Old Glory Falls Short of Comeback Against NOLA
By Evan Lappen
With emotions running high before a record crowd at Segra Field on Saturday, missed opportunities and missed tackles plagued Old Glory DC as it fell to the NOLA Gold, 25-21. OGDC fought for every meter for 80 minutes, but, unfortunately, ran out of time to execute one last try at the end of the match.
The unpredictable results this year in the MLR have shown that anything is possible, but DC will need to finish the season strong as well as get some help to earn a postseason berth. With its third straight loss, Old Glory’s playoff chances are dwindling, and the match against Rugby ATL in two weeks may be its last opportunity to stay alive. DC will rest up and get healthier next weekend on a bye before the final four-game stretch to end the season.
“It’s tough when you are having a losing season,” co-captain Thretton Palamo said. “It’s tough to round the boys back together after a [loss]. I know trying to get in the playoffs is starting to get dimmer and dimmer… The team that showed up today versus the team against [New England] was night and day. This was a team that came hungry to play, we just needed to tweak a few things… Everybody has loads of opportunities everywhere. We just need to see them.”
As for NOLA head coach Nate Osbourne, he stated, “After halftime, we made a few adjustments. We wanted to kick long rather than do box kicks… It put pressure back on DC, although we let them off too easy in the first half and let them play in our end too much. We wanted to play the game in their end and I thought we did a good job at that.”
Old Glory came out humming in the first half and matched NOLA score for score with tries from the returning co-captains Thretton Palamo and Mungo Mason. The Gold adjusted their defensive strategy at halftime and shut out DC until the final minute. In the end, OG let themselves down with errant passes, inefficient set piece work, missed tackles, and a lack of urgency and creativity with the ball in hand.
NOLA was first on the board after a line break from Hanno Dirksen got the Gold inside the 22. Back-to-back penalties resulted in a scrum in front of the posts and a crash ball to Juan Cappiello gave NOLA the automatic seven-pointer in the eighth minute.
Old Glory answered by organizing itself into its phase play offense. Jason Robertson passed to Palamo, who flashed a show-and-go against the NOLA defender. At full gallop, the big outside center diced up two more men before scoring under the posts. After 14 minutes, the score was knotted at 7-7.
DC almost tacked on another try after a charge down from Renata Roberts-Te Nana was kicked out of the back of the tryzone. Tensions began to build on the next sequence after some post-play festivities. The referee talked to both captains, but that would only be the start of the chippiness between the clubs.
After Steven Longwell forced a turnover in the ruck, a Robertson kick to touch set DC up with a ten-meter lineout. Robertson quick-tapped a subsequent penalty, and the forwards took over. Five phases later, Mungo Mason pressed the circle button for the spin move and stretch for the try. Robertson nailed the conversion, and Old Glory took its first lead in three weeks at 14-7.
NOLA responded in the 28th minute when Cam Dolan put Dirksen through a hole in the defense. Mike Dabulas met the streaking fullback at the ten, but the South African wasn’t held in the tackle. Dirksen got back to his feet and scored the try. Holden Yungert’s conversion hit off both uprights and in to tie the game at 14 all.
Towards the end of the half, OG had a chance to add to its total, but the attempt at a short five-meter lineout was picked off by Dolan and cleared. Tensions hit a breaking point soon after, and Danny Tusitala and Cappiello were binned.
With time still left in the half, NOLA’s Eric Howard was yellow-carded for playing the man on the ground. On the final play, a grubber from Dylan Taikato-Simpson to Palamo was tackled at the five. Unluckily, the pop pass was intercepted by Ross Depperschmidt, who cleared the ball into touch to end the half.
The sun came out for the second half, but it was NOLA who shined first. Playing 13 on 14, Yungert gave his team the lead with a penalty in front of the posts. Up 17-14, the Gold continued to attack as Lockie Kratz broke the line into the 22. Working the weak side along the sideline, Dolan offloaded to Julián Domínguez, who powered through two defenders for the try in the corner. The conversion wasn’t close, but NOLA led 22-14 after 48 minutes.
Head coach Andrew Douglas began to utilize his bench, starting with the props and then Ciaran Hearn for a hobbled Robertson in the 55th minute. Unfortunately, miscues, mistakes, and turnovers thwarted five offensive forays inside the 22 in the last 25 minutes of the match.
Another NOLA penalty pushed the lead to a two-score game and put Old Glory under pressure to score immediately. Dmontae Noble’s first touch brought the crowd to its feet with an electric run down the sideline. However, OGDC was unable to capitalize as a low pass, and a knock got NOLA out of danger.
With time winding down, NOLA was assessed and recieved its third yellow card. After testing the weak side, the ball was swung wide. Noble finished in the corner, and Dabulas quickly slotted the conversion. Everyone in the stadium thought there was time left on the clock, but the referee signaled the end of the match with NOLA prevailing 25-21.