Old Glory DC Starts Road Trip with Momentum at Houston

Following the emotional high of winning its first professional match against the defending Major League Rugby champions, Old Glory DC is back to work with the start of a two-week road trip at the Houston SaberCats on Saturday night.  Houston was one held ball away from an unbeaten record last weekend against Toronto and will look to get above 0.500 under the lights at AVEVA Stadium in Houston, Texas.  The OGDC crowd was a driving force behind the victory versus Seattle and Old Glory will hope to use that momentum to bring home a win this weekend.

Tune in on Saturday night at 8:00 pm on NBC Sports Washington or ESPN+ for all the action or come to the official watch party at Exiles Bar, located at 1610 U Street NW in Washington, D.C.

It was a tall order against Seattle, but everything seemed to fall into place for the home team. The improvement from Week 1 was significant and head coach Andrew Douglas hopes his team’s play continues to progress. “We got some good possession and we were able to use it well. We have to keep at it and can’t go back to how we were against NOLA. Even if we are a little bit off in this league, we’re going to get punished. We have to make sure we are consistent.”

Old Glory got the best of Seattle in several areas, with 53% of the possession, 58% of the territory, 16.4 attacking minutes to 14.5, outgaining the Seawolves by 240 meters, and conceding six fewer turnovers.  The brightest spot was in the lineouts.  With the addition of Dante Lopresti and Tendai Mtawarira, OGDC won 92% of its lineouts, which was a 25% upgrade from NOLA.  Old Glory also stole two from the Seattle, as opposed to none against NOLA.

The main area requiring more consistency and cohesion is still the scrum.  At times, the scrum was steady and able to advance, but at other times it was still under pressure, allowing Seattle to get back into the contest.  The biggest difference was the penalty count, where Old Glory was penalized only three times in the scrum against Seattle as opposed to eight times versus NOLA.

“There is no one thing [to fix the scrum], it’s just hard work,” Douglas said. “We have to keep going about our processes and make sure we’re seeking improvement in that area.  There is no magic wand.  Tendai (Mtawarira) is working hard to help with the coaching, but it’s about time.  He only arrived before Seattle and I think it will come but there is no magic wand to it.”

The MLR honored Old Glory as the “Team of the Week” and named Mungo Mason, Jason Robertson, and Mtawarira to the First XV of Week 2. The stats backed up the honors. The Facilitator-In-Chief, Robertson, was all over the pitch with 18 points, two tries, and a league-leading four total try assists. He carried the ball nine times for 90 meters, broke the line twice, kicked 13 times for a gain of 404 meters, made eight tackles, and stole the ball twice at the breakdown.  Captain Mason led by example on both sides of the ball.  He led the team with 15 carries for 143 meters, which included the 70-meter game-changing intercept, and was second on the squad with 13 tackles.  Playing 73 minutes after only being with the team for 48 hours, Beast made 10 runs for 40 meters, made his presence known on defense with seven tackles, and helped stabilize the set piece.

“Everyone played well really,” Douglas added. “Tendai, Mungo, and Jason had standout games.  Tevita Naqali was outstanding in terms of the work ethic and Danny Tusitala set our tempo really well.  I don’t think any of our players had a bad game.  The key to success is getting everybody on the same page and working hard for each other.”

Old Glory escaped its second match with no significant injuries, only a few bumps and bruises.  Mikey Sosene-Feagai (Orbital Fracture) and Mo Katz (hamstring) are still a couple of weeks away from returning, but Declan O’Donnell and Josh Brown should be in the mix to play against Houston.

For this Saturday’s opponent, the SaberCats’ match against Toronto ended the opposite way it did for OGDC. Down by five with no time left and with a two-man advantage, Houston mauled it from 22 meters out with the pretty much entire team pushing. As it crashed over the line, the Arrows held the ball up and Houston left the pitch with a 27-22 defeat.

The SaberCats actually outworked Toronto, controlling the ball 59% of the time for 63% of the territory.  Houston committed eight fewer penalties than their opponent, won 88% of its scrums, and 82% of its lineouts.  For the season, they are winning 93% of their scrums and are tied for first in territory with 56.5%.

“They’re pretty good to be honest,” Douglas said. “They are certainly going to be a tough, tough team to beat down in Houston.  They have a solid forward pack, the #10 (Sam Windsor) controls the game well and he has a big right foot on him, and a really solid mid-field.  Their #9-#10 (Dewet Roos and Windsor) combination is the key for them and it’s important that we keep the pressure on them, but they are solid down the line.  It’s a massive challenge to play down in Houston and try to get a result.”

The match-up between Roos and Windsor and Tusitala and Robertson will crucial to the final result. “It’s going to be a good competition,” Douglas added. “I think our boys are looking forward to it, and I’m sure they are too. We probably play a different game than what they do. They’re based around a big forward pack and put themselves around the park where we bring a bit more tempo than they do but it will be an interesting competition and I’m looking forward to seeing it.”

The main objective this weekend is to keep improving.  “We set a benchmark against Seattle and now we have to keep that standard and keep improving.  There are still areas around our set piece, breakdown play, and our decision-making that we need to improve.”

After Houston, OGDC will travel to Austin before returning to Cardinal Stadium on March 8th to take on Rugby ATL. Old Glory definitely has a home-field advantage with a raucous fan base to cheer and support them.  “I thought the crowd on Sunday was outstanding. It was great to see them get excited about what we were doing on the field.  I hope everyone had a great time and want to come back against Atlanta in a few weeks’ time.  The players really enjoyed the crowd and they spoke about the noise.  It was great to see.”

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