Old Glory brace for difficult Seawolves clash


It feels as though I have written this in quite a few preview articles this season, but Old Glory are once again ramping up for a season defining thirteenth match of the 2023 MLR season as we prepare to host the Seattle Seawolves.

Since the league’s inception back in 2017, the Seawolves have consistently been among its finest teams, playing in three out of four MLR Championship matches and winning two of them (2018, 2019). They have done little to slow this momentum in 2023, currently sitting second in the incredibly competitive Western Conference with a 10-2 record. They boast one of MLR’s most formidable attacks, having scored a league leading 396 points.

They sit just five points off the top of the table after spending much of the first half of the season at the league’s summit before suffering back-to-back losses at the hands of the San Diego Legion (20-23) and the Utah Warriors (41-35) after winning their opening six matches. They have gone on to win all four of their matches since this anomalous blip in form, results which included a 61-19 battering of the Dallas Jackals and a 34-17 drubbing of the Houston SaberCats.

It goes without saying that Seattle will likely mark our toughest match between now and the end of the regular season, but there is plenty for Old Glory to play for. We also find ourselves in second place in our division, though just seven points separate us from fifth place, meaning that any points we can manage will be crucial for our playoffs bid. Despite a disappointing midweek draw with the Toronto Arrows last time out (which was one missed conversion away from an embarrassing loss), we have managed to hold on to our divisional position, but as we get down to the business end of the season the room for mistakes will be getting smaller and smaller. With all that said, points will likely be tough to come by on Sunday, and the OGs will have to be on top of their game to upset their visitors.

You might be surprised to learn that Old Glory have never actually lost to the Seawolves in two previous meetings, defeating the Northwestern outfit first in February 2020 (28-22) and again in May 2021 (22-18). Both of these meetings took place at Catholic University, the fortress which we called home in the early days of our MLR journey, meaning that this weekend will mark Seattle’s first visit to Segra Field. I’m sure that the OGDC faithful will give them a very pleasant welcome.

As previously mentioned, weaknesses in the 2023 iteration of the Seattle Seawolves squad seem to be few and far between. Looking purely at points scored and conceded, they have the best attack in the league and the third best defence, second only to San Diego and New England.

Seattle’s weaknesses are hard to discern. In their defeat to the Utah Warriors, two of the Seawolves’ conceded tries came from missed tackles, though the rest seemed to come more from a confident and fiery Utah offense than Seattle’s defensive shortcomings. In the San Diego loss, very few tries were scored at all as both teams exchanged penalty kicks in the opening quarter of the match. The eventual tries came from a several-phase try-line attack, a stolen scrum, a missed tackle which led to a breakaway try, and an unrecovered grubber.

These are not comforting facts. Even in the matches they lose, the Seawolves make very few mistakes and concede even fewer tries. However, I have come up with a couple of pointers from my research. First, they struggle to deal with champagne rugby, the kind of fast paced, flowy, offload-heavy play that Old Glory tend to enjoy. Some pundits have called it “chaotic,” but when it works, it is near impossible to deal with. Second, they struggle in transition, conceding a couple of tries or at least some territory after losing the ball in free play and to set pieces. Ultimately, though, mistakes will be hard to come by, and the OGs will have to be at their absolute best in order to exploit the few mistakes which come.

So, if you’re looking for one or two specific players to worry about rather than sweating over the entire Seattle lineup, I would recommend directing that negative energy at Ricky Hatting, AJ Alatimu, and Jordan Chait. Hatting is the league’s leading try scorer (11), and has scored 59 points this season, while Alatimu and Chait have scored 71 and 64 points each. Between them, they have scored a total of 197 points, 61% of Old Glory’s tally for the season so far. If any Seawolves are going to score this weekend, I’d put my money on it being at least one of these three.

Looking at Old Glory, one might expect to see a gameday squad similar to that which faced the Free Jacks a couple of weeks ago. Lasaqa’s try against the Arrows will likely see him return to the starting lineup alongside players who were given a rest day in Toronto, such as Langilangi Haupeakui and Tito Diaz Bonilla.

-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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