Belmont Shore held on during a late comeback surge to beat the Kansas City Blues 22-20 in Chula Vista, Calif. Saturday. With the victory, Belmont advances to the semifinals in Glendale, Colo. June 2, where they’ll face Metropolis, 30-5 winners over Mystic River in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Belmont led the entire game, but the Blues were never out of it. The SoCal champs took the opening lead when Ed McKenna crossed for an unconverted try, and the Blues pulled to within two when Jordan Neville slotted a penalty kick shortly thereafter.
In the 14th minute Peter Sio dotted down for Belmont, extending their lead to 12-3, and the Blues responded with an intercept try from Kevin Schwartze to pull back within one score at 12-8.
Belmont’s pack then went to work, and lock and captain Ian Carpenter scored a try, converted by Kameron Moeller, to extend the Belmont lead to 17-8, which is how the half would end.
“Their energy level kind of rose a little bit after the intercept, but then we fought back well,” said Belmont coach Ray Egan. “We got a good well-worked forwards try. Two good pick-and-gos, some good offloads in tight, and we managed to crash over.”
In the 55th minute wing Kenny Scott scored the second Blues try, reeling Belmont closer at 17-13.
Belmont and the Kansas City slugged it out in the forwards for the next 15 minutes, trading possession, hard runs and one-up tackles, until Belmont inside center Ed Pitts broke through for a try, converted by Moeller, to put them up 22-20 with about seven minutes to play.
The Blues showed superior fitness and pulled back within two with a second Schwartze try, converted by Neville, in the 78th minute.
A tired Belmont managed to turn Kansas City over and run out the clock for the win.
“We kind of worked an awful lot on not losing control, not panicking, so we just went with the idea of kick it long into the corner with a good chase, put a bit of pressure on them,” said Egan. “We turned over the ball and went through a few phases. We got a penalty, we took the scrum and kicked it out to finish the game.”
The win sees Belmont to its second semifinal appearance in three years. Some of the names that lost to Las Vegas are the same, but the club has undergone an injection of youth, and Egan says playing a close game against a team the Blues’ caliber will pay dividends later.
“They really pushed us hard. It was a great game for us, because it’s probably the strongest team we’ve played all year,” said Egan, “so it was good for us to come through, for some of our young guys to come through and win those tight games.”
The loss ends a promising season for the resurgent Blues. They boast a relatively young lineup and are reaping the benefits of a well-oiled high school network and a partnership with Sporting Kansas City of the MLS. This could be the first of many playoff runs for the Blues in the coming years.
Belmont Shore 22
Tries: McKenna, Sio, Pitts, Carpenter
Kansas City 20
Tries: Schwartze (2), Scott