Old Glory endured a difficult match against the Houston SaberCats on Friday night as they struggled to a 31-7 defeat on the road.
To say that nobody saw this coming would be a lie. After clinching a playoff spot last weekend in New Orleans, Old Glory really had nothing to play for beyond home field advantage in the first round. Naturally, head coach Josh Syms chose to rest quite a few of his usual starters, opting for a younger, less experienced squad while relegating serial starters Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, Jack Iscaro, and Danny Tusitala to an unfamiliar seat on the substitute’s bench. With the SaberCats still pushing to confirm a playoff spot of their own, it would have been naïve for Old Glory fans to expect a positive result.
Unfortunately for Old Glory the floodgates opened early, with Houston scoring their first of the day a mere 17 seconds after kickoff. A fumbled kick-off gifted Houston possession immediately, and the SaberCats wasted no time in kicking past the DC defense to score through Dyer. A missed conversion offered Old Glory temporary salvation before the hosts doubled their lead just seven minutes later, again through Dyer but in the opposite corner, for variety. A third try at the 20-minute mark from miniature fly-half Davy Coetzer compounded DC’s miserable first half, where the away team’s only salvation was a fortunate penalty try awarded after a dubious perceived foul in a maul.
The whistle which opened the second half heralded little improvement for either side. Old Glory played to a similar standard as the first half, picking up a little with the introduction of some of the aforementioned benched starters, while Houston lifted off the gas. The Cats still managed to lay on two more tries to make the scoreline look that little bit more impressive. A late red card shown to Houston’s replacement lock Danny Barrett did little to slow their roll as they cruised to a rather comfortable victory, the tenth of the season for Houston.
As Old Glory have already qualified for the postseason, this loss will have little impact on their season’s fortunes. With one more match left to play before the playoffs begin, a home match against Rugby ATL, Old Glory can still push for the extra points needed to secure home field advantage for that first knockout match against Rugby New York. This loss also means that Old Glory will finish the regular season with a losing record, though it will still be the most successful in the club’s short history.
This match proved to be largely educational for Old Glory, with plenty of the club’s lesser-known players getting a rare opportunity to stretch their legs on the turf and show the OGDC faithful what they can do. On his MLR debut, Koikoi Nelligan was largely responsible for our penalty try, and Langilangi Haupeakui played as well as ever as he donned the captain’s armband for the first time. John LeFevre became just the second player to ever start at scrum half for Old Glory, producing an assured performance in Tusitala’s stead. Starting at full back for the third time this season, Owen Sheehy was kept busy by the relentless SaberCats’ attack, displaying an exemplary work rate and never-say-die attitude, balancing his defensive responsibility with some creative challenges in attack. Mike Weir’s maiden 40 minutes of MLR rugby were also solid, with the ex-Dartmouth fly-half slotting nicely into the defensive back three and playing comfortably in possession. Despite the rather lopsided scoreline, there are evidently some positives to take with us back to DC.
Next time out, Old Glory will take on Rugby ATL at Segra Field in what could be looked at as a curtain raiser for the club’s first ever playoff campaign, where a win could see us secure Segra Field as the venue for our preliminary knockout match, pending results elsewhere in the league. We hope to see you all there!
-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge