In 2020, Old Glory was blown out 46-13 when they visited the NOLA Gold in their inaugural match. In 2021, Old Glory forced the Gold to fight back to a tie, 26-26, after controlling the scoreboard most of the match. A win would have been nice, but regardless OGDC has made it clear that last year was a fluke and that they will be competing with the best this season.
Scoring started quickly on Sunday, with Jason Robertson nailing a penalty kick just a few minutes in. NOLA answered back, however, driving from a lineout to score a try. They missed the subsequent conversion, leaving the match at 3-5. A couple minutes later, Robertson put another penalty between the posts for a 6-5 lead.
NOLA then put tremendous pressure on the Old Glory defense, pushing into OGDC territory over and over again. Old Glory stood firm, though, with multiple successful goal line stands that thwarted the Gold’s quest for the try line.
Despite the pressure, scrumhalf Danny Tusitala was able to make a break for try line, facilitated by Mikey Sosnene-Feagai, that resulted in a seven automatic points for Old Glory. This them up even further, 13-5, despite the flow of play being against them. Robertson extended this again just minutes from half time with his third penalty kick, leaving the score 16-5.
At this point, the frequent squandered opportunities, handling errors, and staunch Old Glory defense were frustrating any attempt by NOLA to build any kind of momentum. They needed a score before the half to bring themselves back into the match. And score they did, dashing in for a try just as the half was ending. The conversion was good, bringing the match to 16-12.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Robertson took the ball into contact and offloaded to winger Renata Roberts-Te Nana. Charging down pitch just feet from the sideline, Roberts-Te Nana offloaded brilliantly to Tusitala at full speed, who ran into the corner for a try. With Robertson’s ever-reliable boot making the conversion, Old Glory again jumped ahead, 23-12.
NOLA brought in some replacements off the bench, and the fresh players managed to pull out another try for the Gold, this time under the posts for an automatic seven points. With the game separated by just four points now, 23-19, both teams fought hard to get an advantage. However, neither side would score for over fifteen minutes, until Robertson hit four of four on penalties to make it a seven point match, 26-19.
Falling behind and running out of time, NOLA again amped up the pressure, until they finally managed to slip past D’Montae Noble on the corner and touch the ball down for a try. The conversion was good, evening up the score.
Final score: Old Glory 26-26 NOLA Gold
The Old Glory coaches and players wanted this rematch. They had been embarrassed a year ago and wanted the chance for redemption. It was risky; another bad loss would make everything many times worse. But the team backed themselves, and their improvements over the offseason.
And it worked. The team banished any doubt that that blowout represented anything more than first-match jitters. They showed that it wasn’t just luck that got them to second in the east last season. This is a good rugby team, and they proved that on Sunday.
2. We no longer have to hold our breath at scrum time
The struggles of the Old Glory scrum in 2020 are well documented. A mixture of lack of preparation, lack of experience, visa problems, and other issues created a scrum that was lucky just to remain stable.
The coaching staff took aggressive measures to address this in 2021. Steven Longwell and Jamie Dever, both experienced professionals, joined as the starters on the front line. In practice, extra attention was given to the scrum. We can now say for sure that those measures have paid off.
I’m sure that the coaching staff isn’t yet happy with the results. There is a lot still to work on. Old Glory did have some penalties called against them, they didn’t show much hint of being dominant, and at times they still seemed concerningly shaky.
But for now, we can all feel much more at ease come scrum time. No longer can our opponents feel guaranteed a penalty when the pushing starts. No longer will a handling error or held up call be an assured momentum-killer. The Old Glory scrum is, at long last, acceptable.
3. Robinson’s boot is a treasure
Jason Robertson is perfect to start the season, 4/4 on penalty kicks and 2/2 on conversions. That, on it’s own, is 16 points.
Having such a reliable kicker really opens up a lot of options for Old Glory. They were able to keep ahead of NOLA for almost the entire match because of the regularity of Robertson launching the ball through the uprights. That will keep the team from ever feeling desperate for a try, as they’ll never fall too far behind.
He wasn’t the only one to have a a good day. Danny Tusitala was absolutely electric, keeping the pace of play fast and showing tremendous speed while finishing both of OGDC’s tries. Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz, named Man of the Match, had an absolute field day, stealing the ball on multiple occasions and wreaking havoc on defense.