By any measure, Old Glory's loss to Toronto last Saturday was best performance they've put on in recent weeks. They looked more alive as a team, and the young players took their chance to prove themselves admirably. A loss is a loss, especially against a team that is missing a third of its players to international call-ups. But it was clear that winning was not the first thing on the coaches' minds, as they looked towards next year and getting experience for the younger players on the roster.
1. Three new players earned caps
First of all, let's congratulate the new faces we saw on the field:
- Dacoda Worth, a flanker who has been with Old Glory since the 2019 exhibition season, saw his first game time. Coming in at the 70th minute, Worth had an immediate impact, securing a lineout that directly lead to Danny Thomas's try. The US Army Sergeant isn't particularly young, being almost 30, but it was good to see him get a chance to play.
- Mo Katz, another player who joined the squad during the 2019 exhibition season, came on with a couple minutes left on the clock. Although normally hooker, and also sometimes listed as a prop, Katz came in at number 8. After injuries in 2020 and 2021 kept him on the sideline, he got to see the field, if only for a few minutes.
- Owen Sheehy is a new addition this year. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he is, in fact, the son of Old Glory owner Paul Sheehy. Don't chalk this up to nepotism, though, as Owen Sheehy was named to the 2019 USA U19 squad, among other honors. He came on at the 67th minute to replace Dylan Taikato-Simpson, and performed reasonably well.
It's difficult to fully judge these players based on the 25 combined minutes game time they got. Still, none of them looked out of place, and it's fun to have the less well-known players get the limelight for once.
2. The other young players played also played well
James King and Max Lum both had decent games at hooker, with Lum replacing King halfway through. Lum seemed to be the preferred backup at hooker this year until getting injured, so it's good to see him healthy and playing significant minutes. It will be interesting to see who gets the starting role next weekend, with Mikey Sosene-Feagai still out with the Eagles.
Cory Daniel is developing into quite a good third option at flanker. With Callum Gibbins resting, Daniel has proven to be an eager and physical player. He isn't quite as mobile as a Mungo Mason-style flanker, but as he showed with his try, he can definitely get moving when he wants to. I think we might start seeing him start against teams that would struggle to handle such a physical runner.
I also want to mention Simi Moala, who came on in the 63rd minute. While he did play 20 minutes in one match this season, I'd love to see more of him. Old Glory has some great centers in Ciaran Hearn and Thretton Palamo, but they are 35 and 32 respectively. Players that age are going to take some knocks, so we could really do with having true backup centers instead of just switching in whoever else is available. Moala did a great job on Saturday, with powerful runs and heads-up play. He really ought to see more time on the pitch going forward.
3. Old Glory just needs to have fun
This team is at its best when it is free from the weight of lofty expectations, and also the weight of disappointment having fallen short. In the middle of the season, as the playoff hopes began to slip, so did the results. The team started to play a little more cautiously, trying not to make mistakes that would damage their season further. That, of course, lead them to lose even more matches. When if became clear that the team was out, the disappointment set in, and the dejected team underperformed even more.
This was a the first time that Old Glory has played in a way that's felt truly free since their early season matches. And it showed, on the scoreboard and in the play. They didn't play recklessly, but they also didn't err on the side of caution. They got back to the heads-up, instinctive rugby that made them so good last year.
4. Old Glory might not finish in last place
With this loss, Old Glory flipped places with Toronto at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. However, because of the bonus points, Old Glory is only one point behind the Arrows with a game in hand. That means that OGDC could still pass them in the coming weeks, potentially without winning another match if they can get enough bonus points. While that doesn't necessarily mean much in the long run, it would be nice to at least avoid last.