Old Glory return to Segra Field to kick off string of season defining matches


Old Glory are back in action on Sunday, hosting the New England Free Jacks at Segra Field in a match which will once again have huge implications for our race for playoff rugby.

As we know, the MLR Eastern Conference is incredibly tight. New England currently sit on top with 38 points (8-2), who we closely follow with 29 points, with New York, New Orleans, and Atlanta in tow with 29, 28, and 26 points respectively. With just six regular season games remaining, mistakes will be punished, with very little time remaining to correct them.

New England have been a force this season, dominating the Eastern Conference while taking shots at the Western Conference in their spare time. They come into this weekend with a four-match win streak, having beaten the New York Ironworkers, Rugby ATL, Toronto, and Chicago by an aggregate score of 142-45. Their most dominant win came in the form of an 80-5 shellacking of MLR’s resident charity case, the Toronto Arrows, while their toughest match in this run came in their most recent match as New York held them to a nail-biting 8-0 victory, the lowest final score in league history.

Old Glory are in similarly impressive form with three consecutive wins under our belt, most recently defeating the Dallas Jackals in a weather-affected 3-7 victory, where Willy Talataina’s try on the last play of the first half secured our win. This win saw us maintain second place in the Eastern Conference. With good momentum at our backs, we are well set to claim a result this weekend and extend our advantage against our Eastern Conference rivals.

This will not be the first time this season that Old Glory and the Free Jacks have squared up. Cast your mind all the way back to March 11, 2023, on which Old Glory were narrowly defeated by a score of 34-31 on the road in Boston. Old Glory took an early lead but found themselves down 19-10 at half. After a slow start to the second period, Old Glory took advantage of New England’s ill discipline, scoring while some Free Jacks cooled off in the sin bin to tie the score at the sixty minute mark. A late New England onslaught unfortunately put the match out of reach, and despite a late try we were forced to take home a narrow 31-34 loss.

On that fateful day we struggled with many of the issues that one would expect a team with a lot of new players to struggle with. An overall lack of chemistry, disjointed attacks, mistakes on defence, and a handful of handling errors. Since then, however, most of these issues have been remedied. The team has spent a lot more time playing together, looking like a well-oiled, championship worthy machine in recent matches against Utah and New York. With these knots worked out, Old Glory seem well set to do a job against New England.

Now that we find ourselves in a later stage of the season, it is quite a bit easier to pick out ones to watch in both team’s line-ups, so let’s start with New England.

The most notable number on the Free Jacks stat sheet is 81, the number of points scored by full back Jayson Potroz so far this season, the second most points scored by any player in MLR, nine of which were scored against Old Glory back in March. He has also racked up 30 successful kicks at the uprights, where he is also the second best in the league.

Other notables in the New England squad include Paula Balekana, who has scored the second most tries in MLR (8), and Wian Conradie, who leads the league for carries with 137.

On the Old Glory side of things, there are plenty of players to keep an eye on. Willy Talataina is cooking with gas at the minute. He scored our only try of the night in Dallas last time out, with a host of other tries, bruising runs and uncompromising tackles to his name in 2023.

The player who perhaps lost the most to Saturday’s thunderstorm was new signing Niko Jones, who was in the Old Glory squad for the first time ever, but was cruelly robbed of a likely debut by an angry Mother Nature. Odds are he will at the very least make the squad this weekend, looking likely to record his first minutes in Old Glory colours.

There are plenty of others worth watching, so we can do a little quickfire round. Tito Diaz Bonilla played well last time out despite a position change, and Junior Sa’u was looking dangerous on attack. Jack Iscaro, Nick Souchon, and Kyle Stewart all combined nicely to dominate the set pieces which we eventually scored from, dominating the scrum and stealing a handful of lineouts.

This weekend’s match is one of the biggest of our season so far, and with a tough run of fixtures coming up this is an important opportunity for Old Glory to put on a show. One thing is for sure, it’ll be a day to remember at Segra Field, we can’t wait to see you there!

-by Arthur Ferridge, @rthur_ferridge

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