Old Glory qualify for MLR playoffs with NOLA victory


After an arduous season, Old Glory have for the first time ever qualified for the Major League Rugby playoffs after defeating NOLA Gold in their own back yard by a score of 15-28.

Old Glory started the game slowly, conceding almost immediately to a mazy run from New Orleans’ Trainor which earned the territory necessary for the hosts to score their first try of the day through replacement fly half Reece Botha.

DC quickly responded, though, going on to score their first of three unanswered tries just four minutes after NOLA opened the scoring. The first of these came through Kiwi youth prospect Niko Jones, who peeled off the back of a maul in textbook fashion to tie the game. The second try followed just a couple minutes later, this time through prolific winger Peni Lasaqa, whose experience as a track runner shone through as he received the ball on the wing and blazed round the outside to score in the corner. DC fans had to wait a little longer for their third try to be scored, a full eight minutes, and it turned out to be a carbon copy of the first, scoring on the opposite side through hooker Nic Souchon.

While the generally accurate Tito Diaz Bonilla went 0-3 on conversion kicks in the first half, his 38th minute penalty combined with the team’s hat trick of tries to give Old Glory a comfortable halftime lead.

Play slowed somewhat in the second half as some sweltering conditions made life difficult for the players, though Old Glory managed to secure their win by adding a further two tries in the late stages thanks to Kyle Baillie and Marcos Young. 

Baillie, an ex-NOLA Gold player, showed no qualms about scoring against his former team, cutting up his marker and prancing into the in-goal “like a majestic giraffe on the plains,” in the immortal words of @therugbynetwork on Twitter, a description of the play which I’m not going to bother attempting to top.

With the fourth try of the day securing a bonus point for Old Glory, the side have officially amassed the points needed to clinch a place in the MLR postseason for the first time in franchise history since their founding in 2018. With two regular season games still to play ahead of a playoffs campaign beginning in late June, Old Glory are already set to celebrate its most successful season since its founding in 2018.

So, what went so well for Old Glory on Saturday? Quite a lot, admittedly. First of all, to have the mental resilience to bounce back from conceding such an early try before going on to largely dominate the rest of the match is quite a feat, and something I’m not sure the team would have managed at other points of this season.

Second, in a match which featured so much kicking, particularly in the second half, a deft and comfortable back three was a huge boost in our push for victory. 

While Gradyn Bowd and Tito Diaz Bonilla struggled with their kicks at the uprights, their kicking out of hand was as classy as ever, pulling out countless territorial kicks and a sprinkling of 50-22s. Bowd and Bonilla combined for 602 kicking meters, achieving 240m and 362m respectively, with Danny Tusitala adding a further 255m with his repeated box kicks.

As has often been the case this season, Old Glory produced a brilliant defensive display throughout the match. While we struggled to maintain possession at times, we prevented NOLA from achieving anything consequential while they had the ball, with a couple of hairline try line defences to boot. Nic Souchon recorded an incredible 20 tackles, nearly three times as many as NOLA’s leading tackler JP du Plessis (7). Alejo Daireaux and Kyle Baillie added sixteen tackles each, with Tevita Naqali and Jack Iscaro following close begind with 15 and 14 tackles each. All told, Old Glory managed more than double NOLA’s tackles (105 vs 211), a stat which is rather telling of the match’s ultimate storyline. Our forward pack put a shift in all day long, pulling a few turnovers out of the breakdown as well as scoring twice from set piece situations, a massive boost in getting the result over the line.

Next time out, we will face the Houston SaberCats in what will be our final away match and penultimate match of the regular season. There is plenty more rugby to look forward to, though. Old Glory is playoffs bound!

-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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