Old Glory Eliminated from the Playoffs with Loss to ATL
By Evan Lappen
Playing for pride in Marietta, Ga., Old Glory DC took its shots but was defeated by Rugby ATL, 32-12, on Saturday night. In the second game of a doubleheader at Lupo Field, Old Glory found itself in an early 17-0 hole and was unable to climb out in the second half. With the loss and a New York win, DC was eliminated from the playoffs. Old Glory returns to Georgia next Sunday to face Toronto before ending the season with a two-game homestand against San Diego and Austin.
It didn’t take long for Atlanta to show why it leads the MLR Eastern Conference. Recovering the initial kickoff, the Ratler offense rumbled into the redzone. DC couldn’t exit out of its own half and after a series of blistering runs by the ATL’s forwards, Marko Janse van Rensburg dove at the whitewash for the try. Bautista Ezcurra slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead in the fourth minute.
After the restart, DC’s first possession was thwarted by Atlanta’s stout defense pushing it into touch. After an exchange of kicks, Atlanta won the territory battle, setting up a lineout just inside the 40. The Ratlers drove their rolling maul forward, but a DC breakdown steal relieved the pressure.
Rugby ATL kicked its offense into high gear and entered DC’s half with flash and physicality. All Old Glory could do after a recovered grubber was to try to clear the ball, but it couldn’t find touch.
The ATL offense refused to quit, and in the 15th minute, the maul set up its second score of the match. Stalled inside the five, Atlanta took two stabs at the line, and Wikus Groenewald finished with the try under the posts. The automatic seven-pointer gave the home side the 14-0 advantage.
Things looked to go DC’s way after the restart with a charge down by Danny Tusitala, but ATL cleared to midfield. Trying to do too much, the offensive momentum was stopped with a knock from Ciaran Hearn.
Atlanta continued to put DC under pressure with a beautifully placed kick from Robbie Petzer. Jason Robertson’s clear didn’t find touch, and Atlanta was on the attack again. Penalties put the ball into Old Glory’s hands, but it was unable to jumpstart the offense.
The Ratlers added a penalty in the 22nd minute to extend the lead to 17-0. Off the restart, DC came out with a newfound fire and had a lineout just outside the five-meter line. Unfortunately, the ATL lineout defense was too good and repelled two attempts in the set-piece. Fortune turned briefly in DC’s favor with an Atlanta knock giving the away team the scrum.
A Jeremy Misailegalu high tackle on Robertson sent the winger to the bin, and DC looked to take advantage immediately. On its third crack at a lineout inside the 22, Old Glory improved its continuity and consistency in its phase play to put its first points on the board. The ball was spun wide then sent back inside, where Renata Roberts-Te Nana passed to Thretton Palamo for the try. Robertson slotted the conversion to cut the lead to 17-7 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Atlanta didn’t let the one-man disadvantage affect it as the defense was amped up on the restart. Jason Damm ripped the ball from Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, and Rowan Gouws pinned DC deep in its end. A kick to touch gave ATL excellent field position, and the Ratlers worked their maul inside the five. Ezcurra’s cross-field kick to Te Rangatira Waitokia was offloaded to Austin White for the try in the corner. The conversion was off the mark, but Atlanta went into the locker room up 22-7 at the half.
Most of the early second half was played between the 22s. Regrettably for Old Glory, Roberts-Te Nana was yellow-carded for playing the man from the ground on a penalty.
Atlanta went back to its bread and butter with the driving maul. It was stopped short of the line on its first attempt but was successful on its second one. The forwards mauled it into striking distance and Mark O’Keeffe took the final steps into the tryzone for the score. Ezcurra’s conversion was good, and ATL extended its lead to 29-7 after 48 minutes.
The DC coaching staff went to its bench soon after giving their up-and-coming players valuable playing time. The impact subs held their own and didn’t allow another try for the remainder of the game.
After the 60th minute water break, the teams jockeyed for field position. The Old Glory offense tried to move the ball, but Atlanta’s defense dominated the collision in the tackle zone. A pair of five-meter lineouts in the 64th and 73rd minutes went for not as Old Glory couldn’t connect on the scoring opportunities.
ATL’s Kurt Coleman tacked on a penalty in the 75th minute before a final push by DC ended the game. Into stoppage time, big runs by Dmontae Noble and Gibbins kept the ball alive. Robertson’s kick to touch following a penalty set up Old Glory with one last five-meter lineout. Casey Renaud wrangled in the throw, and Gibbins took the pick and go for the try. The conversion was wide left, and the referee signaled the end of the match with Rugby ATL victorious, 32-12.