The “forgotten Midwest championship” — MKE vs. INDY.

Cast your mind back fourteen years to April of 2009.

In the news, US Airways Flight 1549 (the “Miracle on the Hudson”) was still making headlines. President Obama completed his first 100 days in office, and swine flu was on the front page of every newspaper.

Smartphones were becoming popular with the iPhone less than 2 years old despite many of them still featuring only 2G connectivity.

Along with the mobile phone revolution, social media apps were blowing up. Facebook had released its phone app the prior summer, and the “Like” button” had just come out.

And in the rugby world, Ireland defeated Wales at Millennium Stadium (now the Principality Stadium) in the final match of the 2009 Six Nations to claim their first championship since 1985 and first Grand Slam since 1948.

Blinders for the Midwest playoffs

But in Milwaukee, all eyes were on the Midwest RFU playoffs scheduled for the weekend of April 25-26 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Both the Milwaukee Westside Harlequins (now known as Milwaukee Barbarians) and Milwaukee RFC were meeting in the Midwest RFU Division 2 semifinal on Saturday the 25th. The winner of the match would advance to the championship scheduled for the following day.

Although temperatures in the high-50s were perfect for rugby, it was a very wet weekend in Grand Rapids. The conditions were so bad that the semifinal kickoff had to be delayed by 90 minutes to allow for a break in the rain.

Once it did start, the match was littered with errors caused by the sloppy field conditions. Of course, this affected both teams equally, and after 67 minutes, the match was down to a single point with Quins ahead 17-16.

The match was firmly settled at the 73-minute mark when the Quins were awarded a penalty try following a collapsed scrum on the 5-meter line.

The Milwaukee Harlequins were off to the championship!

2009 Midwest Playoffs
2009 Westside Harlequins get ready to scrummage Milwaukee RFC.

A missed date with Indianapolis

On the other side of the draw, the Indianapolis Impalas met Scioto Valley, now known as the Columbus Rugby Club.

With a 33-15 victory, the Impalas had earned their spot in the championship as well.

So the table was set: Milwaukee would meet Indianapolis on Sunday, April 26, 2009.

But Mother Nature had other plans. The rain would not let up on Saturday to allow the fields to drain. And more precipitation was forecasted for Sunday the 26th.

The Midwest offered a choice to the teams: postpone the match to the following week in Indianapolis, or forgo the match entirely with both teams earning the title of “Midwest Division 2 Co-Champions.

With the top two teams in the Midwest already guaranteed a place at the 2009 National Sweet 16 tournament, Milwaukee and Indianapolis agreed to share the Midwest title, and the match was never played.

The Harlequins finished 7th in the nation that year, and the Impalas finished 4th. We can only imagine how exciting that “forgotten Midwest championship” would have been.

A match 14 years in the making

It’s been fourteen years since any men’s team from Milwaukee appeared in a Midwest Championship at any level. But on the back of an undefeated regular season, and a dramatic semifinal victory, they are set to return to the big dance.

In a stroke of pure karmic brilliance, Milwaukee is once again set to meet Indianapolis in the Midwest RFU Division 2 Championship as the Barbarians are scheduled to meet the Impalas!

Let’s hope the weather holds and the “forgotten Midwest championship” can be settled once and for all.

Kickoff is 11 AM at the Chicago Blaze facility in Lemont, IL. We expect all the matches to be live-streamed on YouTube via the Midwest Rugby Union channel.

Vic Drover
Vic Drover

Vic has a long history in and around the sport of rugby both in Canada and the US. He has played for and started numerous clubs (Vandal's RFC, Strathcona Druids, Suffolk Bull Moose, West Side Harlequins, Milwaukee Barbarians, Hamilton Girls Rugby), and served many roles over the years at all administrative levels. Vic joined the Harlequins in 2007 and remained an active club member through the transition to the Barbarians. These days, he spends his rugby time playing tag rugby and touring with the Old Boys, keeping the club website updated, helping organize the Lakefront 7s, and fundraising.

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