Old Glory finished the regular season in style on Saturday evening with a dramatic 36-28nvictory over Rugby Atlanta which was fraught with incidents, setting the team up perfectly for its maiden playoff run.
The first half of the match can only be described as chaotic, as the two sides exchanged tries, bookings, and punches in a less-than-civilized yet thrilling opening exchange. The first try of the day fell to the hosts just 10 minutes after kickoff, with Doug Fraser barrelling over the line after a string of scrappy attacking phases. Atlanta responded with two tries of their own in the following few minutes, aided by a yellow card for Nic Souchon.
A subsequent booking for Atlanta’s John-Roy Jenkinson and the return of our hooker combined to shift the momentum back in Old Glory’s favor. We finished the half strongly, with three tries from Junior Sa’u, Jack Iscaro, and Tevita Naqali all serving to turn the tie around, both reclaiming the lead and bagging a bonus point before the halftime break. These late tries from the forwards proved to be crucial not just for their points but for team morale, with the three quickfire tries beating Rugby ATL down just before the break, coming back onto the pitch with a mountain to climb.
The second half was fairly tranquil relative to the first, with the scoreline remaining in the balance but with an increase in mistakes and fouls stopping either side from making any significant progress. An audacious chip kick from Gradyn Bowd saw Old Glory’s Lasaqa in for the first try of the half, with a subsequent score coming from Rizzo on the wing. Atlanta consoled themselves with one last try of their own, granting Old Glory the victory by a score of 36-28.
This victory takes Old Glory to a final record of 7-8-1, our best in franchise history with 60 tries scored and an average of 25.5ppg across 16 matches. As we look forward to next weekend’s playoff match against Rugby New York, there are plenty of positives to take from Saturday’s match.
Chief amongst these, as I have mentioned in the past, is the display of mental tenacity needed to overturn what was at one point a 5-21 deficit, fighting back into the game for what will prove to be a huge morale victory. Old Glory have proved on several occasions this season that they have the grit to buckle down and get the job done, a characteristic which could prove to be crucial come the do-or-die moments of knockout rugby.
Old Glory’s squad depth and versatility will also play into their strengths come the playoffs. Since clinching a playoff spot, Coach Syms has rotated the squad significantly, showing off the side’s quality in depth. The signings of Langilangi Haupeakui and Koikoi Nelligan have already worked wonders, with their quality sure to remain on display in the postseason. As well as player depth, the side also boasts some incredibly flexible players. In recent weeks we have seen Danny Tusitala try his hand at a number of different positions, from his usual spot at scrum half to the back three and fly half positions. The same can be said for a number of other players in the squad, particularly in the forward pack, which can only increase our chances of progressing deep into the playoffs.
Off the back of this fantastic victory, Old Glory is facing the biggest challenge in its history; a maiden playoffs run, a point to prove, and history to make. The regular season may be over, but for Old Glory the season is only just beginning. It’s time to finish the job.
-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge