What did we learn from the first preseason game?
Let's start with a recap, for those of you who couldn't be there.
Old Glory scored first, a few minutes into the game, but Navy responded quickly with two converted tries. This early part of the game, the first ten or twenty minutes, was highly competitive. Navy was quite clearly the side with more experience playing together as a team, and it showed in their cohesion on the field. Old Glory, on the other hand, suffered from brilliant offloads to people totally unprepared to receive them, issues in defensive coverage as the result of miscommunication, and other issues that pointed to a team that simply hadn't spent enough time practicing together.
However, after a slow start, Old Glory settled into a more comfortable place and really took control of the game. They got the score up to 33-14 at halftime and looked in much more dominant form.
The second half was never really in contention. The tries kept coming for OGDC, and as the clock ticked on they came faster and faster. The inherent advantages of a professional side in terms of stamina and depth off the bench became increasingly clear. The last twenty minutes were a total rout, pushing the score up to the somewhat silly heights it ended at. This part of the game was mostly 1-2 quick forward phases followed by the backs running it all the way down.
The last play of the game was a try by Navy to bring them up to 21 with 79:40 on the clock. Things ended there because, really, was there any point in continuing?
It's always tough to gauge a team on an exhibition performance, especially against a lower-tier opponent. As such, one of the clear takeaways is to not takeaway too much. That said, here are some things that may signal what's to come for Old Glory this season:
1. Slow Starts
Old Glory was slow out of the gate because of a lack of team cohesion. Individual talent abounds, but they don't yet have that instinctive feel for what their teammates are doing that can only come from experience together. This isn't a huge surprise; after all, this is an expansion team.
I expect that slow starts to games will plague us all season. Getting down early as the team settles into place will be the norm, and we will be playing from behind going into the second half. Ideally, this effect will lessen as the season goes on and our starters have more and more real game time under their belts.
2. High Ceiling
When a team does well in a preseason match against a a lower-level opponent, there is no guarantee that it will translate to higher-level games. Rather, it illuminates what the ceiling for the team is likely to be; after all, you're not likely to play better against harder opponents later on.
That's why it was good to see that once the team started clicking into place, they did a lot of things right:
- We provided good support at offensive breakdowns, establishing rucks quickly and effectively
- Passes and offloads were sharp and accurate
- The scrum was overpoweringly dominant, getting penalties basically every time. Just check out this GIF:
Overall, there's a lot to feel good about from the game against Navy. We'll learn more next weekend against Rugby ATL.