Well, that didn’t go as the DC faithful hoped. LA was utterly dominant, wiping the floor with DC 33-3. It’s not exactly surprising, considering that the team has blown out every team they face. It was still painful to watch, though.
Old Glory started well, playing aggressive and physical rugby. They held LA’s insane attack in check and conceded no points in the first ten minutes. Robertson put a penalty between the sticks to get the first points of the match.
However, as the half wore on LA hit their stride. They started to do their usual: line-breaking runs, implausible offloads, and tries. Lots and lots of tries. The score was 3-33 by half time, and that was just the start.
LA controlled essentially every moment of the second half. At the 70 minute mark, Old Glory managed to grab a couple of tries. Osea Kolinisau managed to push into the corner, and then on the kickoff D’Montae Noble recovered a fumbled ball and went straight in unopposed. Still, it was far too little, far too late. The match ended 47-17 to the home team.
1. Filling a team with a experienced internationals is a winning strategy
It turns out that when you stuff your team full of successful tier-1 internationals in a startup league, you win a lot of matches. Most teams have a few stars, but everyone in the LA back line is a bonafide star. It gives them an small edge in ever part of the game that adds up to a huge advantage.
Old Glory didn’t actually have a bad defensive day, which seems wild to say. There were missed tackles, sure, as well as moments of poor decision making. But for the most part OGDC did what they always do: they just kept making tackles and forcing their opponents to make an extra offload, have an extra man in support, put in that extra effort. Against MLR opponents, that’s normally enough. If you keep forcing your opponent to make another effort, eventually they will make a mistake, and MLR teams usually do.
Against a team with this level of talent, though, it isn’t enough. LA always has that extra man in support. They can make that extra offload with ease. The things that challenge normal MLR teams aren’t a problem for them.
I don’t want to entirely take away from the coaching. San Diego, after all, also has a large number of tier 1 internationals, but poor coaching and the lack of an offseason has left that team a mess. So credit where it’s due, Darren Coleman and his crew have put together a great team. But the ceiling they’ve reached is only possible because of the raw talent on the team.
2. Old Glory has some great young talents
It is almost a shame that DTS is coming back, because Mike “the Chicken” Dabulas has really looked good these last couple of matches. His weaving run for a try against the Free Jacks was beautiful, and this week he really held his own (as much as anyone did). He is probably the farthest along of the young bloods in the backs.
I would be remiss not to mention the amazing try by D’Montae Noble. The whole thing was created by him, from start to finish. He got back and got up a head of steam before the box kick, tore down the pitch at a truly impressive rate, and then had the instincts to react in a split second to his opponent’s mistake. He outran everyone at every part of the situation and ably handled some interference from his opponents.
Noble still has moments when he is on the wrong foot or doesn’t quite read the situation correctly, things that will come with age and experience. But truly, this kid is an insane athlete and is just half a step from being a bonafide star. There were better rugby players on the pitch this match, but I don’t know if anyone has the raw potential of Noble.
3. It will get easier
This was easily the hardest match on the schedule. From here on out, things should get a little bit easier. Old Glory is playing Utah next, who are good not great, then play Seattle, who are struggling. They have an opportunity to bounce back here.
More to the point, they won’t have to play a team anywhere near as good as LA again unless they make it to the finals. Old Glory is a good team, and against normal MLR competition their attack and defense will be formidable.