Old Glory Non-Stop Over San Diego
By Evan Lappen
It’s good to be back home. Old Glory DC showed relentless effort to defeat the San Diego Legion, 38-29 on Saturday before a record crowd at Segra Field. OGDC scored six tries against their West Coast opponent and never let up the intensity. The squad banded together to find their “go forward” and played loose, fun rugby for the victory. Old Glory has one final home game next Saturday against the Austin Gilgronis.
“Overwhelming proud of the boys,” captain Mungo Mason said. “It’s been a tough season, a few injuries, and lots of ups and downs. We came together when we needed to and dug it out in tough spots. Our replacements were unbelievable. So proud of the boys.”
DC trotted out the same starting 15 for the first time this season, and the consistency and continuity were evident. All the players spoke of a great week of training, and the coaches had their squad ready to play. Contributions from Mason, Josh Brown, Api Naikatini, Jack Iscaro, Jason Robertson, and Tevita Naqali were instrumental in the win and brought joy to the nearly 2,500 fans in attendance.
San Diego’s devastating counterattack ran rampant in the first half, but the OG coaching staff made the necessary adjustments. “We talked about it at halftime,” head coach Andrew Douglas said. “We were going up in ones and twos and not connecting on our chase lines. We spoke about slowing down the chase lines and getting connected first before we go up.”
Old Glory’s set-piece was superior, and the players won their individual battles to emerge victoriously. The scrum was very disciplined, and the tight, clean rucks led to fast ball that San Diego couldn’t keep up with.
“We got two big forward packs that like to get down in the trenches and do work, so I thought it was a great physical battle,” Legion co-head coach Zack Test said. “Old Glory came out on top because they were the more disciplined and did the right things in the right areas. Credit to them for sticking to their game plan and executing it.”
Old Glory was first on the board, and it all started with Robertson stepping in front of Bjorn Basson’s pass. Naqali ran into contact, sending Naikatini through the line. Brown barrelled through two defenders after the next offload and pitched it back to Naqali, who downed it in the corner. Robertson slotted the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
“I saw Josh running with the ball, and I knew he would have to get down,” Naqali said. “I came to his left side and found the ball. I finally celebrated after the try now.”
San Diego answered right back as the counterattack of Cam Clark, Cecil Afrika, and Basson found space in the defense. After a big run from Paddy Ryan, the ball was whipped wide, and Afrika dotted down the try.
After the hydration break, a San Diego high tackle gave DC a great field position. After the five-meter lineout, Naqali was stopped short of the line. Iscaro took the pick and go and dove over the whitewash for his first professional try.
“I saw a few bodies and a line, and I just went for it,” Iscaro said. “Just happy to get over and help with the win.”
The Legion responded immediately. Old Glory knocked it forward off the restart, and San Diego countered with a series of offloads. Nate Augspurger sent it wide, and Keni Nasoqeqe finished with the dot down. Santiago Gonzales-Iglesias completed the seven-point play to narrow the gap to 14-12.
Old Glory extended the lead to 19-12 with speed Mungo Mason didn’t know he had. “The crowd got me going,” Mason exclaimed. “It was a Tevita tackle, and they knocked it on. I picked it up and just saw the open gap. I saw a much faster man come on my outside, and just a quick step, which Danny Tusitala and D’Montae Noble taught me, and then went for the line.”
The score remained until the end of the half when the Legion slashed the lead to two points. After a side entry penalty off their five-meter maul, SD’s Ryan took the quick tap for the score. The conversion missed, but Old Glory led 19-17 at the half.
Focused coming out of the break, DC didn’t waste time adding to their lead. In the 42nd minute, Ciaran Hearn exploited the gap next to an injured Legion player for the bonus point try.
After a string of DC defensive stands, which included a pressure-relieving turnover from Steven Longwell, the Legion finally broke through when Ryan Matyas put on a show and the ball was swung wide. Afrika lured in the defenders on the wing and put away Basson for the score. San Diego kept it close with the conversion at 26-24.
In the final quarter of the game, Old Glory dug deep. With the Legion backed against their own try line, DC overpowered San Diego’s scrum and stole the ball. Brown grabbed the pill from the back and outmuscled five tacklers for the score.
“Our pack did a good job getting the ball back, and I knew that was the opportunity we were looking for,” Brown added. “All I saw was opportunity.”
After a yellow card sent a Legion player to the bin in the 70th minute, Old Glory went for points but was wide right. DC kept on the pressure and stole the scrum again inside the 22. Danny Thomas ran it to the five, and Naikatini dove over for a game-sealing score.
San Diego would go on to score a brilliant try through hands in the 78th minute, but an intercept from Hearn ended the match. With the kick to touch, the DC faithful celebrated the glorious 38-29 victory.
In addition to the MLR match, Old Glory’s U-19 Academy Girls and Boys sides lost to the New England Junior Jacks, 19-7 and 23-17, respectively.