Although Old Glory DC has been eliminated from the MLR playoffs, this Sunday’s final home game at Segra Field against Rugby New York has immense postseason implications. New York is tied with Rugby ATL for second place in the Eastern Conference and has Toronto nipping at their heels in fourth. Old Glory’s early April match marked a resurgence for the club as it played a tight, physical match and only lost by four points. DC will attempt to be spoilers in New York’s postseason ambitions and show the Old Glory faithful what’s to come in the future. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster for Sunday’s 2:30 pm kickoff, which will also be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington and the Rugby Network.
Sunday is Military Appreciation Day at Segra Field. Old Glory will honor those who have served with a limited-edition military-themed kit, which will be auctioned off with proceeds donated to Veterans Moving Forward. Additionally, the team will launch the Tries for Troops campaign that will dedicate tries scored by both sides to military members of the Old Glory community on our social media and website.
Adding to the festivities, Old Glory has a host of guests planned throughout the day. The organization welcomes back OGDC and Springbok legend, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, for a Meet and Greet at the Veterans Moving Forward tent from 11:45-12:00 pm. On the concourse, the Premier Rugby Sevens, a domestic professional sevens league for men and women, will be on hand to promote their tournament stop at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, July 16.
For the curtain-raiser, Young Glory U23 will take on the NY Foundry, Rugby New York’s U23 squad, at noon. Finally, at halftime of the MLR match, NOVA Women’s Rugby will be celebrated for winning their second consecutive D1 Club National Championship.
Fireworks Expected for New York Rematch
For the penultimate test of the year, the coaching roster has shaken up the rotation. There are four new starters in the forwards, with Stan South taking over for a suspended Api Naikitini at lock, Kyle Stewart returning to tighthead, Luke Campbell back at eight-man, and Felix Kalapu at blindside flanker. In addition, Jack Iscaro and Mo Katz return to the front row, along with Tevita Naqali at second row and Cory Daniel at flanker.
In the backs, the halfback tandem of Danny Tusitala and Rohan Saifoloi are back for their seventh straight pairing together. William Talataina, who scored a pair of tries against Houston, will be joined by Doug Fraser in the centers. Junior Sa’u and his seven tries move to the wing to partner with the elusive Peni Lasaqa (tied for fifth in the MLR with eight tries) and the Super Saiyan blue-haired Renata Roberts-Te Nana in the back three.
Coach Osborne will go for the 6-2 split in the reserves with Rob Irimescu, Jake Ilnicki, Will Vakalahi, Dom Bailey, Josh Brown, Dacoda Worth in the forwards, and John Rizzo and John Lefevre in the backs.
A Lot to Play for on Sunday
When Rugby New York comes to Segra Field on Sunday, there will be a ton on the line. New York has their playoff lives at stake and has to keep pace with the two other contenders in the hunt. Old Glory finds itself in the role of spoiler with nothing to lose in the last games of the season.
Before last weekend’s 38-3 loss to Atlanta, New York was on a three-game roll with wins over NOLA, Toronto, and Seattle. Atlanta won the physicality battle with an aggressive, stout defense and took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes with quick ball on offense. Old Glory will attempt to replicate that strategy and punish NY upfront in the forwards.
The game in New York in early April was the first step in Old Glory’s resurgence and the team hopes to tap into that energy, minus the discipline issues that plagued that match and last Saturday.
“We changed it all up and decided to play fast and aggressive footy [in April],” Roberts-Te Nana said. “It showed in that game, and similar to Houston, discipline didn’t help us in the end, but we were there against them. ATL paved the blueprint for us to follow. If we bash them upfront, our backs will have a field day. They have some world-class backs, but just how ATL showed, it doesn’t matter whom they have on paper. It’s about who shows up on the day.”
One of the biggest strengths of New York is its back three of Ed Fidow, Andrew Coe, and former All-Blacks’ Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo.
“They got two All Blacks and a Samoan international on the wings and fullback,” Head Coach Nate Osborne said. “If they are not winning the middle, not getting good go-forward ball, and we disrupt their lineout and scrum, their boys aren’t going to touch the ball. So it’s going to be a battle up front and whichever team can take the ascendency through the tight five… We have to start fast, and we got to understand that as soon as that whistle blows, it’s that mindset of not giving them anything.”
Time to Show the Real Old Glory at Segra
With only two games left, players are playing not just for the win on Sunday but for all those who have supported them in the good times and bad. Everyone knows change is expected in the offseason, and the team wants to show that potential for the future.
“We all know we can beat any team,” Roberts-Te Nana stated. “We got the capability within our squad to do it, and we’ve shown it in glimpses. The margin for error is getting smaller every year. We need to take a good look in the mirror from 1 to 15 to 23 everyone in the office. If we want to do a good job, we need to be on the same page.”
“It’s been a tough year,” Roberts-Te Nana concluded. “To watch it all season, from me and all of us at Old Glory, we do appreciate all the support everyone gives us week in, week out. We might not often deserve it, but behind the scenes, we are trying as hard as we can. We don’t plan to lose. This is our last home game, and we are going to give everything left in the tank and look forward to putting on a great performance.”