Old Glory get set to host East Coast rivals Rugby New York in round 9 clash


Coming off the back of a difficult string of games, the MLR schedule is not doing many favors for Old Glory, who are preparing to host the high-flying New York Ironworkers.

This match will mark Old Glory’s first repeat fixture of the year. We travelled to New York way back on March 5 for what was just our second match of the 2023 MLR season, where we were brought crashing back down to Earth rather unceremoniously with a 34-8 loss following an opening day victory against the Chicago Hounds. Since that ill-fated road trip, the two teams’ seasons have undertaken drastically different trajectories with New York climbing to second in the Eastern Conference and Old Glory languishing in fifth. Despite that fact, there is still a gap of just five points between the two teams, meaning that a bonus point victory for Old Glory could see us jump as high as second in the Eastern Conference.

As nice as that result may be to dream about, it is important for the OGDC faithful to temper their expectations. Our form is among the worst in the league, with three losses on the trot, whereas our hosts come into round 9 with back-to-back wins (27-29 vs. Toronto, 31-20 vs. Atlanta) in their back pocket and a serious title charge on the cards.

With an overall record of four wins and three losses, New York are far from invincible. A strong home performance from Old Glory could be just what we need to get back on track after last weekend’s torrid trip to Atlanta.

The less said about that match the better, but I would like to take a quick look at what specifically went wrong for Old Glory. Thinking statistically, after 65 minutes of play, Old Glory had a lineout success rate of just 12%, a stat which really speaks for itself. We also went 0/2 on conversions, missing out on four crucial points which would ultimately have secured a second bonus point. We were dominated in possession for the majority of the match, only managing to secure consistent productive possession when our hosts had two men in the sin-bin towards the end of the first period.

Last weekend’s defeat is probably better left in the past. Let’s take a look at what the future holds.

Rugby New York’s greatest strength has proven to be their defensive capabilities. They have conceded just 17 tries in their opening seven matches, the fewest out of every team in the MLR besides the Seattle Seawolves, and have conceded an average of just 19 points per game in 2023. In contrast, Old Glory have been on the receiving end of 26 tries in the same number of games, averaging 28.7 points conceded per game.

In attack, the story is far more even, with both teams having scored the same number of tries thus far this season. RNY’s top scorer against DC back in March was fly-half Jack Heighton, whose hat trick of tries and variety of successful kicks made him responsible for nearly three quarters of his team’s points. He also recorded 435 kicking meters on the day, Old Glory will be challenged to contain the talismanic Kiwi, who will surely be looking to repeat his week three heroics.

Another player carving out a place for himself in the Rugby New York side has been Teihorangi Walden, a Maori All Black and part-time Super Rugby player for the Hurricanes. Playing from center, Walden has proven to be an able try-scorer with potential to create chances, recording one assist and seven points against Toronto last week.

After last week, a few Old Glory players are certainly worth watching. In matches as chaotic as that Atlanta nightmare, several players’ class shone through. Chief among these was Danny Tusitala, who kept a cool head despite the circumstances. His kicking was on another level, gaining crucial meters and creating chances throughout the match, topping off a classy performance with a brilliant solo try.

There are also a couple of new kids in the squad, with the USA rugby veteran Langilangi Haupeakui making an assured debut in the Atlanta rain. In his all-too-short cameo, he recorded the second most carries on the team (6) while looking right at home in defence, the untrained eye would never have guessed those were his first minutes for the club. He could be an outside shout for the starting lineup this weekend if Coach Syms looks to rotate the forward pack.

-By Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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