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Metropolis, Columbus, the Chicago Lions, and Milwaukee were all winners over the Labor Day weekend in the Midwest. Metropolis stands alone as the only undefeated team in the division, while Chicago, Columbus, and Milwaukee are standing at 2-1 each.
Metropolis continued its strong start to the season with a 20-16 road win over the Palmer Dragons in Davenport, Iowa. Similar to the Chicago match, penalty kicks were exchanged early, this time with fullback Bryan Ptomey for Metropolis and #10 Gareth Lourens trading blows. At halftime, it was all knotted up at six apiece.
Coach Rob Holder brought in his reserves early in the second half and the fresh legs sparked his team to victory.
“It was really our impact subs that made the difference,” he explained. “We had a good bench; the first time we had a full bench all year. It was tied at half and the guys came on and brought some energy and just made a really good impact.”
One of the reserves that stood out Pita Naruma, who quickly made his impact felt with a critical try at 45’. Scrummy Trace Bolstad followed up at 59’ and Ptomey converted to give Metro a commanding 20-6 lead with 20 minutes left to play. That was all the scoring Metropolis needed, though a converted Palmer try at 62’ and a penalty kick at 70’ made for a hard-fought final ten minutes. In the end, Metropolis held onto the win, 20-16.
Columbus rode a hot start to a 37-12 victory over the Wolfhounds in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eightman Riekert Hattingh (2) and the boot of captain Taylor Howden pitted the visitors to a 15-0 lead 24 minutes into the match. Cincinnati responded with a penalty kick at 35’, but Columbus hooker Alec Janotka notched a try just before halftime and got a second right after to put Columbus up big, 25-3. Cincinnati pulled within 25-12, but tries from inside center Roland Suniula, wing Derek Patick, and another conversion by Howden ended this one, 37-12.
The Chicago Lions rebounded from last week’s loss to Metropolis via a 33-16 road win over the crosstown Griffins. Two Andrew Suniula penalty kicks sandwiched one from the Lions' JP Eloff to give the Griffins an early 6-3 lead. Lions’ wing Spencer Cameron notched the game’s first try, but Griffins’ hooker Josefa Kafatolu answered and the Suniula conversion put the hosts up 13-8. The teams again swapped leads with the Lions going up via converted try from scrummy Kevin Lydon, then another Suniula penalty kick. Eloff’s second PK just before halftime finally gave the Lions a lead they would not relinquish, though the halftime margin was just two points at 18-16.
The Lions defense shut out the Griffins in the second half as the visitors added two more tries to the tally. Prop Frikkie DeBeer extended the Lions’ advantage to 25-16 at 50’ and wing Jacob Hidalgo finished the scoring for the game’s final margin, 33-16.
Lions’ coach Dave Clancy pointed to smarter play, tactical kicking, and some impact reserves as the keys that sparked his team in the second half. “We improved our discipline and kicked better, allowing us to play in the right areas of the field,” Clancy explained. “From there, we had a strong bench and retained the ball, allowing us to set our backs free with some space.”
Eric Williams earned Man of the Match in his first DI start at inside center. The scrummy Lyndon also stood out with a nifty kick for Cameron to chase down for the try, which helped key the change in momentum.
The Milwaukee Barbarians hit the road and upset the Kansas City Blues in Kansas City, Mo., 31-22. The opening tries from wing Cody Weber and lock Matt Wirken spotted the Blues a 12-0 lead in the first ten minutes of the match. With a two-possession disadvantage and a man in the bin, things did not look good for Milwaukee early.
However, the Barbarians held on for the ten-minute penalty, returned to fifteen strong and immediately were back in the game with a try from Matt Drzewiecki, converted by scrummy Nick Vigder, to make it 12-7 at 21’. That score held until 45’ when Vigder struck and converted his own to put the visitors up 14-12. KC's Mike Mercer gave his squad the lead back with a penalty kick, but Milwaukee answered as Drzewiecki notched his second and Vigder was good again for the conversion. Kansas City then jumped back on top with the try and conversion from Richard Korvick and Mercer.
The one-point lead held until Milwaukee eightman Kyle Cwiklis found pay dirt to give his team a 26-22 lead. Barbarians’ lock Ben Bastian sealed the victory for the visitors at 77’ for the game’s final score, 31-22.
Alexander is a beat reporter for Rugby Today, published author, freelance sports writer and club rugby player for the Potomac Exiles and the Beltway Elite 7s. For more rugby action and his sports takes, follow him on Twitter @alexanderdiegel.