Old Glory DC will conclude its road trip to the Lone Star State on Saturday, when it faces the Austin Gilgronis at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. OGDC is amped after its second straight victory, while the Gilgronis had to settle for a draw after its opponent scored on the last play of the match this past weekend. This week’s game will carry extra weight, as it will be Austin’s Military Appreciation Match and the sides will be playing for the first annual Cuisine Solutions Cup. Old Glory hopes to bring the Cup and a 3-1 record back to the District for its next home game on March 8th.
Old Glory’s fourth match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington at 4:00 pm on Saturday. If you want to watch with the rest of the OGDC faithful, join us at the official watch party at Exiles Bar, located at 1610 U Street NW in Washington, D.C.
Looking back at Houston, head coach Andrew Douglas had a frank assessment of the test. “It was good to get a win, but it was pretty ugly, to be honest. We were disappointed in our performance as we could have been a lot better in terms of holding the ball for longer periods of time. We kept them in the game in the first half with errors and penalties.”
“Honestly, we defended really well in the second half and took our opportunities. Houston got a lot of penalties and was kicking out of their 22. We wanted to come away with some sort of points when we got down there, but we need to be a lot better in terms of keeping the ball for longer periods of time. Our set piece is still a little bit of a concern, so I think if we can hold onto the ball, we’ll be better off.”
The #9-#10 combination was key to the victory as Danny Tusitala and Jason Robertson commanded the offense with speed and quick ball. “They made some really good decisions driving us around the park,” Douglas stated. “They got hit off the ball quite a bit but they kept their composure and kept their heads in the game.”
Robertson’s 17 total points from the tee earned him his second nod in the MLR’s First XV and is considered by many as one of the league’s best flyhalves. Douglas recognized his efforts and others by saying, “Jason obviously kicked really well and put us in good positions to create things. Mungo Mason is working really hard at the moment and leading from the front. Ciaran Hearn is our glue and is a guy that keeps everything together and takes a lot of pressure off Jason. Those guys are really stepping up.”
As for the scrum, there are no reinforcements coming from outside the club. “It’s just hard work with Tendai [Mtawarira] and he is working hard with the scrum to make improvements.” That being said, Old Glory won 80% of its scrums versus the SaberCats, and eightman Jamason Fa’Anana-Schultz was essential in picking the ball at the back and moving the pack forward.
Speaking of the Beast, there are no worries for his halftime exit against Houston. “We don’t really make pregame calls and how long players will get,” Douglas added. “We just try to read the situation that appears. Obviously, Tendai was pretty sore at halftime, so we didn’t want to risk him any further. Will [Vakalahi], Jake [Turnbull], and Max [Lum] showed good energy before so they got in the game early and did really well. It’s all about bringing some energy on and try and change the way the game was going. The bench put us in the last 30 minutes.”
Old Glory hopes to extend its winning streak to three games on Saturday, but a much-improved Austin squad is standing in the way. After opening its season with two defeats, the Gilgronis halted their 20-game losing skid with a 20-20 draw against the Utah Warriors.
Coach Douglas knows not to underestimate his opponent no matter what their record suggests. “They’re an unknown package. With a few personnel changes, it’s hard to know what to expect. They are improving every game, and they are going to be tough, especially down there in San Antonio for the Cuisine Solutions Cup. They will be motivated to beat us and come away with the win. They nearly won last weekend, so they will be disappointed they didn’t get those points. I’m sure they will be looking to make amends this weekend.”
The personnel changes spoken of are the additions of former All Blacks prop Jamie ‘Whoppa’ Mackintosh and wing Frank ‘the Tank’ Halai. The 6’4” 287 lbs prop and 6’5” 231 lbs winger made immediate impacts for the Gilgronis. Mackintosh played 67 minutes in his debut and was a force in the breakdowns with a total of 34 ruck arrivals and 11 cleanouts. Halai came off the bench at halftime proceeded to lead his team with 58 hard meters made and was the finishing touch on a team try in the second half.
“If you’re on the All Blacks, then obviously you’re a very good player,” Douglas noted. “I’m not sure how they have been doing in recent times, but I’m sure they are going to bring experience and give confidence to others around them. They are going to be dangerous and… it makes it a tough job down in San Antonio to get some points.”
The New Zealanders aren’t the only weapons Austin has. MLR First XV honors went to lock Potu Leavasa and flanker Dominic Akina for their dominant performances on both sides of the ball. Marcelo Torrealba has a rifle for a boot and has connected on four penalties and seven conversions this year. Captain Zinzan Elan-Puttick is very reliable and leads by example.
“They have good athletes throughout their squad,” Douglas said. “It will be important that we don’t give the ball away too easy through turnovers or handling errors. They look they have exciting players so we have to make sure we’re controlling ball for longer periods of time.”
Old Glory will have second row Api Naikatini back after being a healthy scratch against Houston, and Douglas plans to give Doug Fraser and Travis Larsen the start in their returns to Austin after playing there last season. Mikey Sosene-Feagai (orbital fracture) and Mo Katz (hamstring) still out with injuries, but should be rejoining the team in the near future.
Coach Douglas believes the Old Glory faithful have not seen the full potential of this team. “We need to be better, to be honest. We need to be more consistent in our approach. We look really good for segments of the game, but it would be nice to put a consistent 80-minute performance in. I think we’ve let teams off by our own errors, and I would like to see us make less errors and retain the ball for longer periods of time. Same on defense, there are periods when we defend really well, keep teams under pressure, and force them into errors. But then we let things slide and slip and let them back into the game. We have to be a lot more consistent in our approach to our performance.”
Finally, Old Glory DC is honored to play for the Cuisine Solutions Cup this weekend. “Obviously, Stan (Stanislas Vilgrain, the Chairman of the Board for Cuisine Solutions) is a fantastic supporter of Old Glory and has been our major sponsor,” Douglas said. “We want to honor him and show him the respect that he deserves because he’s been a great supporter of ours and a very generous man. We are looking forward to hopefully bringing that Cup back for him.”