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In a game of two drastically different halves, the St. Louis Bombers blasted the Kansas City Islanders for four tries in the second half to capture the DII Frontier Championship, 20-10. Even though the weather didn’t cause a problem today, the aftermath of yesterday’s storm in Wichita, Kan. made the field a muddy mess. With the victory, St. Louis will take on the Life West Gladiators in the West Regionals in San Francisco, Calif. on May 30th.
The Islanders came out firing with ten points in the first half and clamping down on defense to shut out the Bombers. In the second, St. Louis rarely allowed their opponent to cross mid-field and scored 20 unanswered points to close out the match.
In his assessment of his team’s play, Ben Meyer, head coach of St. Louis, said, “In the first half, they came out sluggish. They were into the breeze and the kicking game was quite poor. In the second half, they came out a lot stronger. They really lifted as a team. They came together at half time and really brought it together and worked out what was going wrong. Came out in the second half, really lifted and brought it home strong.”
In the first half, Kansas City utilized the conditions and retained the majority of the possession as St. Louis failed to get their game plan rolling. The Islanders’ offense led to the game’s first try as flanker Danny Licciardi took an offload from a 15-meter scrum for points. Afele Taula tacked on the conversion and later in half, contributed with a penalty kick. With both sides of the ball playing well, confidence was high on the Kansas City side and they led 10-0 at the half.
At halftime, the coaches for St. Louis rallied their troops and adjusted their attack. The coaching focused on strategic kicking, playing to the conditions, and keeping up the pressure in the other team’s end. The players were told to lift the intensity and pace and based on the conditions, their fitness would be key.
The Bombers stormed out of the gate on the way to four tries in the period. Fullback Tyler Masters scored the first two tries with both coming off loose play around the 22 out to the backs for strikes. Both conversions missed, but St. Louis had tied the score at 10-10.
Kansas City continued to battle, however, the St. Louis offense was unrelenting. Matt Brotemarkle scored St. Louis’ third try to make it 15-10 off an eightman pick from the back of a five-meter scrum. With less than ten minutes left, Kansas City was unfortunately yellow carded and played a man down for the remainder of the game. The Bombers took advantage and flyhalf Mark Menne kicked a high ball where the winger mishandled the ball. In pursuit, scrumhalf Bryan Hebron was in position to collect the ball on a bounce and raced in 15 meters under the posts for the 20-10 victory.
Fotu Tauveli, the head coach of Kansas City, said that the difference in the match came down to depth and fitness. “They had a little more depth than us. We travelled pretty well, but fatigue and a couple injuries late in the game, we had to make some substitutions. They seemed like they were better poised to win the game. Just a really fit club, all athletic guys, good hitters, good tacklers and that ended up being the difference. They made less mistakes and their fitness was really on point.”
The western quarterfinal round of the National Playoffs set for the end of the mouth and St. Louis draws Life West out of the Pacific North. “We know that the Life West team is a very solid and strong team after making it to the National Championship in DIII,” Meyer stated. “They pretty much ran over every single team they played this season. Watching the footage from last year’s championship match and some footage that’s online, they got a lot of flair and a lot of strong runners.”
“What we feel that the key to beating them is very solid defense all around the park. Really manning up against their forwards and not giving them any space in the backline. Really shutting them down early because they get a lot of offloads away. Their game is based on possession, their offloads, and their Polynesian flair.”