Old Glory defeat reigning champions New York to progress in MLR Champion Series


Well, wasn’t that something. Have you caught your breath yet? 

In what was probably the most exciting match in Old Glory’s short history, we defeated MLR’s reigning champions, the New York Ironworkers, by a narrow 33-37 scoreline.

A tumultuous first half started quickly with the hosts scoring their first try of the match after just 50 seconds, which may sound damning, but Old Glory had been in this situation before and knew how to handle themselves. They bounced back immediately to score 13 unanswered points through a try from Willy Talataina and two converted penalties courtesy of Tito Diaz Bonilla. After the early comeback, a pair of collapsed mauls saw DC’s Kyle Baillie and Lautaro Bavaro sent away to the sin bin, allowing New York two late tries to take a narrow 19-16 lead into halftime.

Fortunes reversed in the second period, however, as some high intensity, nail-biting rugby made for one of the most exciting halves of rugby in MLR this season. A couple of questionable refereeing decisions saw the TMO award New York a fortunate if not undeserved try, to which DC immediately responded with a try of their own as midseason acquisition Kyle Baillie barreled over the line to cut the deficit back down to three points. That signing seems increasingly astute every time he steps on the pitch.

Nicely matching DC’s two first half yellow cards, New York picked up a pair of bookings of their own. DC thoroughly enjoyed their two-man advantage, receiving a penalty try after blowing up several consecutive New York scrums. This try put DC back in the driver’s seat, and they went on to seal their victory with a late try from All Blacks legend Kurt Baker, who jogged over the line with hands held high, knowing that he had just scored the most impactful try of his career to date. Probably. A try on the last play of the game did little to console New York, narrowing the score difference but taking nothing away from Old Glory, who secured the most important win in franchise history.

The DC team that showed out at Memorial Field last night was one of the best we have seen so far this season. They displayed all the mental tenacity needed to overcome an early concession, a collection of dubious judicial decisions, and a well drilled opponent, fighting back from setback after setback to deliver a historic victory in front of a sizable group of dedicated travelling fans, whose Odyssey to the Empire State was well matched by the on-field performance. A massive thank you to all who came out for your unbelievable support!

A few standout players really did their part to boost the Old Glory effort. Co-captain Kyle Baillie showed little to no regard for human life as he offered up tackle after uncompromising tackle, topping off the day with a bruising second half try to fuel the Old Glory comeback.

We also saw Tito Diaz Bonilla back to his best after a late lineup change saw him start over Gradyn Bowd. He reported a game changing 13 points through penalties and conversions as well as consistently productive offensive kicking, allowing us the space and creativity to keep New York pinned back. As previously mentioned, Kurt Baker’s show-offish late try was one for the history books, and Danny Tusitala spent the 80 minutes running like he had an engine.

You always know Willy Talataina is good for a try, and his routine score to stem New York’s early start proved to be invaluable in reversing the match’s momentum in the early stages. Final honorable mentions go to Niko Jones, Nick Souchon, and Jack Iscaro, who combined to create a scrum that Saracens would have struggled with, not to mention the New York Ironworkers. Our 68th minute penalty try was a direct result of several consecutive failures from our hosts to manage the scrum, and you can put that down to our front row. The forwards produced a masterclass in game management, putting the New Yorkers firmly in their place and keeping them there for much of the match.

In the next round, Old Glory will face the formidable New England Free Jacks, who have burned a war path through the toughest teams MLR has to offer. It’ll be our biggest challenge yet, but you know we’ll be up for it. Old Glory has its sights set on the Shield.

-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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