Old Glory’s playoff hopes were dented on Sunday as they were subject to a hard home loss at the hands of the New England Free Jacks by a score of 24-42. With New England coming into the match as favourites for the MLR Championship, we knew the game would be difficult, but the Free Jack’s really put the OGs through their paces.
The first half was among our hardest of the season so far, as New England opened the scoring after just five minutes, taking a close lineout and mauling over the line to score a textbook try.
Things looked up briefly for Old Glory as we responded with a try of our own just about ten minutes later through a truly world class sequence of play. Gradyn Bowd and Tito Diaz Bonilla broke the line together, cutting out defenders to create the space for Bonilla to kick a grubber through to Lasaqa, whose run took us to within five meters. Just a few phases later and we managed to create a hole for Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz to get over the line, and we had a tie game with just under a quarter of the match played
After this our fortunes significantly worsened, as New England scored thrice through Balekana and Conradie to put Old Glory 21 points in the hole at halftime, with the scoreline reading 7-28.
After the break we began to grow into the game a bit more, enjoying some possession and showing potential on attack, but handling issues continued to halt our progress at the least convenient times. These dropped balls combined with an above-average quantity of penalties conceded led to some rather frantic, panicky sequences of play, preventing the OGs from establishing a rhythm or taking a significant hold on the game.
As a result of this sloppiness, New England added another try to their tally just six minutes into the half, again through Conradie. This attacking momentum was halted a few minutes later though as Free Jacks wing Wilson was booked for a cynical intentional knock on, the likes of which we often reserve capital punishment for. This time, he was lucky to get off with a ten minute trip to the sin bin.
This led directly to our second try of the match, which was a classic Old Glory lineout-to-maul move finished in the corner by Souchon. Bowd couldn’t quite manage an admittedly extremely difficult conversion, but we kicked on with the ever-changing momentum newly at our backs.
Our next try was particularly notable as it was created entirely by rookies. Debutant Nick Jones, who, after several phases of incredibly patient offense, finally broke through the line to tee up Collin Grosse to score under the posts, taking the scoreline to 19-35.
While we managed to keep up our pace of play relatively well, the clock kept ticking and we quickly ran out of time. A late try from Owen Sheehy, his first competitive five for the team, took some of the sting out of New England’s lead, however our dignities were dashed as New England’s Yungert somersaulted into the in-goal to score with just two minutes left. A late Old Glory onslaught couldn’t reduce the deficit further, and we eventually fell by a score of 24-42.
All told, this weekend’s match feels like negative progress in the shadow of our impressive recent performances. Although we managed to scab a handful of tries, Old Glory were at times sloppy and arguably unprofessional for much of the match. While there were nice moments to reminisce on, such as Nike Jones’ outstanding debut performance and our highlight reel worthy opening try, the performance was below the standard required if we are still hoping to push for playoff rugby at the end of the season. It was a Mother’s Day performance that few of our player’s mother’s would have been grateful for.
Luckily, Old Glory have an opportunity to bounce back on Thursday as we hit the road to play a midweek matchup against the Toronto Arrows, who we nearly shut out earlier this season.
-By Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge