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The Kansas City Blues earned their first league victory since joining the Midwest Saturday, beating the Milwaukee Barbarians 36-15 at Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo. The win pushes the Blues to 1-2 in league play and drops the Barbarians to 1-3.

Milwaukee opened scoring several minutes into the first half after a Nick Vigder cross kick was fielded and grounded in the corner. The difficult conversion was made, giving the Barbarians an early 7-0 lead. The Blues responded shortly thereafter when lock Brodie Orth bulled his way over the line for Kansas City’s first score. Kelly Mercer converted, knotting the game at 7-7.

The Blues, who were playing faster, both with the ball in hand and on defense, then continued their run for several more scores. Their pressure defense turned a bobbled ball in the Barbarians backline into a Conner Smith try the other way, giving Kansas City a 12-7 lead. Not long after, center Ed Mills made a line break that opened a hole for wing Kenny Scott to score through, and then debutant wing Gannon Moore, a former DII running back at Southwest Minnesota, scored, pushing the Blues’ lead to 22-17.

Vigder stopped the bleeding with a penalty, and the Barbarians spent most of the second half in the attacking end of the field, but they struggled to break the Blues defense and get over the line. Kansas City and Milwaukee then traded tries, the Barbarians’ unconverted, to make it 29-15 in the final 20 minutes.

The Barbarians got a clean break down the touch line late in the second half, but hustle from Blues fullback Jack Vogt saw the Barbarian wing pushed into touch after he crossed the goal line. The score, if converted, would have pulled Milwaukee within seven.

“Hard work pays off. We’ve been doing a lot of defensive work, especially, so it worked pretty well today,” said Blues coach Aseri Batiratu.

“That was the theme for today, was defense. Just play defense and we’ll play off the loose ball. That’s what the boys did, so we stuck to our game plan, keeping tight in the forwards and then releasing the backline to score.”

Mills added a try off an impressive individual break, which he converted, at the death to flatter the final score line. 

The Blues started their Midwest campaign 0-2, with competitive losses to the first- and second-place teams, Metropolis and Columbus. So while they’re currently on the bottom half of the table, the team is feeling good after Saturday’s win. And Batiratu, in his first year coaching the Blues, is happy with the squad’s progression, especially the part of the squad he was warned about coming into the job.

“Before I came I was told I needed to check on the forwards, so the forwards are pretty much doing their jobs right now, so all we have to do now is make sure the forwards are working with the backline,” said Batiratu. “The forwards, they are the main part of any rugby team. If our forwards are not performing well, there’s no use of a speedy backline. So it’s pretty much working out well.”