Fresh off the bye week, Old Glory DC welcomes its Week 1 opponent, Rugby ATL, to Segra Field for a nationally televised clash on Sunday night. The 4-1 Ratlers are one of MLR’s hottest teams after a convincing 29-14 victory over previously unbeaten Austin. Although DC didn’t win in its last contest, Old Glory played its most complete game of the season before the bye. Old Glory is focused on upsetting the top club in the Eastern Conference, with the team rested and healthy, and with new faces joining the fray. Kickoff will be at 7:00 pm Sunday on FS1, and tickets are available here.
OGDC will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Segra Field as the gates open at 2:00 pm. The first of two curtain-raisers starts at 2:30 pm with Mary Washington University battling Bowling Green. At 4:30 pm, Virginia Tech takes on James Madison as part of the Iron Vine Series Rugby Invitational. The MacMillan Pipe Band will provide the music during the pre-game and halftime, and Celtic Harpist Abbie Palmer will be on stage in the VIP Club House. The Beer Garden will be back by the Sheehy Showcase next to the north try zone for all fans.
Reloaded After the Bye
The bye allowed the coaching staff to assess the first third of the season and put an optimum lineup on the field for Sunday. The arrival of Felix Kalapu gives the forward pack a boost and flexibility with increased depth. Another roster change is Jake Ilnicki replacing Jack Iscaro, who is out with a lower body injury.
With the team as healthy as it is, it gives the coaching staff more options. “At the root of it, it gives us more competition,” Renata Roberts-Te Nana said. “Healthy competition is going to be massive. Whatever game plan we feel like we want to use this week, we have the tools necessary to do that. Whether we want to be more crash and bang or watching out for the high balls, we got the skillset and everyone available now to execute the game plan that Coach Douglas wants.”
In the forwards, Ilnicki, Rob Irimescu, and Kyle Stewart will line up in the front row. Api Naikitini and Stan South are your locks with Kalapu, Cory Daniel, and Luke Campbell manning the back row. Mo Katz, Dante Lopresti, Dom Bailey, Fintan Coleman, and Will Vakalahi will be the impact subs.
Consistency breeds success as the coaching staff will roll out the same backline starters as the Legion match. Captain Danny Tusitala and Rohan Saifoloi are the halfbacks and Junior Sa’uand William Talataina will man the centers. Peni Lasaqa and Doug Fraser are the wings with Roberts-Te Nana completing the back three at fullback. Mike Dabulas, Owen Sheehy, and John Lefevre are the covers on the bench.
All Eyes on Atlanta
With the bye in the rearview, Old Glory is focused on the next challenge with Rugby ATL on Sunday. After playing its best game of the season at San Diego, DC knows it needs to finish plays and, ultimately, play a full 80 minutes to beat a team like Sunday’s opponent.
While building on the positives from the San Diego match, the impetus is clear. “We’re going to have to finish,” head coach Andrew Douglas said. “We had enough opportunities to score and win the game, but we didn’t take those opportunities. We need to be more ruthless in the 22 and finish. We got ourselves in good parts of the field and just didn’t complete.”
Roberts-Te Nana added, “When the opportunity arises, we just have to be able to call for the ball where we are literally slowing everything down to a halt [inside the 22]. We are letting the defense set and wait for the perfect picture where sometimes you just got to beat them with speed. So this week, we have to play lightning quick, but with a lot of precision.”
Old Glory DC hung tough against Atlanta in Week 1 for 55 minutes until it fell apart. The Ratlers return a physical forward pack led by Johan Momsen and Matt Heaton. ATL was without Kurt Coleman, Joaquín de la Vega Mendía, and Duncan van Schalkwyk last weekend against the Gilgronis, but the trio of Martini Talapusi, Harley Davidson, and Austin White filled in exceptionally. The center combo of Will Leonard and Ryan Nell is lethal and attracts a lot of attention.
“We know we can compete with Atlanta,” Douglas said. “Our set-piece was pretty good in that first game, and when we were connected defensively, we were good. We have to be in the game for a longer period of time than we were. We have to be more consistent in our approach both on offense and defense.”
“In everything we do, we have to do it quickly, efficiently, and try to run these boys around the field,” Roberts-Te Nana said. “They like to be brutal and fast and are quite robotic in what they do. As long as we are on the same page, if we play heads-up rugby, we’ll be alright. Expect a really fast game. High intensity.”
Putting It All Together
After five straight losses, Old Glory has had to do some serious soul-searching over the bye. “We’ve had to take a deep, hard look at ourselves and make sure we’re all doing it for the right reasons,” Roberts-Te Nana stated. “We have to trust each other and know that all of the pieces are there. The team, coaches, and owners are there, and we have to put out that performance and create that hope to win a game. Build on it because winning becomes a habit.”
With the trust, belief, and health on their side, OGDC needs to fight and keep fighting until the final whistle. “We need to stay in it the whole game for however long it takes to win this game. We need to be in the game laser-focused the whole time. We can’t switch off like we did the first time at 55 minutes and think that’s going to do the job. From the first kickoff to the last whistle, everyone from #1 to #23 with coaches included has to be on their game without switching off,” Roberts-Te Nana concluded.