Friday Night Lights Shine Bright on Utah Versus Old Glory

Friday Night Lights Shine Bright on Utah Versus Old Glory

After a pair of close losses on the road, Old Glory DC is back at Segra Field on Friday night against the Utah Warriors. The visitors and OGDC share many similarities as both teams let their head coaches go midseason and are amid extended losing streaks. However, something has to break on Friday, and Old Glory is banking on the return of a few notable players to spur a victory. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and the game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington and the Rugby Network at 8:00 pm on Friday.

In partnership with the Embassy of Japan, OGDC will don a limited-edition Cherry Blossom kit for the match. Embassy of Japan’s Deputy Ambassador Tamaki Tsukanda and Spokesperson Masashi Mizobuchi will present the match ball to referees before kickoff, and the jerseys will be auctioned off following the match on April 23, with funds going to Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Additionally, Old Glory celebrates Japanese Heritage night with a Shintaido demonstration by Lee Ordeman and a taiko ensemble performance from Nen Daiko.

For the curtain-raiser, the final match of the Iron Vine Security Shield Series between Mount St. Mary’s and Mary Washington starts at 5:30 pm.

Victory Slips Away in Toronto

After an impressive showing against New York, Old Glory had the opportunity to secure its first win at Toronto. Unfortunately, the Arrows’ defense stood tall in the final sequence of the match to win 32-27. DC scored more tries than Toronto, but the home team was better with the boot kicking two of three conversions and two penalties.

“We got to be better in our start,” Head Coach Nate Osborne said. “That first six minutes was pretty horrible. We didn’t touch the ball, and they scored ten points. Missed a lot of tackles. We fought like we always do to get back into the game, and then another little lapse before halftime allowed Toronto to score two tries. If you watched the last 20 minutes, we played some great rugby. We want to take the momentum of that last 20 minutes into the [Utah] game.”

Significant Injuries and Notable Returns to the Lineup

On the injury front, Mike Dabulas is out for the foreseeable future with a lower leg injury, and Dom Bailey left the last game with a shoulder issue. The good news is that Doug Fraser will be back after being cleared from a concussion and Api Naikitini is on the gameday 23 after a healthy scratch.

The major headline is the return of Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz and Felix Kalapu from suspension. Head coach Nate Osborne expects a big contribution from both players in the second half of the season.

“It’s a big energy boost to get [Jama and Felix] back,” Jack Iscaro said. “They’ve been phenomenal over the last few weeks in practice and gave us a tremendous look. They’ve been a big reason why we’ve been trending upwards. We’re really excited to have them back in the lineup now and going out there with us. They are ready to get out and prove why they are out there.”

In the forwards, Jack Iscaro, Rob Irimescu, and Jake Ilnicki will line up in the front row with Tevita Naqali and Stan South as the locks. Kalapu and Cory Daniel will man the flanker position while Luke Campbell earned the start at eightman. Fa’anana-Schultz, Kyle Stewart, Mo Katz, Fintan Coleman, Jack Carroll, and Worth/Naikitini are the back-ups in the forwards.

With Dabulas out, Renata Roberts-Te Nana moves back to fullback, with Peni Lasaqa and Junior Sa’u completing the back three. Captain Danny Tusitala and Rohan Saifoloi are the halfbacks, and Thretton Palamo and William Talataina will line up in the centers. Fraser and Danny Thomas are the impact subs in the backs.

Fresh Off the Bye, Utah Comes Cross-Country to DC

Much like Old Glory, the Utah Warriors came into 2022 with tremendous potential but have struggled throughout the season. A three-game slide mired the Warriors’ first eight games to open the year, then a two-game jolt of victory, followed by another three-match disappointment. The last test was a 40-25 home loss to San Diego that ultimately resulted in the release of the 2021 MLR Coach of the Year, Shawn Pittman. Utah has had the bye week to adjust to new interim head coach Brandon Sparks and will be hungry to turn the ship around.

“Utah is a very unpredictable team,” Osborne said. “They can burn you from everywhere on the field if you are not careful. We know we have to match them physically, and if we can do that, we can dominate them. If you allow them to run at you and sit back and wait, they make you look silly. We’re going to take it to them this week and come out swinging.”

Fullback Mike Te’o leads the team with four tries, but the big question is whether Mika Kruse and Paul Lasike will make the trip to DC. Both were out against San Diego, and the bye week should help get them back on the field. Add in the front row of Olive Kilifi, Tuvere Vugakoto, and Angus MacLellan and the back row of Lance Williams, Bailey Wilson, and Jurie van Vuuren, Utah has the horses to compete with any team in the MLR.

According to Iscaro, the game plan is simple but relies on execution. “We have to start faster, so we don’t have to dig ourselves out of a hole. We have to be more disciplined and find a way to get points when we have opportunities. We got to play defense crazy, too.”

A Lot Left to Prove

“One of the teams is going to have to prove themselves this week,” Osborne said. “It’s easy to sit back and say we got a great team, but if you’re not aiming up on the field, [it’s all for not]. So the challenge this week is to make sure we aim up and want it more than them… We will be tight, be ready, and know our roles and responsibilities.”

“We’re trending upwards,” Iscaro remarked. “To be unsatisfied with a very narrow loss to a good team like Toronto shows where are mindset is. Our record is what it is, but I think we’re a good team, and we have a lot to prove.”

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