Old Glory DC will look even its record with its inaugural Major League Rugby home opener against the Seattle Seawolves on Sunday at Cardinal Stadium at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The great news is that Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira will suit up for the squad this weekend, but OGDC knows it has a tough task ahead, based on the performance versus NOLA. Old Glory has worked hard all week to address our challenges, and the competition will be fierce with the two-time defending MLR Champions coming to the nation’s capital.
The gates open at 11:00 am on Sunday with a slate of curtain-raiser matches between some of the best womens’ rugby teams in the nation before the 3:00 pm Old Glory kickoff against Seattle. Weather is expected to be in the 50s and sunny on Sunday — perfect for rugby and lively festivities at the pitch. If you can’t be there in person, the game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington and ESPN+.
While the addition of the Beast won’t solve all the set piece problems Old Glory faced against NOLA, his presence will give an enormous boost of skill, experience, and confidence to the forward pack. The team will also get back the services of Josh Brown and Declan O’Donnell, while Mikey Sosene-Feagai and Mo Katz are still a few weeks out from returning.
“We lost the set piece [against NOLA],” head coach Andrew Douglas stated. “When you lose the set piece as badly as we did, it’s very hard to play the game of rugby. [Mtawarira] has some good thoughts on our scrum and our lineout. The thing is, we can’t just rely on him to fix it. He’s only one man, he’s one immense man, but he’s one man. It’s about attitude and the boys are pretty down on themselves. They want to get it right so hopefully, they can. It’s not an easy fix and it’s not something that is going to happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and energy. It’s repetition and building up their stamina with good technique. He will certainly help, but we shouldn’t think it will fix everything.”
The set piece wasn’t the only negative on the pitch, but it all started from there. “Mistakes happened because our platform wasn’t good enough so you are feeding off scraps,” Douglas continued. “When you are feeding off scraps, you are feeding off poor ball. If you got a poor platform to launch from, then you start to push things because you haven’t had the ball and then you try and force things.
“It all stems back to that set piece. If you actually look at our stats in terms of our ball control, ball retention, and gain line, we outplayed NOLA. There are positives to what we did with the ball we had, but there are mistakes we want to tidy up and at the same time, we have to look at the platform we were launching from.”
According to STATS Perform, NOLA controlled 59% of the ball for 17.5 attacking minutes as opposed to OGDC’s 41% and 12.1 attacking minutes. NOLA outgained OGDC 741 meters to 614 and out-kicked them 22 times for 817 meters to 16 times for 468. OGDC made the gainline 84% of the time to NOLA’s 72%, but Old Glory conceded five more turnovers (15) than the Gold (10). Old Glory made more tackles (155) than NOLA (112) but missed 19 throughout the match.
The real difference came in the penalties and scrums. OGDC only committed one more penalty (14) than the Gold (13), but NOLA won 100% of its scrums and 91% of its lineouts while Old Glory only won 40% of its scrums and 67% of its lineouts. In the 17 scrums, OGDC was penalized in seven of them and the Gold stole two of Old Glory’s lineouts.
Co-captain Mungo Mason analyzed the match saying, “It was a baptism by fire. We weren’t prepared and we didn’t expect them to run what they did. Once we did have the ball, we played really well. We allowed ourselves to make some breaks and get through, but as soon as you had really bad ball and you are going backward; you don’t have front foot ball and can’t attack on it and the cycle repeats. Bad ball creates bad ball. We are doing a lot this week to fix that, so we’ve put a hell of a lot of work into our set piece and by Sunday, it will be available and a good platform, so Jason and the backs can run a really good strike system off it.”
“As Mungo said, it’s pretty tough to play off the back of set pieces that are going backward,” flyhalf Jason Robertson said. “At times when we did get it right, we showed that we are a team that is a force to be reckoned with. This week, we are really building on our set piece, so come Sunday against Seattle. We’re humming and happy to put on a better performance and give our home fans something to cheer about.”
With the focus now on Sunday’s test, the Seawolves will be traveling across the county and will be determined not to start their season at 0-2. “Seattle is a big, physical team and they bring real line speed defensively,” Douglas said. “They love to scrum and maul and do all those things that we are not doing too well at the moment. It brings another interesting challenge to us.”
Seattle has plenty of weapons, but it’s their continuity and cohesion makes them deadly. With the likes of captain Riekert Hattingh, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Vili Toluta’u, Andrew Durutalo, Nakai Penny, and MLR Player of the Year Brad Tucker in the pack, they are loaded in the forwards. Ross Neal, Shalom Suniula, JP Smith, and Brock Staller are all lethal playmakers in the backline. Hattingh, Toluta’u, and George Barton each scored against San Diego and hope to add to their totals this weekend.
“[The Seawolves] are a very good team, very experienced,” Douglas said. “The core of that team has been together for a long time just like NOLA. It’s not a dissimilar challenge to what we just had to face last Saturday. We just have to be better. They will be hungry and won’t have enjoyed losing. They lost to a very, very good San Diego team but they will want to pick up their first win of the season. We just have to be much better than we were.”
“We are going to have to match [Seattle] upfront with their set piece,” Robertson added. “I think we’ll have them in the backline if we get good front foot ball. If we can get parity in our set piece, I think we’ll have a good chance at stunning the two-time champions at home in Cardinal Stadium.”
Watching the film versus the Legion, Mason said, “They were quick off the line. Some of the connections were a bit interesting and there is some opportunity to expose there. It will be a mental game. We have to come with a really good attitude to get our fans behind us and have a lot of belief. We have skill, we just got to believe and get it done.”
Coach Douglas wants to see his boys “show a lot more hunger and desire to want to get things better. Th set piece is one thing but it’s our desire to get better in the set piece. We need to see the same on defense. We missed some one-on-one tackles we shouldn’t be missing and that comes down to the desire to make that tackle.
“We need to show DC supporters that this really means something to us. We were pretty hurt and beaten on Saturday and we need to able to bounce back up and show people, and more so ourselves, that this really matters and we really care about this and want to do a lot better.”
Gates open at 11:00 am at Cardinal Stadium at Catholic University for two curtain-raisers featuring the best women’s rugby clubs in the United States as the Capital Rugby Union wraps up a two-day tournament. Life University takes on Penn State at 11:00 am in a battle of women’s DI Elite college powerhouses and the Old Glory DC Capital Selects play rival USA Rugby South Panthers at 12:30 pm before the MLR match at 3:00 pm.
Weather is anticipated to be sunny and 50 degrees and it will be perfect to enjoy the game-day experience. Old Glory DC has made major enhancements as we’ve upgraded the Old Glory beer garden tent, the kid’s zone with rugby games, tailgate area, and will have live music as well. Come to the match rocking your Old Glory gear and let’s Go Old Glory!
Tickets for the match are available and are expected to sell out. Get your tickets for Sunday and the rest of the home matches at https://oldglorydc.showare.com/.