Toronto Overpowers Old Glory for Comeback Victory
By Evan Lappen
After scoring early in the second half, Old Glory DC held a firm lead before the Toronto Arrows came back for the 34-28 win in Marietta, Ga. Playing on the Fourth of July, DC jumped out to an eleven-point lead early in the second half but couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities to add to its total. Execution mishaps and penalties plagued DC offensively and defensively, leading Toronto to victory. The good news is that Old Glory returns home to Segra Field for its final two games of the season, starting with the San Diego Legion on Saturday.
The positive takeaways were that DC showed creativity and grit in its four converted tries, outgained Toronto by over 350 meters, had six line breaks to three, and dominated possession and territory. Despite the loss, the team battled and earned two bonus points in the defeat.
With seven of its starters out due to injury or international duty, many of DC’s promising talents saw extended action, and three earned their first MLR caps. Owen Sheehy, Dacoda Worth, and Mo Katz took to the field in the second half, and D’Montae Noble and Simi Moala impressed on the wings. Steven Longwell led the forwards from the front, and Jason Robertson looked more confident with his boot going 4/4 on conversions.
Old Glory started the match with ball-in-hand. However, penalty trouble led Toronto to a ten-meter lineout. The Arrow forwards pressed for the goal line, but an excellent OG defensive effort repelled their attack. Danny Tusitala forced the turnover, and Robertson kicked to touch.
DC finally got the ball rolling when its dominant scrum caused a Toronto penalty. A short-throw at the 30-meter lineout was tossed to Robertson. The Kiwi flyhalf pop-kicked it over the defense to Renata Roberts-Te Nana, who gathered the ball for a 55-meter try. Robertson’s kick from the sideline gave Old Glory the 7-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Penalties continued to rear its head, and Toronto took advantage as Tayler Adams slotted a PK following a not rolling away infraction.
Old Glory was unphased, and on the counterattack, Mungo Mason’s hard runs softened up the defense, and Longwell’s pick and go burst through the line into enemy territory. Following a series of high-risk passes and offloads, an Arrow penalty saw DC in position for its next try. On the ensuing five-meter lineout, a designed play unfolded as Api Naikatini took the throw-in and linked up with Tevita Naqali. The Fijian lock passed the ball back outside to James King for the try. Robertson tacked on the extras for the 14-3 advantage.
Toronto came right back after the restart. In the first ruck, Old Glory was penalized for a side entry. The kick to touch gave the Arrows an eight-meter lineout. They mauled inside the five, and Andrew Ferguson finished what the forwards started with a try under the posts. The seven-pointer cut the lead to four points with ten minutes left in the half.
After the teams exchanged kicks, Sam Cusano made a hustle play to recover the boot. A Toronto offsides set up DC with another scoring opportunity. Naikatini ran a peel off the five-meter lineout, and two phases later, Naikatini had a chance for his first try of the season. Unfortunately, he knocked the ball on while attempting to down it in the endzone. Neither team was able to score in the time remaining, and DC entered halftime up 14-10.
Old Glory came out of the locker rooms with confidence. Following a Toronto box kick into touch, DC deployed its quick flat ball attack. Ciaran Hearn’s behind-the-back pass to Dylan Taikato-Simpson broke the line, and he then passed to Tusitala to the ten. DC reset on an offsides call, and Cory Daniel scored his third try of the season off Tusitala’s quick tap. Robertson stayed perfect on the conversions and extended the lead to 21-10.
The Arrows responded after a penalty gave them a lineout at the 40. Taking the ball from the jumper, Ferguson froze the OG forwards with a dummy. Running past the first line of defense, the scrumhalf chipped it ahead and beat Tusitala to the ball and the try. It was a fantastic individual effort and proved to be the turning point of the match.
Down by four points after Adams’ conversion, Toronto never looked back and scored again four minutes later. Following an off the feet infraction, the Arrows mauled their lineout and a missed tackle on Joaquín Tuculet allowed the wing to offload to Guiseppe du Toit for the score. Adams converted the try for Toronto’s first lead at 24-21.
With all the momentum, the Arrows scored their third try in eight minutes when Adams passed to du Toit who offloaded to a blazing Sam Malcolm for the score. Adams slotted the kick to further increase the lead and a penalty in the 68th minute pushed the advantage to 34-21.
Down by less than two converted tries with ten minutes left, Old Glory found life when Tuculet was binned for an intentional knock-on. Max Lum saw daylight off the lineout maul and offloaded to Danny Thomas for the score. Robertson’s aim was true and reduced the lead to six points.
The momentum shifted back to DC; however, Toronto had plenty of fight left. The Arrows dialed up its scrum defense and caused a penalty as Old Glory was charging into its territory. Adams went for points, but the kick was off its mark.
After the 22-meter drop, Tusitala went for the ball on defense and the referee yellow-carded him for an intentional knock. Back to 14-on-14, Old Glory had one last chance. Moala broke the line and Robertson had a smart keeper to cross midfield. A knock ultimately ended the match as Toronto kicked the ball into touch.