Photo: Evan Lappen

Old Glory Shows Improvement, Scotland U20s Dominate

While Old Glory DC looked better in its second leg of its exhibition season, Scotland’s National Under-20 side clearly outperformed the home team scoring ten tries en route to a 70-7 victory. Old Glory had multiple opportunities to put points on the board but either a misstep or penalty stopped the drive. The aggressiveness of Scotland and its devastating line speed stifled Old Glory’s attack and quick ball on offense kept DC on the back foot. The skill level and ability to compete is there for Old Glory, but the squad is still working on playing as a team and that will come with time. DC won’t have many days to dwell on this match as it welcomes the USA Rugby South Panthers to town on Saturday.

“It was an improved performance from last week,” visiting coach Andrew Douglas said. “The scoreboard doesn’t read it, but I thought we actually played better. It’s just that we were playing a top side in the Scotland U20s who are getting ready for a massive tournament that starts next week against South Africa. We wish them all the best but it was great to see us with an improved performance. If we can maintain that improvement, we will hopefully be positive in the next couple of weeks.”

Captain Josh Brown agreed with his coach saying, “We played as a unit better than we did last week and I could feel it on the field. A lot of long sustained drives that ended up in unfortunate errors that ended up in points for them. That is going to happen against a top-notch side like the Scotland U20s. They were very fit, very aggressive, and their fundamentals were pretty close to flawless.”

Under the lights at Cardinal Stadium at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., nearly 2,300 fans were on hand for the Memorial Day test. Scotland dominated possession early and struck first in the fifth minute via a fancy grubber from Ross Thompson to Jason Blain in the corner. Off the ensuing kickoff, Scotland broke free down the sideline and Nick Kuhl saved a try with a held ball in the endzone. With the five-meter scrum, Scotland’s Connor Boyle scored off the second phase of attack to make it 14-0.

The first ray of daylight came a few minutes later when Scotland’s Boyle was yellow-carded for an unsafe tackle on a leaping Kuhl. The penalty put Old Glory in the driver’s seat with an attacking lineout inside the 22. Quick ball through the forwards saw Khalid Williams, Mo Katz, and Dacoda Worth make stabs inside the ten and culminated with Sean Hartig finding Dante Lopresti for the try. John Stapleton made the conversion look easy from the sideline and cut the deficit to 14-7.

Even a man down, Scotland looked composed and confident after regaining possession off a 22 drop. The #9/#10 combination of Roan Frostwick and Thompson marched the troops downfield and after a series of penalty lineouts, the Scotland forward pack mauled it close and Tom Marshall rolled off for the score. Marshall found pay dirt again soon after when the continued pressure saw forward pack walk in the five-meter scrum for his second try. Thompson’s fourth conversion made it 28-7 with 15 minutes left.

Old Glory finally got some sustained possession, but Scotland met DC blow for blow at the line. On its 17 th phase, the ball was knocked on spinning it out wide. Possession went back and forth late in the half and Tyler Barberi took off unchecked in the lineout to the ten. The forwards inched it closer but when the ball sent to the backs, an unfortunate knock ended the drive. Aided by multiple penalties, Scotland flipped the field and on a maul off a five-meter lineout, Murphy Walker trampled in for the score. Thompson split the uprights and Scotland led 35-7 at the half.

The lineups were different as the teams emerged from the break as both teams brought on fresh legs to begin the second half. Old Glory’s play looked to be improved but it had difficulty stringing together consistent possession.

As for the U20s, the ball seemed to bounce its way. The first try of the second half came when Scotland charged down Stapleton’s kick and Jack Hill touched it down for the score. Will Hurd followed it up about 15 minutes later after multiple DC penalties saw John Sage being sent off with a yellow card. Old Glory couldn’t stop the bleeding as Scotland showed off some champagne rugby down the sideline with tremendous support play finishing with a Lomond McPherson score.

As the clock clicked towards the 65 th minute, Old Glory had momentum inside Scotland’s 22, but DC was again its own worst enemy with the knock. Minutes later, the crowd rose to its feet with a break down the sideline but it was for naught as the ball was fumbled forward. On the ensuing scrum, Old Glory earned a penalty lineout and Josh Brown rumbled to within a couple of meters of scoring. DC attacked the line, but in its aggressiveness, was called for a double move inches from the whitewash.

Play began to loosen up in the final ten minutes with the U20s kicking for field position and Old Glory answering with impassioned play. A big gainer from Chris Kunkel moved the ball into Scotland territory and Brown’s power running got it inside the ten. The ball was swung across to the right, but it was knocked on in the ruck. On the clearance kick after the scrum, the ball bounced off Old Glory into Scotland’s hands and the U20s raced 60 meters through hands for the try. Scotland added one more before the final whistle to end the match, 70-7.

Speaking to Scotland’s head coach Carl Hogg after the match, he was obviously delighted. “There are bits and pieces of the performance that we can take into the World Cup next month. Defensively, our line speed was excellent and when we got our shape together, we looked decisive with ball in hand. There were lots of good elements and we know we have to crank up our game next week when we go
against South Africa. We still have lots to work on, but it’s a really good platform to launch on the Junior World Cup.”

“[Old Glory] clearly have some really good athletes and ball players,” Hogg added. “They clearly need better cohesion but that will come through time. You can tell there is something definitely brewing here in DC. It was a great crowd tonight, great facilities, and have a group of players that definitely have potential.”

DC has much to work on in the short week before facing the Panthers on Saturday. Douglas indicated the areas of emphasis would be to “sustain pressure for longer periods of time and take away the penalties and errors that we were giving away because it is just releasing that pressure valve. If we maintain pressure, we will score more points.”

Brown will have his team ready for the South and knows it wants the victory as much as DC. “We have all played with and against those guys, a lot of homegrown talent. I think it’s going to be the most high-intensity game and it’s going to be a lot more personal. I’d be surprised that all 23 of them didn’t think that they earned or deserved a spot out here.”

“We have a lot to prove and our fans came out and cheered from minute one to eighty. I truly believe we have the best fan base in the MLR right now with 2,000+ fans at our first two games so far. I think [the South] is going to bring it… and we have a little more to prove and bring home the first W for our fan base and do it for Old Glory DC.”

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