Old Glory’s fantastic 2023 MLR campaign has come to an end with a loss in the MLR Eastern Conference Championship to the New England Free Jacks by a score of 25-7.
The match was all but won by New England in the opening quarter of an hour, as our hosts scored their first two tries in the fifth and twelfth minutes, putting Old Glory on the back foot from the off. Old Glory found their feet after coming to terms with the early onslaught, managing to prevent their hosts from scoring another try for the remainder of the first half but also failing to score any points of their own. Two late penalties from New England saw the halftime score total up to 18-0 in favor of the hosts, and Old Glory were faced with a mountain to climb.
The second half sadly told a similar story. Old Glory defended constantly, managing to keep the Free Jacks at bay for a while, but still made minimal progress when in possession. The Free Jacks finally scraped their first try of the half in the 64th minute, taking the score to 25-0 and hammering a nail into Old Glory’s coffin. Thretton Palamo scored a consolation try with a couple minutes remaining to keep Old Glory’s dignity intact, with the final whistle’s call just moments later signaling the end of Old Glory’s season.
In the face of what is arguably MLR’s most formidable team, Old Glory produced a valiant performance, proving the team’s indomitable character and innate never-say-die attitude. The cards were not stacked in our favor, either. With just a couple of days to recover from an incredibly physical Eliminator match in New York and a crucial Thursday training session cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, preparation was suboptimal, but the boys rallied. They left it all on the pitch, producing a more than fitting tribute to the last six months of play.
Despite these conditions, the OGs never gave up, battling to the end. Tito Diaz Bonilla and Kurt Baker’s kicking was invaluable, creating a handful of badly needed try scoring opportunities. Nic Souchon pulled out an impressive 17 tackles, the most on the field, with Niko Jones not far behind with 14. All the boys showed incredible fight, with Kyle Baillie, Junior Sa’u, Danny Tusitala, and Jack Iscaro all producing particularly impressive performances. It is hard to celebrate any one player over another as every one of them gave their all, looking exhausted as they left the field with nothing left in the tank. This team’s ability to play in tough conditions such as these has been a massive asset over the course of this campaign, and helped us to make a strong account of ourselves on Saturday, marking a massive statement of intent ahead of 2024 season.
This final road trip also heralded an emotional sendoff for Head Coach Josh Syms, who will now move to Parma in Italy to ply his trade with URC side Zebre. Coach Syms has been instrumental in achieving what has been our most successful season in club history, and he will be sorely missed. Thank you for everything, Symsy, and buona fortuna!
I would be remiss not to mention our incredible fans, who once again made the trek up north to support the boys, boarding their bus in Pentagon City at 2am to embark on a pilgrimage to Quincy and support the team. Your commitment to this team is invaluable and unparalleled in Major League Rugby, this season would never have been possible without you all at our backs!
This year’s MLR campaign has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least, we hope you’ve all enjoyed it as much as we did. As disappointing as it may feel to fall short of a Championship Final, it has to be said that Old Glory has massively outperformed its expectations this year, especially when you take into consideration the trials of last year’s three-win season. The team, administration, and fans have so much to be proud of, and so much to look forward to in 2024.
-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge