After two tough defeats, Old Glory DC earned its historic first victory with a 28-7 win over the USA Rugby South Panthers on Saturday. DC overcame its own miscues and errors to score four tries in the contest while the defense held a robust South side to a single first half score. Individual play and miscommunication led to turnovers, but Old Glory turned it on in the final 15 minutes to close out the game. DC will now turn its attention to the Ontario Blues for its final exhibition of the spring on Sunday.
“We showed enough today and were dominant for a lot of the game,” visiting coach Andrew Douglas said of the match. “We got excited at times and didn’t show enough patience but we played some really good rugby in patches and it’s great to see more and more confidence grow.”
Captain Josh Brown added, “There was definitely a lot of frustration, especially in the first half, but we were able to recuperate, regain, and find our rhythm in the last 20-25 minutes.”
Lost opportunities plagued Old Glory in the opening few series with penalties and miscues miring progress. Poor discipline on both sides provided a choppy beginning but it was the Panthers who got the first shot at points in the ninth minute. It was for naught as the penalty sailed wide and DC went back on offense.
Old Glory had multiple instances of good go-forward ball, however, managed to shoot itself in the foot each time. It wasn’t until the 20th minute when DC put things together. After a penalty in the lineout gave back possession inside the 22, Brown charged at the line from the back of the scrum only to be held up in the endzone. The quick tap by Sean Hartig was swung wide and found Ryan Burroughs for the diving try in the corner. Nick Kuhl’s conversion was off the mark and DC was up 5-0 after 25 minutes.
It didn’t take Old Glory long to add to its lead. First, Burroughs bobbed and weaved through the defense and Kuhl added three points after an offsides call. Next, outside center Pita Moala broke the line for a 30-meter scamper and Oisin O’Neill finished it off with the score. With 30 minutes expired, OGDC led 13-0.
The South always rises and with defensive pressure, the Panthers disrupted the passing lanes and intercepted the ball. Vetekina Malafu tracked down the runner twice, but the Panthers were determined to find the tryzone and inside center Irving Carcamo slammed the ball down to shatter the shutout. Zach Miller’s conversion was good and the South trailed 13-7. Old Glory attempted to answer back, but time ran in the half.
After teams from Loudoun and Washington, D.C. Youth Rugby graced the field for the halftime minis, Old Glory kicked off to begin the second half. The South looked to have the momentum coming out of the break, but couldn’t find the endzone.
The squads exchanged possession back and forth before Kuhl connected with his boot for the first points of the half in the 54th minute. Following the kick, coach Douglas went to his bench relieving a third of his lineup. The subs brought some much-needed intensity and DC stood tall on the defensive line.
With the heat taking its toll on both sides, Old Glory looked to have more in the tank and showed it in the final quarter of the match. The South began to lose its shape on defense and DC exploited it. In the 70th, Brown got his team on the front foot with a tackle-busting run and his fellow forwards did the hard and nasty at the goal line. The pack lunged repeatedly for the score and lock Ayemere Oiyemhonlan found daylight for the five-pointer. Kuhl kicked the extras and the lead jumped to 23-7 with less than ten minutes to go.
DC wasn’t finished as holes opened up in the backline. The Chris Kunkel-Tevita Maitavuki connection was in full effect down the sideline and Kunkel dotted it down and nearly added another, but the ball was knocked forward. Soon after, the final whistle sounded and Old Glory notched its victory winning 28-7 over the USA Rugby South Panthers.
While Josh Brown, Oisin O’Neill, Ryan Burroughs, Fred Wintermantel, Nick Kuhl caught the coaching staff’s eye with their play, inside center Darien Pickett earned the game ball as Man of the Match. In his assessment, coach Douglas indicated, “in his first start, [Darien] carried really strong in the midfield, defended well, and gave us gain line, which is what we asked him to do. I thought Darien was very, very good today.”
Asked for his thoughts on the test, Panthers’ head coach Rene Daniels said, “[DC’s] set pieces came along a lot better than they have in the last couple of games. They had more ball in hand playing us than the two previous games and you could actually see their offense work. Some big hitting guys in the inside in the last 15 minutes and I thought they did well with the change at #10 (Tyler Myles) and that opened up the game a little bit and they started getting the ball wide where some of those scores came from.”
“Overall, the [South] guys are proud of how they played,” Daniels concluded. “[There was] ball opportunity within their 20 and we couldn’t. I think that was the difference in the scoreline.”
The last match of the exhibition season is Sunday and Brown has his focus set on following the trend. “We are getting better every single week. We have three or four more practices to go and we haven’t watched much film on Ontario yet. As far as we are concerned, it’s just another opponent, another rugby match. If we continue to play our game and play well, we see ourselves coming out with the victory.”
As for the owner’s reaction of Old Glory’s first win, Chris Dunlavey remarked, “How could I be happier? It’s win #1 of many. The most interesting thing is regardless of what’s shown on the scoreboard, the team’s performance is clearly improving every week. They played better this week than they did against Scotland and played better against Scotland than the week before that. I couldn’t be happier with the direction we’re moving in and putting in the right foundation for a long time.”
In the curtain raiser, two International Gay Rugby squads battled in the D.C. Pride Week showdown. What resulted was a blowout as the Washington Renegades crushed the Philadelphia Gryphons, 80-0.
Old Glory DC Roster:
Khalid Williams, Oisin O’Neill, Sam Morris, Ayemere Oiyemhonlan, Tyler Barberi, Dacoda Worth, Fred Wintermantel, Josh Brown, Sean Hartig, Selby Niumataiwalu, Vetekina Malafu, Darien Pickett, Pita Moala, Ryan Burroughs, Nick Kuhl, Chase Jollie, Cullen Barelka, Jack Iscaro, Ryan Smith, Mike Fletcher, Michael Reid, Chris Kunkel, Tevita Maitavuki, and Tyler Myles.
USA Rugby South Panthers Roster:
Zach Jessell, Matt Fontana, Jimmy Sheridan, Calvin Storey, William Waguespack, Colby Pearl, Cameron Tompkins, Jeff Herron, Reid Watkins, Anton Moore, Mikey Martinez, Irving Carcamo, Ross Depperschmidt, Sam Trammel, Zach Miller, Ernie Silva, German Jalil, Steven Cappello, Tommy Harry, Alex Turner, Scott Weber, Blessing Motaung, Zach Blaylock, David Caswell, Pat Audino, and Steven Mendez.