RUNY Hold On For Win to Start Regional Rivalry with DC
By Evan Lappen
In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty in Jersey City, N.J., the first match of the local derby between Old Glory DC and Rugby United New York ended with the home team claiming the 38-34 victory. The lead changed hands five times during the contest but, in the end, RUNY was able to capitalize on DC’s mistakes to hold on for the win. The victory put New York in the driver’s seat of the MLR Eastern Conference.
Old Glory Head Coach Andrew Douglas was pleased with the desire in his men but disappointed in the result. “We actually played some really good rugby, but we just made crucial errors at crucial times. And it cost us. We matched them physically in most aspects of the game but it was key decisions at key times that ultimately let us down.”
Despite the loss, it was a day of firsts for Old Glory as the match marked the start of a budding rivalry against RUNY. Sam Cusano, Dmontae Noble, and Josh Brown scored their first professional tries, and it was Jason Robertson’s first game back since injuring his hand against NOLA in week 1. Robertson created the go-forward ball and the offense needed to keep pace with RUNY. Unfortunately, DC couldn’t pick up the win but did collect two league standing points, for a try bonus and loss by less than 7 points.
Dressed in their white kit, OGDC took the opening kickoff but it was RUNY who came out of the gate with quickness and ferocious intent. Dominating possession early, New York’s Kara Pryor took an eightman pick down the blind side. When the defense finally tackled him, RUNY’s forwards had set up shop inside the OG five-meter line. Former All Black Andy Ellis dummied a pass to the backs and dove for the score. Dan Hollinshead’s conversion from the sideline was true and the home team took a 7-0 lead six minutes into the game.
RUNY kept up the pressure, limiting Old Glory’s opportunities until a clearance kick from Ellis didn’t find touch. Following the lineout on the RUNY 22, Thretton Palamo barreled through the defense and the ball was immediately sent wide. Robertson’s skip pass to Cusano found the tryzone for OGDC’s first points. The conversion was wide, but DC was on the board at 7-5.
Now with the momentum, Old Glory’s defense charged down a kick causing a penalty. DC were now in business and with a lineout maul, Mikey Sosene-Feagai broke off to within meters of the line. Callum Gibbins picked it and Ellis was no match for the hulking flanker for the try. Robertson slotted the kick to give OG the lead at 12-7 after 19 minutes of play.
RUNY responded almost immediately. Mungo Mason knocked on at the restart, giving his opponents a scrum at the OG 22. New York spun the ball outside where Troy Lockyear split the defenders with a burst of speed for the try. Hollinshead’s conversion kick retook the lead at 14-12.
After a series of play culminated in a counterattack from a 22-drop, Robertson and Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz connected for brilliant runs up the middle of the park. Mike Dabulas made a fabulous offload to Mason for some champagne rugby. The co-captain ran unchecked down the sideline popping the ball inside to Noble who finished for his first MLR try. The kick was off-target but DC grabbed the 17-14 lead.
Another penalty off the restart proved to be costly for Old Glory. RUNY had a double shot with its devastating maul and Dylan Fawsitt scored on the second attempt. Hollinshead nailed the conversion and added a penalty late in the half to go into halftime up 24-17.
Old Glory started the second half with a Robertson penalty after DC were threatening for another try. However, a heads-up New York play halted the momentum. Hollinshead stepped in front of a Danny Tusitala pass and the RUNY flyhalf galloped for the 50-meter score.
DC shrugged off the miscue and was back on offense after a RUNY penalty on the restart. Old Glory turned another penalty into a five-meter lineout maul and spun it quickly to a crashing Renata Roberts-Te Nana for a try under the posts. The automatic seven-pointer cut the lead to four points at 31-27 at the 51-minute mark.
The teams went back and forth with big hits, consequential penalties, and turnovers. Following a scrum penalty deep in OG’s zone, DC ripped the ball out from New York’s maul. Noble recovered the ball but RUNY’s Kyle Sumsion returned the favor and the ball squirted out along the sideline. New York’s Quinn Ngawati collected the loose ball and dotted it down in the corner.
Not going down without a fight, a pair of RUNY penalties saw DC attacking their try line once again. New York’s Ben Bonasso was yellow carded for repeated infringements and Old Glory took advantage. OGDC’s five-meter lineout was executed to perfection and Josh Brown mauled it in for his first try. Robertson made the conversion to bring the lead back to four points at 38-34.
The teams jockeyed for position and Old Glory made good use of its centers to break the defensive line on both sides of the ball. RUNY’s defense stepped up as Old Glory couldn’t add more points with the man advantage. The DC lineout faltered late as New York stole the ball twice.
OGDC had one last chance after RUNY’s lineout was not straight. However, it was RUNY who muscled up causing a penalty on the scrum and, ultimately, holding on for the 38-34 victory.
At home next Sunday, DC and their upcoming opponent, New England, will be keen to right the ship after both suffering close losses this week.