Old Glory and Austin Battle for Cuisine Solutions Cup in Season Finale
By Evan Lappen
It is only fitting that the last game of the season is for the Cuisine Solutions Cup. Presented to the winner of the annual match between Old Glory DC and the Austin Gilgronis, the Cup will be defended by Old Glory this Saturday at Segra Field, as OG strives to retain the trophy for another year. With neither club progressing to the postseason, the battle for bragging rights is at stake. The game kicks off at 5:00 PM and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington and the Rugby Network. Tickets are available online at Old Glory’s ticket page.
Join Old Glory for all the festivities when the gates to Segra Field open at 12:30 PM. The curtain raisers begin with the Met NY u23 All-Stars versus the Rugby South All-Stars at 1:00 PM, followed by the presenting sponsor Cuisine Solutions’ Stanislas Vilgrain’s Old Boys game between the Cardinals and Roosters at 3:00 PM. Additionally, the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s LOVEwork sign will be at the field to promote the message that “Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.”
With a resounding victory over San Diego last weekend, the OG’s are confident and motivated to end the season with their sixth win of the year. The team played more connected and consistent than in weeks past, and it showed on the field.
“We were more consistent for a full 80 minutes,” head coach Andrew Douglas said of last weekend’s match. “Against Toronto, we had seven minutes of drop off, and that cost us the game. Against San Diego, we stayed in the game a lot longer.”
It will be a competitive week of practice with the USA Eagle players rejoining a group riding high off the Legion win. Battles at almost every position will be fierce, with numerous guys playing at a high level. However, with most of the players available, the coaching staff has options.
Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, Mikey Sosene-Feagai, and Mike Dabulas will be ready; however, Jamie Dever (hamstring) and Cory Daniel (ankle) are out with injuries. Jack Iscaro and Dakota Worth will get a look after filling in nicely as replacements last weekend. Thretton Palamo is considered day-to-day with a nerve ailment, and Doug Fraser’s return from the UK has been delayed with Canada.
“The boys are excited to get back on the field this weekend and play together again,” Api Naikatini said. “Especially because it’s the last game of the season, the boys are up for it. The attitude we are going to bring this Saturday has to match the attitude from last weekend or better.”
“We are focused on our game and trying to finish on a high this season,” Naikatini added. “Not focused on what [Austin] is going to bring personnel-wise. We are mainly focused on our game and what we are going to bring on Saturday to get that win and executing it on the day.”
Awaiting Old Glory is a team wholly different from what it faced in Week 4 of last year. The Austin Gilgronis went through a total squad overhaul and only retained 13 players from last season’s 1-3-1 record.
“They are a completely different team now,” Douglas said. “You can’t really compare the two years that Austin had. They had a complete reshuffle of coaching and playing roster. You can’t take anything out of last year’s game. It was nice to win down there for Stan with Cuisine Solutions and the trophy, but it’s a very different lineup this year.”
The coaching and personnel change worked as the AGs went 9-6 this season and were only one standing point away from remaining in the playoff hunt this Saturday. Before the LA loss last Saturday, Austin had one of the best runs this season, going on a four-game heater where they outscored their opponents 144-85.
The AGs get back four of their Eagles this weekend, with Bryce Campbell, Ruben de Haas, Will Magie, and Conner Mooneyham rejoining the club. Add them to the likes of the front row of Jamie Mackintosh, Hugh Roach, and Mason Pederson and a backline featuring Frank Halai, Zinzan Elan-Puttick, Pele Cowley, Mack Mason, and Kurt Morath, it’s no wonder why the Gilgronis were contenders this season.
“They like to go through Halai and the big boys to get their gain line for them, and that forward pack works pretty hard,” Douglas indicated. “They are a pretty complete team. #9 and #10 are pretty experienced with Cowley and Morath. They have some good playmakers and drivers around there.”
Coach Douglas knows what Old Glory needs to do to win. “Set piece is going to be really important. We have to win our own ball and pressure theirs. If we can win the contact battle, it will go a long way to winning this game. Defense is always essential, but we have to slow their ball down at the same time as getting ours quick. If we can keep the ball for longer periods of time, it will be a big difference in the game… It has to be a whole team effort, 100%. The whole team has to front.”
Naikatini summed up the key simply. “It’s getting excited to play. We need to get excited once we get that ball in hand. Show what we can do as a team. We show that on the field at training and we need to transfer that to Saturday. I’m sure most of the boys are really excited to get onto the field this weekend and just play and enjoy each other’s company.
“This will be the last time most of us will be playing alongside each other with a few boys leaving. It’s always good to finish on a high and enjoy each other’s company while on the field. Make it memorable for the fans and make them excited about what we can display on the day.”