In a match that will go down as an all-time classic, Old Glory fell to the Utah Warriors by a single point, 33-34, in the final seconds. The rugby was top-notch and the action gripping, with both teams looking like they had the upper hand in stretches. It was a loss, and a heartbreaking one in the final seconds, but it was also everything that makes this sport compelling.
It was clear from the beginning that the match was going to be physically demanding. Both teams tested the other’s defense with punishing runs from the centers. Leads changed multiple times in the first half, with Old Glory taking the first lead on a Robertson penalty, only to lose it to a try a few minutes later, then retake it with a Doug Fraser try just minutes later.
Behind by two, 8-10 approaching the first water break, Robertson made a drop goal to take the lead by point. That point would be the only one separating the teams for much of the match. The teams traded tries before half time, to make the score 18-17, then traded another pair of tries before the second water break to make it 25-24, then traded penalties to make it 28-27. It was tight the entire way through, with Old Glory hanging on to the narrowest of leads.
Then, with just seven minutes left in the match, Callum Gibbins made it through for a try to put DC up by 6. However, in front of a raucous and rowdy crowd, Robertson again missed the conversion, a miss that proved fatal. Utah rose to the challenge, pushing to Old Glory’s try line and, with time expired, finding a gap for a try. With an easy kick, the Warriors took a one-point lead and the win.
This recap does not do justice to the match, though. There just isn’t the space to recount all of the dramatic moments, the powerful runs, and the try-saving tackles. The only thing this match was missing was a victory for Old Glory.
1. Old Glory is almost out of playoff contention
With almost half the season gone and sitting at the bottom of the east conference, Old Glory is dangerously close to losing any real shot at the playoffs. As it is, they will have to overperform to make up for lost ground, and that will be tough in the hyper-competitive east.
The next two weeks will see OGDC play two bottom-of-the-table west conference teams in Seattle (at home) and Houston (on the road). Both are, without question, must-win matches. To keep pace with their competitors, anything less than a win in both matches will basically remove Old Glory from the playoff conversation.
After that, they will head into a series of in-conference matchups that will make or break their season. First up will be a home rematch with RUNY, followed by an away rematch at New England, and a home rematch against NOLA before a bye week. A clean sweep here would be amazing, but at least holding serve at home would put the team in a good place heading into the tail end of the season.
2. DTS will be fine, and Roberts Te-Nana is underrated
Dylan Taikato-Simpson, in his first match back, was a little rusty early on. He made errant passes and wasn’t quite up to his usual tricks. Still, that’s to be expected after such a long time off. He settled down towards the end of the match, and I think that we will see more of that moving forward. It was nice to have a full lineup of experienced professionals again.
Renata Roberts Te-Nana, on the other hand, had an amazing game. He proved difficult to contain for the Utah defense due to his physicality and sheer speed. I’ve been very pro-Roberts Te-Nana ever since the preseason matches in 2020, but he has really hit another level this year. He doesn’t talked about much in the broader MLR media, but he is as good as any other back out there.
3. The scrum has a depth problem
Steve Longwell, usually the starting tighthead prop and one of the experienced professionals brought in to stabilize the scrum, had a minor injury against LA. Out of caution, the coaches had him sit on the bench so that he could rest as much as possible this match. In his place, they brought in Dante Lopresti, and it was a disaster.
Lopresti has played well in the past. He was one of the better parts of last year’s scrum, as bad as it was. But importantly, he played at hooker, not tighthead. A position change like that isn’t easy, especially for a young player. And, sure enough, the scrum was an absolute wreck until Longwell came on.
Let’s not be too hard on Lopresti, who is at the end of the day a young player with room to grow. However, the depth of the scrum is a growing concern. Jack Iscaro has shown himself to be a reasonable replacement at loosehead, but at tighthead we have yet to see a clear number two. Longwell cannot play every minute of every match so there needs to be someone else, and right now we don’t know who that is.