OGDC recovered from a two-game slide with a convincing win over the New England Free Jacks. Temporary signees Thomas Morani and Osea Kolinisau fit in instantly with the rest of the team and were instrumental in securing the victory in front of the home crowd.
Old Glory started with a lot of mistakes, including a messy kickoff and Jason Robertson accidentally stepping out of the back of the try zone. This gave New England repeated opportunities next to the try line, which they eventually converted into the first points of the match. However, as the half wore on OGDC settled into a rhythm, putting up three tries after the water break to go up 27-10 by half time.
The second half was much tighter, as OGDC settled into a defensive posture and the Free Jacks became more aggressive. Old Glory also got sloppy, resulting in a yellow card for Stan South. With the man advantage, New England broke through for a try. A penalty kick form Robertson lengthened the lead once again, but New England punched it in again to cut the lead down to 8 points.
Feeling desperate as time was running out, the Free Jacks took more risks on attack. However, they were foiled by a beautiful Roberts Te-Nana interception that took the ball all the way back down to the other end of the pitch. As time expired, Old Glory pressed through for a bonus point try from Kolinisau.
Final Score: Old Glory DC 35-22 New England Free Jacks
1. An experienced backline makes all the difference
The two successive losses had made something abundantly clear: Old Glory’s young talents in the backs are not quite ready to carry this team on their own. Sam Cusano, Mike Dabulas, D’Montae Noble, all of them have a lot of potential. And, when there’s only one or two of them on the pitch, their collective inexperience made for a containable attack and a exploitable defense.
For the two matches that Jason Robertson missed, the attack wasn’t quite the same. Against a familiar foe in Atlanta, they pulled through anyway, but against Toronto they were shown up. Similarly, when Ciaran Hearn and Doug Fraser were out, the defense suddenly allowed holes to develop. Old Glory was conceding 24.5 points on average with Fraser and Hearn, and 39 points on average without them.
That’s why having Robertson back, and having the new signings Morani and Kolinisau, made such a difference. In this match, the attack was back to looking brilliant, with excellent ruck speed, aggressive running, and fantastic play-making. On defense, they stifled their opponents and didn’t allow many line breaks or easy meters.
2. The scrum was a dominant machine
After all the pain of last year’s scrum, Old Glory fans were treated to a wonderous sight at Segra Field. The DC pack not only won scrum penalties, but won them consistently and against the head. It was truly great to watch for anyone who had to suffer the nail-biting scrums of last season.
Sure, it probably won’t be like that every match. Ever pack will have good and bad days. But if anyone was still doubting whether Old Glory had fixed the fundamental problems with its scrums, this was irrefutable proof that they have.
3. Penalties were a problem
A key part of New England’s second half comeback attempt was ill-discipline from Old Glory. For a while, it seemed like every time OGDC would shutdown and attack or turnover the ball, a penalty would give it right back to the Free Jacks. Some of this is just down to how the ref calls the game, as there is a lot of grey area in the rules. A good poach might be diving over the next. Even so, the players need to adapt to the rules as they are being played, and Old Glory’s players didn’t.
While we’re talking about penalties, let’s talk about Stan South. The English lock is starting to look like a card machine, as he picked up his third yellow card in four appearances. South has more cards than Old Glory has wins, and that’s concerning. I haven’t looked deeply into the cards or why they were awarded, but it’s going to be difficult for DC to keep winning if they are regularly a man down.