As if the desire to defeat the Denver Barbarians after three regular season losses was not enough, the Kansas City Blues Rugby 7s team had something even more rewarding on the line in the fourth meeting between the teams.
The Blues, who hail from the USA Rugby’s Frontier Conference, finished second in the three-event Frontier Sevens Series behind the Barbarians. That was enough to advance the squad to the USA Rugby Emirates Airlines 7s National Championships in Tukwila, Wash. It was their first trip to nationals since 2012 and 10th overall.
Once there, the KC Blues drew the Barbarians in the quarterfinals. This time, though, the result was much different. The Blues defeated the Barbarians 19-12 to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2000.
“They had always gotten the best of us this summer and then they were basically standing between us and the final four, so that was a huge win,” KC Blues assistant coach Pete Kowalski said. “The guys were looking forward to playing them again and trying to get the best of them on the biggest stage.”
The Blues ended up losing 17-7 to Old Blue of NY in the semifinals, but bounced back with a 12-10 victory against Belmont Shore Rugby in the third-place match at Starfire Sports near Seattle. In that win over Belmont, Blues team captain Kenny Scott scored the go-ahead goal.
Scott led the team, scoring five times during the weekend tournament. Teammates Kevin Schwartze and Walt Elder followed with three goals each, Ed Mills and Gannon More had two, and David McDonnough scored once.
“A lot of work went into getting to where we are today — not only from a player standpoint — but from a coaching standpoint and really a club standpoint,” Kowalski said. “There are a lot people who have worked to get the Blues back into the national spotlight.”
The Blues compiled a 12-4 record during the Rugby 7s season. During season series competition, the Blues placed third at the Denver 7s on June 21, won the championship at the Heartland 7s on July 12 in Kansas City, and was runner-up at the Omaha 7s on July 26. The Blues’ roster includes a number of players who played high school rugby in the Kansas City area, as well as for universities in the region.
The Kansas City Blues Rugby Club was established in 1966 and has grown to field an active roster of 40 men from all over the Kansas City area who compete across three different age groups — the Old Boys Side, the collegiate Rugby 7s Academy and a U-19 high school team called the Junior Blues.
The Rugby Sevens division was recently announced as an addition to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.