Old Glory Looks to Rebound at New England
By Evan Lappen
After a disappointing performance against New York, Old Glory DC begins its final six games of the season on Sunday with a trip to visit the New England Free Jacks. With a berth to the playoffs still in sight, a road victory at Union Point Stadium in Weymouth, Mass. is key. DC beat the Free Jacks in Week 6 and Old Glory, will look to crack their opponents’ unbeaten record at home. Tune in on Sunday at 6:00 pm on FS2 and the Rugby Network internationally for all the game action.
The team came out flat this past weekend, and New York made them pay from every corner of the field. A four-try first 20 minutes led to RUNY dominating the match that resulted in a 46-10 defeat. Injuries and suspension took its toll on the roster but the team isn’t making that an excuse.
“On the day, we just didn’t turn up,” Dylan Taikato-Simpson said. “New York were very clinical with everything they did, we just couldn’t match their intensity.”
The New York game was a continuation of poor starts for Old Glory. Through ten games this season, DC has conceded 95 points in the first 20 minutes, while scoring 46.
“It’s the mental switch,” Taikato-Simpson remarked about starting on the front foot. “After points are scored, you feel that energy lift. We need to come straight out of the gates and flick that switch as soon as we get to the field. Our poor starts have hurt us like it hurt us on the weekend.”
The club hopes to get that energy and confidence back with the return some of its leadership this Sunday. Out since Utah, Mungo Mason will hope to rejoin the backrow. Jamie Dever was a late scratch against New York and will be back whilst Thretton Palamo and Max Lum are still on the mend and will look to return to the match squad as soon as they are fit.
“Getting guys like Mungo back, their voice, their energy, and their presence on the field helps a lot of boys of getting their energy back up,” Taikato-Simpson said. “They lead from the front, they’re not really big speakers, they show with their actions and boys follow.”
Old Glory brought the physicality to the Free Jacks in Week 6, and it culminated in a 35-22 bonus try win. Since then, New England has gone 3-2 and is undefeated at home. On Saturday, NE edged Toronto 14-12 in a close-knit, defensive battle.
“It was a pretty tight game,” head coach Andrew Douglas said. “[New England] defended really well for long sets of time against Toronto. We have to look at how to break down to New England defense. We have to do more than what we did on Sunday against New York and try and release players like Rens [Roberts- Te Nana] and Dylan [Taikato-Simpson] more than what we have.”
New England’s roster is much the same from the last time DC matched up against them, but head coach Ryan Martin likes to switch up his lineup based on the opponent. Wian Conradie, Jackson Thiebes, and Josh Larsen are beasts in the pack and are among the league leaders in tackles and breakdown steals. John Poland and Harrison Boyle run the show in the backline and Beaudein Waaka is a handy player with ball in hand or on the boot. Dougie Fife has been one of the brightest lights this season in the MLR and is tied for the league lead in tries with nine.
“Fife has been turning heads and finding the white stripe a lot,” Taikato-Simpson said. “We just need to spy him when he tries to enter the game and keep him under wraps as much as we can. If we give him space, he’ll definitely take it and he’ll definitely hurt us.”
Sunday’s match will be less about New England and more about improving Old Glory.
“We need guys to put their hands up,” Taikato-Simpson stated. “Put their hand up and carry strong. We’re worried too much about going wide where we needed to punch through first and then go wide… it’s just about getting that connection again.
“We have to execute better than we have been,” Douglas said. “Probably relax a little bit. I think we’ve been a bit tense and possibly been trying too hard at times to make things right. When things don’t go right, we go into our shells. Honestly, we have to express ourselves more.”
These final six games are about character and who wants it more. “[It’s about] just seeing how the boys rebound from Sunday,” Douglas concluded. “They’re pretty disappointed and shattered as we all are. It’s always a great test of character, isn’t it? Everyone gets knocked down in their life, especially in sport. Sport is a great revelation of character. It’s that test and to see what our character is like and to see if we can get back up again.”