Young OGDC Squad to Square up Against Houston

By Alistair Kirsch-Poole
Jun 9, 2023 - 9:49am

With their first ever playoff bid secured, Old Glory will head to Houston and attempt to secure a home match for the first round of the post season. They are just one point ahead of New York and will need to hold on to the second spot in the conference if they are to get home advantage.

Houston, meanwhile, is still battling for their playoff lives. They won a convincing victory over Atlanta last week which helped them put some distance between themselves and Utah, but they can't afford to slow down in the last couple of matches of the regular season. They will want another good win over DC to stabilize their position in the standings.

On the surface, it looks like both teams have enough to play for, and will take this seriously. However, Old Glory has opted to rest a lot of key players. Less than half of normal starters will be starting, with some moved to the bench and others dropping out entirely. KoiKoi Nelligan will be making his MLR debut starting at hooker and Mike Weir could make his debut off the bench. This week's starters have an average of just 3.8 starts each this season.

At first glance, this lineup looks insane. At second glance, though... well, it still looks insane, but there is a strategy behind it. This is Old Glory's hardest remaining match - beating the Sabercats was always going to be a tough ask. Saving strength for an easier match against Atlanta and the playoffs immediately after might make sense. This is OGDC's last best chance to rest some players.

It could make for an ugly first half, though. Houston has not held back in their lineup, and their back line in particular looks fearsome. Flyhalf Davy Coetzer, center Dominic Akina, wing Christian Dyer, and fullback Drew Wild are all dangerous pieces in open play. The forwards aren't slouches either, with team captain Dean Muir back at hooker and Gideon Van Wyk at eight.

However, I expect Old Glory to pull back into contention in the second half. There are a lot of strong players coming off the bench, including all the usual starters in the front row, Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz at eight, and Danny Tusitala at scrumhalf. Hopefully, the resurgence is enough to grab at least two bonus points and further put pressure on New York.

Overall, though, I'm not going to take this match too seriously and I suggest you don't either. Enjoy watching young players being given the chance to figure themselves out on the pitch and savor the sweet truth that Old Glory is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.


As I said, this is a crazy lineup.

The front row is completely flipped around. Quentin Newcomer and Cali Martinez start at prop, with Jack Iscaro and Kyle Stewart on the bench. At hooker, KoiKoi Nelligan is starting in his MLR debut, while Nic Souchon is on the bench.

The locks are Collin Grosse and Tevita Naqali, with Kyle Baillie nowhere to be seen. In the back row, it's Langilangi Haupeakui and Alejo Daireaux at flanker and Nico Jones at eight. Off the bench Fintan Coleman and Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz, with Lautaro Bavaro left off the roster to rest.

At scrumhalf, there has been a historic change. John Lefevre is starting at the position, with Danny Tusitala on the bench. While this isn't the first time someone other than Danny has started at scrumhalf, this is the first time in OGDC's history in the MLR that he hasn't started at all. In 2021, he started at flyhalf for one match to replace the injured Jason Robertson, with Danny Thomas the choice at scrumhalf.

The backs have also been shaken up, although less so. Tito Diaz Bonilla steps back into the flyhalf position, with Gradyn Bowd off the roster to rest. Willie Talataina is another absence, replaced in the centers by Doug Fraser and Marcos Young. On the wings, Junior Sa'u and John Rizzo get the nod, with Peni Lasaqa also on the resting list. Owen Sheehy takes up the fullback jersey. Off the bench will be Thretton Palamo and Mike Weir, the latter of whom will be getting his first professional cap if he plays.

While this lineup is unlikely to win Old Glory the match, there are a lot of fun things to watch for. Tito, back at flyhalf and with little pressure, is likely to be a live wire off the boot and could connect with John Rizzo for some explosive plays. KoiKoi will get a chance to show that he's ready for MLR after sitting out the whole season so far. Mike Weir will get to do the same in the backs, although I'm really hoping he gets put in at flyhalf and not at fullback or wing, as is often the case for young backs. If Weir can develop into an MLR-level flyhalf, he will be an absolute boon for the team and potential even the US national team.