The host Kansas City Blues went 5-0 Saturday to win the second West qualifier at Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo. They beat Glendale 22-17 in a thrilling overtime final.
In pool play, the Blues avenged a loss to the Oklahoma Rugby Academy in a prior tournament final with a 28-7 win over ORA, who added Eagle, All American and Army flyhalf Will Holder to the roster for Kansas City. They also scored four tries to El Azul’s one in their other pool match.
Glendale blanked the Kansas City Rogues 29-0 to start their day and then battled past a very physical and athletic Fort Worth team for a 7-0 win and a 2-0 start.
The Blues ran up against that same Fort Worth team, which favored a straight forward attack, in the Cup Quarterfinals and worked sideline to sideline for a 26-7 win. In their semifinal, the Blues jumped on the series-leading Denver Barbarians, coming off of a barn-burning 24-19 overtime win over Aspen in the quarterfinals, from the first kickoff.
The Blues ran in three tries in the opening half while starving the Barbos of possession en route to a 26-7 win. Kevin Schwartze excelled all day in winning restarts, including against Denver.
“He killed everybody today in the kickoffs,” said Blues coach Scott Kramm of Schwartze. “If we didn’t have that, we would have had totally different scores.”
Glendale reached the final following a well earned 19-7 win over El Azul and a nail-biting 14-12 win over The Woodlands Exiles, which was won on a conversion at the death.
The final didn’t take a backseat to the thrillers in the earlier knockout stages, as the Blues and Raptors, under the lights, had the attention of all the players and fans who endured the heat (reached a high of 106 in the air, and the tournament was played on synthetic turf) and waited until the near midnight kickoff.
The Blues led most of the game and at halftime, with wing Kenny Scott (Atlantis and West All-Stars) scoring two tries in the first half, but the Raptors kept equaling the Blues. An early Dewon Reed touchline conversion proved vital when Glendale and Kansas City ended regulation knotted up at 17-17 after Iniki Fa’amasuli scored near the death.
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However, the Raptors suffered two yellow cards in the game. The latter of the two offenses set the Blues up with possession five meters from Glendale’s try line, and Kansas City exploited the prime territory and one-man advantage to score the sudden-death try.
The Blues had no Eagles, All Americans or high-profile crossovers on the field Saturday. They won with a bunch of guys who play 15s for the club and several who have been on lackluster Blues 7s teams in the past, making the victory all the more satisfying.
“We’ve worked on a lot of patterns and stuff a long time, and we’ve been struggling with them. It seemed like everything clicked today. We finally played to the potential I think these guys have,” said Kramm.
“I think our guys have bought into a system and they play as a team. We don’t have any superstars, but I guarantee you there’s going to be a couple of names in the next few years people are going to start noticing.”
The tournament win is just a part of what’s been a resurgent 2012 for the club. The Blues, who became affiliated with Sporting Kansas City of the MLS last year, enjoyed a good 15s spring, too, tying then defending Nationals Champs Glendale at home and losing to eventual champs Belmont Shore by just two in the quarterfinals in Chula Vista, Calif.
“It’s exciting to be back to where we used to be, putting the Blues back on the national stage,” added Kramm, “and our team is so young, probably average age of 22-23, we’re going to be here a while.”
With one qualifier left, there are five teams still in the hunt for the West's two bids to Nationals: Denver, Glendale, the Exiles, Blues and Oklahoma Rugby Academy. ORA would have to take first at the final qualifier July 21 in Denver and get a lot of help to make Nationals, while the other teams control their own destiny, for the most part.
Blues 22-17 Glendale
Exiles 19-14 Denver
Blues 26-7 Denver
Glendale 14-12 Exiles
Blues 26-7 Fort Worth
Denver 24-19 Aspen
Glendale 19-7 El Azul
Exiles over Dallas
ORA over Rogues
Rogues over Ramblers
ORA over Bombers
Glendale 7-0 Fort Worth
Glendale 29-0 Rogues
Fort Worth 26-10 Rogues
Exiles 21-15 Aspen
Exiles 36-7 Ramblers
Aspen 17-7 Ramblers
Denver 42-19 Bombers
Dallas 42-0 Bombers
Denver 38-7 Dallas
Blues 28-7 ORA
El Azul 12-5 ORA
Blues 26-7 El Azul