After opening each of the last two seasons against the NOLA Gold in New Orleans, Old Glory DC this year tackles their Eastern Conference foes in Week 8, this coming Saturday. The series between the two teams has been characterized by feisty and tempestuous clashes, and OGDC will look to get their first win over their rival. NOLA is 2-0 on the road this season, but Old Glory is desperate for its first victory. Look for the crowd to be rocking on Saturday afternoon for Womens and Girl’s Rugby Day at Segra Field, with the kickoff at 3:00 pm. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and the game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington and the Rugby Network.
A Disappointment on Sunday
In the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to Rugby ATL, Old Glory has taken a long, hard look inward and plans to concentrate on playing as a team and not as individuals.
“I don’t think it’s the coaches. It’s the players,” lock Stan South said. “We’re the ones on the field, and we’re the ones making mistakes. Our systems work. If you look at the first half in the Atlanta game, we spent 37 minutes defending our own end line. We didn’t have a lot of possession in the first half, but when we did get down inside their 22, we came away with points. We spent the rest of the half back inside our 40 meters.”
“Our defense was good when we stuck to our systems, but people started getting bored and tried to solve problems by themselves,” South continued. “Discipline came in, and we started to get marched back. I think the coaches are doing everything they can and more, but I think it’s the players.”
Changes in the Lineup
There will be changes in the starting lineup as the coaching staff looks to jumpstart the offense against NOLA. After adding some pop to the backline in the second half versus Atlanta, Mike Dabulas will take over at flyhalf, replacing Rohan Saifoloi. In the forwards, Tevita Naqali returns from injury and will immediately slot in at flanker opposite of Felix Kalapu, who had an impressive debut last weekend.
Old Glory will also welcome Facundo Gattas to the MLR this Saturday. The 26-year-old has 37 caps with the Uruguayan National team at hooker and played most recently for Hindú in Argentina. While only being in the USA for a few days, Gattas will provide a refreshing punch as a replacement.
Along with the return of Naqali at flanker, Jack Carroll replaces Kyle Stewart in the front row. The Gonzaga product joins Jake Ilnicki and Rob Irimescu as the starters. Stan South and Api Naikitini are back at lock, and Luke Campbell returns at #8 following a solid match against Atlanta. Dom Bailey, Cory Daniel, Will Vakalahi, Stewart, and Gattas will come off the bench in the forwards.
In the backline, captain Danny Tusitala will team with Dabulas in the halfbacks, while Junior Sa’u and William Talataina are in the midfield. Peni Lasaqa, Doug Fraser, and Renata Roberts-Te Nana return in the back three. Solfoloi, John Lefevre, and Owen Sheehy are the impact subs in the backs.
NOLA Hot on the Road
Despite its 2-4 record, NOLA has played its best on the road this season. The Gold struggled out of the gate, losing its first three games in New Orleans, but rebounded with a two-game winning streak against Seattle and Dallas on the road. In the six games played, NOLA has only led at halftime twice, but it ended up winning both games.
The Gold will look to dominate early with their forwards and set-piece led by Cam Dolan. Their weapons are plentiful in the backline with Robbie Coleman, Nick Feakes, JP du Plessis, and Juan Cappiello. Add in the boot of Carl Meyer, NOLA has shown it can compete with anyone as four of its games this year have been decided by less than a try.
“[NOLA] has a good kicking game in Robbie Coleman and the big boy [Carl] Meyer at fullback,” head coach Andrew Douglas said. “They have long kicks that turn you around and play in your part of the field. They have a big midfield that likes to dent your line. They are a good team that can certainly do damage. Cam Dolan has been their leader for a long time, and their lineout is pretty efficient.”
After watching the film from the loss against New York last weekend, Douglas reflected, “You have to pressure their set-piece, and New York did that pretty well. Our set-piece wasn’t great against Atlanta, so they will expect a big reaction for our boys around that area. If we dominate the set-piece and the territory battle, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Finding the Rhythm at Segra
Old Glory’s defense has stepped up in recent weeks, but it’s now time for the offense to find its rhythm and wake up. “We got to hold onto the ball,” South said. “Simple things like that. Ball presentation and ball security weren’t there, which is a basic thing. Being able to hold on to the ball for longer phases and not get bored. Use our dangerous men like Peni [Lasaqa] as he started playing his game right towards the end. We need to give him the ball more and have more runs as he did. We got to have fun while we’re playing rugby and at the moment, it isn’t easy to. As senior boys, we have to lead [this team].”
The need and want for the team’s first win are extremely palpable. “It will be like a weight’s lifted,” South insisted. “Everyone goes through these rough patches in sport. It’s not like we’re not trying. We’re working our asses off. Once we get that win and we get that win, you will be able to see how much it means to us. We’re all desperate for it. We want it, and we need it.”
“The best thing about rugby is there is always another week,” South said. “Another week to rectify your mistakes, another week to go out and prove to people that you can be better.”