The Journey for Victory Hits the Road in New York Sunday

The Journey for Victory Hits the Road in New York Sunday

The quest for Old Glory DC’s elusive first win continues this Sunday at Rugby New York. An improved showing against NOLA didn’t yield a victory, but the squad earned a bonus try point in the standings. With Old Glory’s play trending on an upward trajectory, the team looks to pounce on NY following its last-minute loss to Toronto. Catch the game on Sunday at 3:00 pm on the Rugby Network and 10:30 pm on NBC Sports Washington (tape delay). 


This weekend, the team hits the road; however, it will be without its skipper, Andrew Douglas, who departed the organization earlier this week. Douglas had been with the squad since the first exhibition match in 2019, and his presence and candor will be missed by all. In his stead, Callum Gibbins and James Willocks will step in as interim head coaches, and, hopefully, the course correction will pay off in the win column.


Improving Game by Game


Saturday’s match against NOLA showed that Old Glory has vastly improved since the beginning of the season, but there is still much further to go. The 31-22 defeat saw DC get in its own way with penalties, while the Gold’s miscues kept their opponent in the game. 


“Another tough one to swallow,” eightman Luke Campbell said. “It’s been a frustrating year. I think what makes it so frustrating is that we know we have a good team and good systems, but we can’t string together a full 80 minutes. That was evident again on the weekend when we had five-minute lapses or one little play that turned the game. We have to stop giving the team so many opportunities to attack us.  We can see the pieces coming together. It’s just we’d like to have seen those pieces come together two months ago, not seven games into the season.”


Shake-Up in the Starters 


Two-thirds of the front row are new this weekend as Jack Iscaro returns at loosehead and Facundo Gattas slots in at hooker after his MLR debut on Saturday. Kyle Stewart is back at tighthead and Tevita Naqali joins Stan South at lock, while Api Naikitini gets a little rest on the bench. Dom Bailey and his 25 tackles against NOLA will be paired with Cory Daniel at flanker. To complete the back row, Campbell is penciled in at No. 8. 


In his first start since Week 1, Mike Dabulas took over the reins at flyhalf and teamed well with captain Danny Tusitala. Centers Junior Sa’u and William Talataina are finding their groove and the former rugby league bruiser scored his first MLR try versus NOLA. Wing Peni Lasaqa scored two more tries to lead the team in the statistic and Doug Fraser was a workhorse with 15 carries for 109 meters. Renata Roberts-Te Nana returns at fullback.  


The great news from the injury front is that Thretton Palamo is set for his season debut off the bench on Sunday. Palamo gives Old Glory options at the center and a fresh, reliable warrior in the backs. The combination of Owen Sheehy, John Lefevre, Danny Thomas, and Jack Russell will battle it out this week for the remaining two backline reserve positions. The impact subs in the forwards are Jack Carroll, Rob Irimescu, Jake Ilnicki, Fintan Coleman, and Naikitini. 


On the Road to New York


After finishing one game away from the MLR Championship last season, Rugby New York has rebounded to a 5-2 record so far in 2022. NY is third in the Eastern Conference and is only three points out of first place. On Sunday, Rugby New York was cruising on a two-game roll until it was stopped short of victory at home against Toronto. The Arrows’ defensive prowess stifled New York’s potent offense, and Andrew Quattrain’s try in the 78th minute was the 14-10 game-winner. 


“They’ve been pretty good,” Campbell said. “They lost to Toronto in a close game. Their Canadian Andrew Coe has had quite a year and scored a few tries, a lot coming from intercepts. They put pressure on defense. Their outside backs read the ball well, and there are ways to counter that line speed when they are coming up. On offense, they got Andy Ellis and lots of Super Rugby players. They are an experienced team and know how to play rugby.”


Rugby New York is fourth in the league with 26 tries scored and fifth in the MLR with 182 points. Fifteen New Yorkers have scored this season with their winger combo of Ed Fidow and Andrew Coe each dotting down four tries apiece. 


The front row of Chance Wenglewski, Kaleb Geiger, and Kalolo Tuiloma have held down the fort for the last two games. Will Tucker and Nate Brakeley are the stalwarts in the middle, and Ben Bonasso, Brendon O’Connor, and Kara Pryor comprise the back row. Dylan Fawsitt, Wilton Rebolo, Zak Taulafo, and Charlie Hewitt all have international experience coming off the bench. 


With injuries at flyhalf, former All Black Andy Ellis has stepped up to fill the void, and Conor McManus is in at scrumhalf. The trio of Quinn Ngawati, Fa’asiu Fuatai, and Jason Emery are fluid in the centers, and the fleet-footed Troy Lockyear is the fullback. The eternal Sam Windsor and Connor Buckley will be the subs in the backline. 


“It’s about fronting up,” Campbell stated. “You have to give them respect but go after them still. We have to get in the mindset that we will be the enforcers in this game… The group we have now has been playing well and feels like with our tackle counts and dominant hits; the guys are putting their bodies on the line. There is no question about anyone’s effort and desire. If we stick to our defensive system and stop giving teams so many opportunities to attack, we’ll get better results.”


Get Right on the Road


With the actions taken this week, the team determined that the status quo needed to change. 


“When you are 0-7, you have to stop worrying about performance and worry about results,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if that’s echoed throughout the team. Some may be happy about their performance, but at the end of the day, it’s a results-driven league.” 


Co-owner Chris Dunlavey summed up his thoughts on the team and its effort after the match against NOLA. “There’s not a man, woman, or child associated with Old Glory who is happy with the record we have right now, but as rugby people, we know there is always redemption in playing well against a team you respect. We accomplished that today. There was not a minute when our men were not fighting to the very end of this game and that’s a credit to every player who has trained with our organization this season and those who put their bodies on the line on the pitch today.”


It’s a new day for Old Glory DC.  Let’s see if the team rises to meet the challenge on Sunday.

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