Old Glory Nearly Completes Comeback in 38-34 Loss to New England

By Evan Lappen

 

In a heartbreaker on the final play, Old Glory DC was one pop pass away from victory as the New England Free Jacks won 38-34. Down by twelve at the break, OGDC showed great heart and determination for a four-try second half. DC left a lot on the field and had every opportunity to steal a win, but it just couldn’t make that last connection in many situations. Old Glory can’t dwell on the loss for long, as New Orleans makes its first trip to Segra Field this Saturday.

Although the match ended in defeat, Old Glory earned both a try bonus point and a losing bonus point.  A pair of automatic seven-pointers proved to be the difference for the Free Jacks as its rolling mauls were killer in the victory.

It was a coming-of-age game for the rookies and the impact substitutes for Old Glory. There was no fall-off in the second half, and the tempo and intensity increased when new blood entered the contest. Cory Daniel, Sam Cusano, and Dmontae Noble showed vigor and pace with scores, and Jack Iscaro, Casey Renaud, and James King were all heart.

With temperatures in the 90s at Union Point Stadium in Weymouth, Mass., a battle of field position began the match. An early penalty cost DC as Pieter Jensen scored off a ten-meter lineout maul in the second minute. Beaudein Waaka missed the conversion, and the Free Jacks led 5-0.

Another DC penalty put New England in good field position. Utilizing their attacking lineout, the Free Jacks went long with the throw and connected with Aleki Morris-Lome. The inside center outran the defense to the five-meter line, and Vili Toluta’u finished with the score. Waaka hit on the extras for a 12-0 lead after 12 minutes.

DC returned the favor with its first trip inside the 22. Off the lineout, NE didn’t contest the maul, and Daniel ran right through the middle for his first professional try. Jason Robertson’s conversion was wide, and DC trailed 12-5.

After the water break, a late hit gave NE a lineout. A quick maul and run were stopped inside five meters, and Erich de Jager pounded it in for the try. Waaka’s kick just missed, and the Free Jacks led 17-5 after 27 minutes.

Following a defensive snag and clear by Renata Roberts-Te Nana, an infraction on the next sequence saw DC in enemy territory. Old Glory mauled to within ten meters of the try zone, but another penalty gave DC a five-meter lineout. Daniel again was at the back of the maul, and he scored his second try. Robertson’s kick was good, and DC looked to go into the half down by five points.

Unfortunately, New England wasn’t finished. With no time left, OGDC didn’t roll away in the ruck, and the Free Jacks had a lineout at the 22. The maul seemed to have stopped, but Joe Johnston broke away and offloaded back inside to Tera Mtembu for the try. Waaka connected on his kick, and the half ended 24-12.

After a kick exchange started the second half, New England picked up where it left off. A grubber try from Waaka to Fife appeared to burst the game wide open, but it was called back.

DC responded with a breakaway from Dylan Taikato-Simpson. The backs spun the ball wide, but Robertson’s pass to Roberts-Te Nana was picked off by Waaka. The Kiwi flyhalf took it to the house for the 70-meter intercept try under the posts.

A perceived insurmountable lead, coupled with fatigue and cramping due to the intense heat, lulled NE into a lapse in concentration. After a turnover ball, Mike Dabulas was stopped just short of the try line, but DC moved it through hands to Sam Cusano for the try in the corner.

With the momentum, Stan South forced the turnover in the ruck after the restart. Off the ensuing lineout outside the 22, Robertson ran a blistering line to outpace two defenders for the bonus try. The #10 completed the seven-point play to cut the lead to 31-24.

New England stole the momentum back, and from the 22, the Free Jacks kept recycling its rolling maul, and the referee awarded a penalty try in the corner. The score put New England up 38-24 and with the man advantage as Api Naikatini was yellow-carded.

With the match entering the final quarter, successive NE penalties gave DC a five-meter quick tap. The forwards had nine stabs at the line before Tusitala gave the backs a shot. The NE defense kept pushing DC back, but a skip pass from Robertson set Noble free for the try in the corner. The conversion missed, and DC trailed by nine with 12 minutes left.

Playing with a sense of urgency, DC picked up the tempo. Robertson cleared the ball deep into NE territory, and it was a foot race to the pill. Dabulas couldn’t corral the ball and accidentally kicked it into touch. After regaining possession, hard runs from Noble and Roberts-Te Nana had DC in NE’s backyard. DC looked to add points, but a DTS grubber to Robertson was called offsides.

With less than five minutes remaining, a not straight call on NE’s lineout gave Old Glory an attacking scrum 30 meters out. DTS found the edge and pitched to a streaking Cusano for the try. Robertson had a double shot at the posts following a penalty, but he missed both kicks.

With a minute left and down by four points, the crowd’s intensity grew louder. After a late tackle with no time remaining, DC had a lineout near midfield. Playing in the middle of the field, Callum Gibbins sent Robertson through a hole. The flyhalf was tripped up at the five and attempted a pop pass to Tusitala. The pass ricocheted off Tusitala’s fingers, and NE kicked it out the back of the try zone for the 38-34 victory.