With a hard-fought draw against Milwaukee RFC, the Barbarians conclude an undefeated regular season and look towards the playoffs: hosting the Eastside Banshees on 11/4 at Brown Deer Park.
Check out the match video if you prefer to watch how it all shook out on Saturday.
Pressure to secure a home semifinal
With last week's victory over Green Bay, the Barbarians had clinched a spot in the Midwest playoffs against the Eastside Banshees from Minnesota. But home field advantage was still up for grabs in that semifinal.
The Barbarians needed 2 more match points to force the Banshees to travel, and today's match against MRFC gave them three opportunities:
- 4 points for a win.
- 2 points for a draw.
- 2 points for a loss less than 7 while scoring 4 or more tries.
The Banshees have only lost once this season, and the loss came during an away match. So the pressure to obtain those 2 league points and secure home field advantage was intense.
And having played many tight matches against MRFC in recent years, the Barbarians were taking nothing for granted in today's Mikwaukee derby.
MRFC dominates the first half
The match began with caution as both sides took the measure of their opponent. But a long and clinical period from MRFC, and some handling errors from the Barbarians, gave an early territorial advantage to the visitors.
After sustained pressure in the Barbarians red zone, MRFC scored a patient, physical try to take the lead 5-0.
The 1st half continued mostly in the same manner with MRFC dominating possession and grinding out two more tries to a 19-3 lead.
But as halftime approached, the Barbarians offense found a series of successes leading to a converted try. At the whistle, they had narrowed their deficit to just seven with a 19-10 scoreline to the visitors.
Barbarians build steadily in the second half
After the break, the Barbarians continued to claw their way back into the match. The error rate for the hosts dropped, and some substitutions bolstered the roster.
Numerous stolen lineouts also saw the Barbarians gain back some of the ground lost in the possession statistics in the first half.
But MRFC were still hungry, defended well, and had a lot of success poaching possession from Barbarian rucks. As a result, the second half felt like a very tight affair.
But the Barbarians defended strongly and continued to press on offense. As full time approached, they had earned two tries and a conversion while holding MRFC to just a penalty kick.
A mature decision to guarantee home field advantage
With time nearly expired, the Barbarians knew they had enough league points to secure home field advantage if they could at least maintain the current scoreline. But a late penalty awarded to the Barbarians inside the MRFC half made for a difficult decision.
The first instinct would be to kick for the corner and use the lineout as a platform to try to win the match. The risk would be an error resulting in MRFC possession and a long-range try. With only 3 tries on the scoreboard for the Barbarians, a loss like this would net only one league point and give the Banshees home-field advantage.
But cooler heads prevailed. Veteran flanker Jeff Cebe suggested that rather than risk a loss and perhaps even a last-minute injury, it might be wiser to kick the ball into touch and forgo the lineout altogether. Captain Tom Fossell ageed, bringing the nail-biting spectacle to an end.
With the final score of 22-22, the Barbarians completed an undefeated regular season with a 7-0-1 record.
Final Regular Season Standings
|D2 GREAT LAKES LEAGUE||GP||W||L||T||PF||PA||PD||BT||BL||FF||PTS|
|GREEN BAY RUGBY||8||5||2||1||348||199||149||6||1||0||29|
|FOX VALLEY MAORI||8||2||6||0||252||375||-123||5||1||0||14|
|CHICAGO LIONS D2||8||0||7||1||124||392||-268||2||0||1||3|
Midwest semi-final - 11/4 at 1PM
On Saturday, the Barbarians will host the Eastside Banshees at Brown Deer Park at 1PM.