ST LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Kenny Robinson #23 of the St. Louis Battlehawks celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the first half of an XFL game against the NY Guardians at The Dome at America Center on February 23, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri.
(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

As professional football returned to the Gateway City, the New York Guardians were the victims on a day of celebration.

Professional football returned to St. Louis on a victorious note. A victory, however, required a victim.

The New York Guardians finally got back on the scoreboard but fell behind early to the St. Louis BattleHawks. Their failure to recover led to their second straight defeat, a 29-9 shellacking at The Dome at America’s Center.

Things unraveled right from the start, as St. Louis’ ground game amplified an already raucous crowd. All 72 yards of a four-play opening drive game through rushing, concluding with a 14-yard rush from Christine Michael.

The Guardians (1-2) were forced to make another change at quarterback, this one due to injury. Matt McGloin completed each of his first three passes on New York’s opening drive, but a rib injury forced him to the sidelines. Marquise Williams took the field and helped the Guardians partially take advantage of a good field position brought upon by a touchback on a St. Louis punt (XFL touchback rules place the ball on the receiving team’s 35-yard line).

New York scored for the first time in 17 possessions, using mostly rushes from Tim Cook and Darius Victor to earn a 53-yard field goal from Matthew McCrane.

The St. Louis lead was cut in half, but they instantly regrew it via a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown from Joe Powell.

McGloin returned to the game but was forced to play witness to further BattleHawk heroics. A blocked punt set them up nicely, and a short touchdown rush from Matt Jones made it 21-3. Alonzo Russell would score the two-point conversion afterward, courtesy of a “double forward pass.”

Passes from McGloin drove the Guardians all the way to the St. Louis 27 as the half neared its end, but a costly interception snagged by Kenny Robinson stifled New York momentum.

McGloin remained in the locker room as the second half began. He ended the game with a line of 8-for-11 for 84 yards.

With Williams given quarterback duties for a majority of the second half, the Guardians reached the red zone twice but failed to punch it in, suffering turnovers on downs. With Williams struggling (7-of-15, 94 yards), New York inserted their third and final quarterback, Luis Perez.

Perez was finally able to end the Guardians’ touchdown futility, as his eight-yard pass to Austin Duke ended a touchdown drought at 26 consecutive possessions. St. Louis (2-1) was able to snuff out the extra point via a sack.

The BattleHawks’ early success ensured that they would only require a 58-yard field goal from Taylor Russolino to keep New York at bay in the second half.

In defeat, New York rushers combined for a season-best 102 yards.

The Guardians will look to end their losing streak on Saturday at MetLife Stadium, as they return home to battle the Los Angeles Wildcats (2 p.m. ET, ABC).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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