Hoping a change of scenery will spark a resurgence, Old Glory DC hits the road to California to battle the San Diego Legion on Sunday at the SDSU Sports Deck. After its fourth loss, OG is left searching for answers to a myriad of questions. DC handed the Legion a season-ending defeat last year and hopes that past success breathes life into this year’s squad. There have been signs of improvement from game to game, and to get a victory before the bye week would be immense. The match will be broadcast live on the Rugby Network at 7:00 pm on Sunday and with a tape delay on NBC Sports Washington at 9:30 pm.
Improving, but Disappointing Effort at Segra
In the first 15 minutes against Toronto, Old Glory looked to be on point and in charge. A try off a maul gave DC its first lead of the season, but the Arrows stormed back to score off a botched restart. The defense had its best outing and limited Toronto to ten points in the second half. However, the offense had a difficult time producing a comeback.
“There is definitely an improvement, and I don’t think the score line reflected the true nature of the game,” Head Coach Andrew Douglas stated. “They took their opportunities, and we didn’t. We got into their 22 six times and only converted once. It wasn’t good enough. Our maul is going well, and we really have to nail those opportunities. Our handling let us down a little bit. Being too flat and getting the ball on the back shoulder doesn’t help get flow in the game. It’s the little things we always talk about, but we’re not executing.”
To compound matters, the MLR has suspended Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz for five games due to foul play. Fa’anana-Schultz is eligible to return for the home game against the Utah Warriors on April 15.
Cohesion in the Lineup
The coaching staff is still looking for the right combination to produce a winning result. Douglas expects to have more players available this week and, hopefully, a full complement after the bye.
“There are guys that deserve opportunities, and we’ll see about that,” Douglas said. “The whole team is working hard. I can’t fault the effort of the team. Every player is working hard at training, fronting up, and doing all the right things.”
That being said, the front row Jack Iscaro, Rob Irimescu, and Kyle Stewart are back with Api Naikitini and Stan South at lock. With Fa’anana-Schultz out, Luke Campbell lines up at #8, and Dom Bailey and Cory Daniel complete the back row. Jake Ilnicki, Mo Katz, Jack Carroll, Fintan Coleman, and David Beach are the reserves in the pack.
One of the bright spots against Toronto was the play of flyhalf Rohan Saifolai, and it will only improve with the familiarity and confidence in OG’s system and players. The halfback tandem of captain Danny Tusitala and Saifolai will strengthen with time and become one to watch in the league. Junior Sa’u returns to the midfield at #12 while William Talataina slides to outside center. The back three consists of Peni Lasaqa and Doug Fraser on the edges and Renata Roberts-Te Nana at fullback. Out since Week 1, Mike Dabulas is back from injury on the bench with Owen Sheehy and Danny Thomas joining him as the impact subs.
Surging San Diego on the Horizon
Old Glory will take a break from the cold and hope to let the warm California weather bring a victory back to the Nation’s Capital. In the team’s way are the 3-1 San Diego Legion. Fresh off a 31-20 win over Houston, the Legion trailed after a contentious first half against the SaberCats to shut them out in the second.
San Diego is loaded with experience with 336 international caps on their roster, including an All Black, a Springbok, seven Eagles, and a former England captain. Eleven players have scored this season, with Nate Augspurger leading the way with three tries, followed by Joe Pietersen, Bjorn Basson, and Ben Mitchell with two each.
With all their firepower, San Diego only has a +18 point differential and an average margin of victory of 4.5 points. Nevertheless, they beat Utah by two, Dallas by eight, lost to Seattle by three, and finished off Houston by 11.
“[The Legion] are a good side,” Douglas said. “They got a good #10 combination between Will Hooley and Joe Pietersen… [Former All Black] Nonu pulls all the strings, and he’s the player we have to watch the most. [In the forwards,] Robshaw is the main leader with the hooker as well is pretty key for them.”
“Houston was an interesting game because Houston seemed to have all the ball, but San Diego came out with the win. There are areas we want to pressure them in. The set-piece is where we are doing really well, and we want to put pressure on there. Nobody is backing us now, so we can throw everything at them with nothing to lose.”
Playing with Nothing to Lose
Old Glory has the ability to compete with any club in the MLR, but it ultimately comes down to execution. “It’s probably the story of the weekend,” Douglas said. “We need to execute better. We’re getting more familiar with our game plan and more confident with it, but we just need to execute. Get ourselves in the right parts of the field to do that.”
To get the monkey off their back before the bye is a must for DC. “It would be great, awesome. We always think we can, and we always believe we can win the game,” Douglas stated. “This week is no different, and I believe we can beat San Diego. It will be nice to go into the bye with a win behind our back, but whatever happens, happens.”
“The season is certainly not over, and on Saturday, we did enough to get a result. Habitual errors are coming back to bite us in the backside. We’re not scared of anyone. We’re not scared of San Diego.”