Old Glory finally broke their losing streak, winning their first match since their defeat of Houston back in May. With an identical roster to last week, they played some the best rugby we've seen from them in a long time. Here are four takeaways from this excellent performance:
1. The newbies come into their own
It's something I've bene highlighting for weeks, but the crop of inexperienced players that Old Glory has had in the background are finally coming into their own.
- Cory Daniel was a star, radiating confidence and looking absolutely in his element. He gives off an air of leadership that hopefully will hopefully continue to grow.
- James King, who has had to get up to speed quickly in Mikey Sosene-Feagai's absence, is starting to look very reliable at hooker. His lineouts were generally on point and he ran well into contact.
- Jack Iscaro put in 75 minutes, the longest any prop has played in a match all season. He was a reliable runner and defender, and even grabbed a try for himself.
- Dacoda Worth came on at halftime for Daniel and didn't look at all out of place. In fact, he was one of our better options in the lineout, despite this being only his cap for Old Glory.
- D'Montae Noble successfully jumped for multiple kicks, in one even taking a tackle in the air for a penalty. He was great at closing down space and tackling, and his fast reactions saved us on numerous occasions.
- Sam Cusano was quietly reliable on the wing. He didn't have many great chances to show off his speed, but he tackled well and covered the space.
- Dante Lopresti was not a liability. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but for a young hooker-turned-tighthead who has played large minutes off the bench all year, not being a liability is a big accomplishment. The scrums were back and forth this match, but Lopresti held his own.
These players doing well is really important for DC moving forward. We suffered from a distinct lack of depth this year, which is why so many of the players had to grow up fast. It's part of why the year has been so rough at points; young players were forced to carry a load that should never have been on their shoulders. We're starting to see the upside of that dynamic, though. It gives me some confidence for next year.
2. The success of the newbies has helped the oldies as well
Old Glory's older stalwarts have found their old mojo in the last couple weeks as well. Jason Robertson's kicking has become more reliable, Danny Tusitala has been cranking up the tempo, Mungo Mason has been everywhere at once, and Tevita Naqali has been absolutely dynamic. For a long time in the dark days of the middle of the season, the experienced players seemed to be struggling, and with them, the team. However, we've really seen a resurgence.
I would argue that it's the success of the newer players that has unlocked the potential of the older players. Old Glory has dealt with several injuries to key players, and because of the lack of depth, inexperienced players have had to step in. That has put significant pressure on the remaining experienced players to cover for both themselves and the gaps opened by inexperience. That lead to holes on defense and an attack that could never quite settle down.
As the new players have started to take off in their roles, the old players have been freed up to focus on themselves more. They feel looser; more aggressive on attack, more trusting on defense.
3. Segra is starting to fill up, and it's wonderful
While it still doesn't look fantastic on TV, since most of the fans sit on the other side of the field, Segra is starting to fill up. Each week has seen increased attendance, with the fans getting louder every time. While the stadium definitely isn't at full capacity, we've reached where we were at the end of last season.
The real test will be next season, when people haven't been cooped up for months on end. Old Glory's tickets are some of the priciest in the league (a good sign for the team) and Segra Field is very inconvenient for most fans. We might start to see those become the limiting factors as the pandemic recedes even further. Hopefully the growth continues!
4. Old Glory will not finish last in the East
With this win, and Toronto's loss to New England, Old Glory will officially not finish last in the East. Toronto has played their last match of the season, and thus ends with a 5-11 record and 30 table points. Old Glory, with one match left, has a 5-1-9 record, and 34 table points.
In fact, Old Glory could finish as high as 8th in the overall standings by leapfrogging San Diego, whose season is also already over. The Legion have a final record of 6-10, with 38 table points. If Old Glory comes away with a bonus point win on Saturday, they can end on a 6-1-9 record, with 39 table points. That obviously isn't a great place to end when you consider where the expectations for the team were before the season, but given the way the season has gone, it would still be a high note to end on.