It was tight, but Old Glory once again managed to pull off a win at home with a 31-29 victory against Rugby ATL. The weather was perfect, the rugby was fun, and crowd was energized. Let's dive in.
To say the match didn't start well for Old Glory would be an understatement. They were just half a step slow, allowing an aggressive ATL to get a good drive going. Atlanta set up a good maul off a lineout, which DC were penalized for collapsing. ATL set up a second maul, which was also collapsed, leading to a yellow card for Danny Tusitala and penalty try just four minutes into the game. Old Glory answered with a penalty a few minutes minutes later, but some soft defense on the restart gave ATL their second try shortly after.
Just ten minutes into the game, OGDC was in a 3-14 hole. Despite the points difference and the despairing fans, though, the team held their nerve. Both teams made gains on attack but neither could break through. However, consistent penalties by Atlanta gave Jason Robertson the opportunity to chip away at the deficit. An Atlanta penalty made the score 9-17 to ATL with less than ten left in the half.
Feeling the heat, Old Glory made another good drive down the field. This time, their quick recycling of the ball was enough to give them space on the wing and a score in the corner. The kick was no good, but DC still pulled within 3 of Atlanta. At the end of the half, with the clock over 40, Old Glory had the chance to kick out the half. Instead, they kept hold of it, eventually benefiting from a long run down the sideline before Declan O'Donnell managed to reach it over between the posts. Robertson made the easy kick, and Old Glory went into the half up 21-17.
ATL wasn't going to let that lead last long. They came out of the gate roaring in the second half. That pressure eventually lead to a try seven minutes into the half. With the kick good, ATL took the lead, 21-24.
The teams then settled into a back and forth battle. Both teams made huge gains on the wings and even threatened to score, but both defenses held fast when is mattered. However, a break down the sideline by Old Glory broke the stalemate with their third try at 58 minutes (watch the highlight here). Robertson's kick was good, putting Old Glory back ahead, 28-24. They extended that lead with another penalty ten minutes later, getting to 31-24.
Not willing to go down without a fight, Atlanta drove again into Old Glory territory. They established a maul from the lineout and pushed over the line for another try at 72 minutes. However, they missed the critical kick that would have tied the game, leaving them down 31-29 with eight to go.
Old Glory regained possession and kept it in the forwards. Ill-discipline from ATL lead to a player being sent off with a yellow card. Though Robertson missed the ensuing penalty kick, Old Glory retained possession. They did not slow down, playing as fast and loose as always. With barely over minute, ATL got the ball back and made a final drive for the try line, but another penalty gave Robertson the chance to kick out the match.
Final score: Old Glory 31-29 Rugby ATL
1. The team has grown immensely since their week one blowout
In week one, NOLA managed to get up to such a lead that it demoralized Old Glory and really shook their confidence. This was especially destructive because of how Old Glory plays, relying on it's individual talent and effort to generate attack and defense. These are the first things to suffer when a team is not feeling confident, and it made DC just a step slow in everything.
However, despite getting down quickly to ATL this week, Old Glory kept their cool. They didn't seem phased by the disadvantageous score, and always opted for points after penalties. They have clearly developed an inner faith in their own game and their own ability to climb out of a hole. That could make a huge difference in the coming weeks.
2. Slow starts are a continued plague on this team
Speaking of being a step slow, Old Glory seems to struggle to get up to speed at the opening of halves. The Houston game aside, Old Glory has been dramatically outscored in the first ten minutes of halves. It's a concerning habit, as it will give them some big holes to make comebacks from. If they can find a way to play defense like they do for the other sixty minutes of the match, they would be a formidable team.
ATL's last try, though? That had nothing to do with DC being slow and everything to do with Atlanta being a tough and determined team. Credit where credit is due, and ATL is definitely due some credit.
3. The pieces are there to fix the Old Glory scrum
In the second half, Old Glory managed to drive an attacking Atlanta scrum backwards for a penalty. When they did, the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered like points had been scored. That's a pretty good gauge of the usual success of the OGDC scrum.
But it may not stay this way all season. Even though the Beast hasn't played a single minute of the past couple games, Old Glory has improved. They can now at least maintain possession with most attacking scrums and they've had stretches of stable or even good performance in recent weeks. What they need to do now is figure out what and who made those stretches happen.
4. More than anything, Old Glory is just plain fun to watch
Are the scrums a problem? Sure. Is the way Declan O'Donnell carries the ball into contact mildly terrifying? Most definitely. But Old Glory has shown a dynamism on attack and tenacity on defense that is simply a pleasure to behold.