Old Glory back on the road for crucial Rugby ATL matchup


Old Glory DC are heading on down to Georgia for week eight of the 2023 MLR Championship. Following on from a pleasantly competitive loss at the hands of the San Diego Legion last time out, the OG’s are faced with a prime opportunity to get back to winning ways on the road in the Peach State.

Atlanta is not a team without history in MLR, winning the Eastern Conference title in 2021 before falling to the LA Giltinis in the MLR Championship. Despite their recent success, the team have had something of a fall from grace and find themselves enduring a difficult season, coming into this match sat second from bottom of the Eastern Conference with a record of 2-4, the same as Old Glory, but are three points behind us in the standings. They have worse points difference, fewer tries scored, and more tries conceded, all stats which bode well for the travelling side. 

Atlanta won their opening match of the season against the Toronto Arrows, the only team currently below them in the standings, and since then have only managed victory against the slow-starting NOLA Gold. Notable defeats include a home defeat to the San Diego Legion (10-35) and a high scoring loss to the Houston SaberCats (40-28), most recently suffering defeat on the road in New York (31-20).

Old Glory entered round seven on dubious form, shouldering back-to-back losses despite putting on impressive performances in both defeats. Last week’s 48-26 loss to the San Diego Legion saw the side bring home a bonus point, with two late Legion tries inflating and blowing the final scoreline out of proportion. The same can be said for the hugely frustrating NOLA Gold loss (17-20), which could have ended in victory had a handling error not curtailed a late push for the game winning try.

Old Glory’s recent performances have been incredibly promising, with the team looking to be within touching distance of the quality, polish, and consistency needed to mount our playoffs push despite sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 2-4 record. This weekend’s match in Atlanta will serve as the perfect opportunity to put on a show and level up our performances for the second half of the season.

The last time Old Glory and Rugby ATL came together was in March 2022, which Atlanta won 13-27 while Old Glory endured a transition season fraught with trials and tribulations. This year, though, Old Glory came into the match as favourites, but who might influence the game either way?

I’m sure none of the fans are bored of hearing his name yet, but Tito Diaz Bonilla remains an Old Glory star player. Against San Diego he was back to his brilliant best, with the tactical kicking we have all come to be so familiar with on full display as he chipped through and scored Old Glory’s first try of the day. He remains tied for MLR top scorer and will be sure to dictate the game on Saturday.

Also worth looking at will be Mike “Chicken” Dabulas and John Lefevre, who both scored impressive tries at the weekend. In addition, the recent signing of Langilangi Haupeakui could be set to make his Old Glory debut after joining the team on April 4.

In terms of our hosts, it will be important to keep an eye on ex-Springbok John-Roy Jenkinson. The prop has made professional appearances for Currie Cup contenders the Blue Bulls and the Leopards before moving to Georgia in 2022, and has impressed this season, appearing multiple times in the official MLR Team of the Week.

Another potentially influential player is Matt Heaton, a Canadian flanker clocking in at 6’2” and 224lbs. Unsurprisingly, the man is a physical force, and has put up impressive tackle numbers all season long, topping the week six tackle leaderboards with 24 hits in the aforementioned away loss to Houston.

This weekend’s matchup presents Old Glory with a fantastic opportunity to get back to winning ways, but are faced with an even opponent in Atlanta. It’s time for the OG’s to show put on a show the MLR what they can do.

-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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