Old Glory Rides Dominant First Half to Win Over New England
By Evan Lappen
Old Glory DC broke its two-game slide with a 35-22 victory over the New England Free Jacks at Segra Field in Leesburg, Va. The visitors scored first but DC took control with 27 straight points to close out the half. The Free Jacks mounted a second-half comeback; however, an Old Glory bonus try at the buzzer sealed a great win for the club. With the victory, DC evens its record at 2-2-1 and will fly to the west coast to face the undefeated LA Giltinis on Saturday.
Old Glory Head Coach Andrew Douglas boiled the game down to taking advantage of opportunities. “We used the wind in the first half better than New England. They had enough opportunities in the second half to win it. They had a few lineouts five out from our line but our defense in that area was really good, our defense won it for us today.”
On the other side, New England’s head coach Ryan Martin said, “We gave away far too many set piece penalties in the first half. We gave them too much of a lead with the wind… We played a bit of a test match [in the second half] and put ourselves to a point to go on and win the match, but too many errors cost us, at set piece time especially.”
The match was typified by playing with the wind and Old Glory’s maturity in the set piece. The Free Jacks’ first half was marred by infractions, and both Mike Dabulas and Jason Robertson brutalized New England with their tactical kicking, causing headaches for the visitors. Callum Gibbins earned Man of the Match honors for his hard work on both sides of the ball, and the new additions of Thomas Morani and Osea Kolinisau were instrumental in the win.
New England recovered the kickoff for the opening possession and pushed OGDC back after successive penalties. When DC looked to clear the ball, Robertson, unfortunately, received the ball with a foot just out of the endzone. From the resultant NE scrum, the ball was then swung across the field for Harrison Boyle to send a clever grubber through the defense for a Dougie Fife try. Beaudein Waaka connected on the conversion for an early 7-0 advantage.
OGDC answered immediately with a Robertson penalty kick and another in the 21st minute. Led by a domineering scrum and constant pressure in defense, DC took its first lead of the match after New England’s Ronan McCusker was yellow carded. The subsequent lineout maul was pushed forward but was just held up over the line. The forwards pounded the ball forward after the ensuing scrum and Danny Tusitala finished off the forwards hard work with the try.
Soon after, DC found itself driving another maul from a line out after another NE penalty. Robertson’s kick to touch set the ball in enemy territory. From the line out a beautiful set piece play saw Palamo draw the defense allowing Dabulas to weave through the midfield traffic for the 30-meter try.
Old Glory continued to press, and the scrum was beginning to overpower the opposition with consecutive steals. After a failed grubber to Renata Roberts-Te Nana, DC closed the half with a five-meter lineout maul. Mikey Sosene-Feagai broke off the pack and dove at the line. After the match official Lex Weiner conferred with his assistant, the try was awarded and OGDC went into the half time break up 27-7.
The scoring in the second half started shortly after kickoff with a Waaka penalty. The Free Jacks adjusted their strategy and immediately cut down on the penalty count. A late hit from Stan South sent the second-rower to the bin and NE went for goal. The OGDC maul defense remained stout, repelling three straight attempts at the line before an errant lineout allowed Mungo Mason to clear the ball out of the danger zone.
It didn’t take New England long to get back into striking distance. The Free Jacks used the same tactic as its first score as Boyle connected with Fife on a sweet grubber under the posts for the automatic seven-pointer.
Soon after, Robertson added some padding with a penalty, but New England came right back. After a strong run from Sef Fa’agase, the Free Jacks exploited an overlap on the left wing for Harry Barlow score in the corner.
At 30-22, the teams went back and forth and due to the wind, and both squads’ lineouts struggled with not straight calls. Old Glory brought on its reserves and swapped out its entire front row in the 70th minute. The trio of Max Lum, Dante Lopresti, and Jack Iscaro stepped up, brought the energy, and forced a scrum penalty as the clock wound down.
In crunch time with less than five minutes left, New England pushed the pace; however, Roberts-Te Nana picked off an intercept pass on the wing. The Kiwi streaked down the sideline before he was wrangled by Fife, who knocked the ball on in the tackle.
With time almost up on the clock a scrum and lineout gave Old Glory the last possessions of the game and the home team ended the match with patience and poise. The forwards ran a few phases and provided the platform before Robertson heaved a beautifully timed skip pass over Waaka and into the hands of Kolinisau. The Fijian legend sprinted into the try zone for the all-important bonus try and the 35-22 victory.
The win is a confidence booster and it will be needed with the Giltinis on deck. “We’re going to LA now full of confidence.” Douglas said. “LA are supposed to beat us, and nobody is going to pick us to win that game. They’ve beaten teams by 40-50 points so no one is going to give us a shot apart from ourselves. We have got nothing to lose, we can enjoy ourselves and have fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
South summed up the game by saying the team is finally hitting its stride. “We started playing how we want to play. It starts with getting our roles right, our responsibilities right and our attitude right. We’re starting to do that and getting our tails up.”