Blues mainstays Aren Martin, Ty Lewis and Greg Fry, who battled through the summer 7s straight into fall 15s, rounded out the dangerous backline while ever present Scotty McAvoy held down the front row with Afa and Blues internet sensation Stephen Lomas with Isiah “Ziggy” Jones and Danny Apgar flanking the scrum.
The Milwaukee team looked formidable as they got out of their vehicles and walked onto the field. They had size. They looked mean. They looked ready and prepared. They also had a D2 side in Des Moines on the day taking on the Des Moines rugby club. They were representing themselves well in the Midwest. But the game took a sharp turn towards adversity for them as play began and the Blues backline began to have some fun. Jabari took a clearance kick back straight through the heart of the D, coast to coast style, for a solo try to start the day. A breakaway by Afa and a Poly style over the shoulder pass to Jimmy Lillis put the Blues into open space a moment later, with 9 Ty Lewis taking the short pass from Jimmy into the try zone. Ty try number two came a few moments later when he saw an opening and shot down the sideline like a bullet, stiff arming his way into paydirt. A kickoff return by Kevin Schwartz was passed through multiple sets of hands before being offloaded around contact into the stride of flanker Ziggy Jones who dove for the line and touched it down. Ty lewis rounded out a first half hat trick by grabbing a Brendan Nachbar offload after a 40 meter Nachbar run and diving between the posts.
The second half featured D1 league debuts by a number of Blues. Flanker and athletic specimen Chase Higgins, second row Shundell Williams, prop Justin Callaway, 9 Hayden King and lock Jason Barnhart all logged D1 MPL minutes for the first time. (even though many had played D1 7s or D1 Spring, just never Midwest Premiership League games.)
All in all, the season opener was a mad success for the Kansas City Blues. The shape didn’t always look the nicest, the passes could have been more crisp, the defense more structured and the hands more sure, but by the final whistle the scoreboard read Kansas City 72 – Milwaukee 3. A dominating performance that foreshadows the season to come. Next week the Gang welcomes a star studden, Lindenwood alumni ladened Saint Louis Bombers roster for the first game in a 2 game I-70 series for the season. 1 PM at Swope Soccer Village. The Gang is back, won’t you come join us!?
1 Scott McAvoy, 2 Stephen Lomas, 3 Afa Tapusoa, 4 Kevin Schwartz, 5 Matt Wirken (C), 6 Isaiah Jone, 7 Danny Apgar, 8 Jimmy Lillis, 9 Ty Lewi, 10 Blake Baty, 11 Kyle Renner, 12 Greg Fry, 13 Brendan Nachbar VC, 14 Aren Martin, 15 Jabaree Leopold
16 Cody Weber, 17 Shundell Williams, 18 Justin Callaway, 19 Chase Higgins, 20 Hayden King, 21 Ahmed Barro, 22 Connor Burke, 23 Jason Barnhart
Head Coach: Tim Lewis. Assist Coaches: Scott Kram, Darlwin Nelson, Ken Woods. Manager: Kyle Izard