Old Glory Returns Home to Host Rugby ATL – Week 5 Preview

Old Glory comes back home to host their first regular season match against a fellow expansion side, Rugby ATL. Old Glory is riding high after rebounding from their disappointing loss in week 1 by beating the defending champions and sweeping the state of Texas. Rugby ATL started the season strong with two good wins, but has since had two hard defeats to RUNY and Toronto.

This is not the first time this season that Old Glory has played Atlanta. You can read this match report from their preseason meeting.

Details

Preview

This should be one of the best games of the weekend. It’s the CBS Game of the Week, and it’s also the most competitive game on the schedule according to the most recent GRI rankings.

How good is Rugby ATL

Atlanta started the season strong with a convincing win over Utah and a smothering of an offensively-potent NOLA Gold. However, they followed up that strong start with two disappointing losses, to RUNY and Toronto. The true quality of the team probably lies somewhere in between those results.

ATL plays in a conservative, defensive style, and they do so well. They have given up the second-fewest points in the league and are tied for the second-fewest tries conceded, behind Toronto in both categories. And these stats are impressive, as they’ve done this against a tough early schedule that’s included RUNY, Toronto, and NOLA.

There are two ways general styles of defense in rugby, and they revolve around a tradeoff of what space you want to give your opponent. Old Glory runs a traditional defense that tries to shut down the space around the breakdown and keep the play in the middle of the field. They bunch up and are quick off the line, meaning they can hit whoever has the ball before they can get up speed or pass to the wing. However, bunching up gives the opponent space on the edge. If the attack can get the ball to the wing, and the defense can’t shift quickly enough, then the attack can gain a lot of ground.

Atlanta plays a different sort of defense, one that relies on spreading out to cover the full line. This denies space to the attack on the wing and prevents easy ground from being gained by trying to go around the defense. ATL also does a good job keeping their line formed, which prevents the sorts of gaps that the attack can exploit to make a break. The main disadvantage is that it doesn’t put the attack on the back foot the way a more aggressive defense can.

On attack, ATL favors trying to get the ball to the wing as quickly as possible. This served them well against Toronto’s more traditional defense, with a lot of their meters coming outside on the edge.

Lineup

  1. Chance Wenglewski
  2. Alex Maughan
  3. Duane Aholelei
  4. Johan Momsen
  5. Stefan Willemse
  6. Viliami Helu
  7. Matt Heaton
  8. Ross DEacon
  9. Duncan Van Schalkwyk
  10. Kurt Coleman
  11. Harley Davidson
  12. Ryan Neil
  13. Jeremy Misailegalu
  14. Zander Van Schalkwyk
  15. Martini Talapusi
  1. Amro Gouda
  2. Jamie Ferrante,
  3. Cronan Gleeson
  4. Conor Keys
  5. Jason Damm
  6. Kurtis Werner
  7. Sean Coughlin
  8. Bill Fukofuka

What does Old Glory need to do to win?

There are three key factors that will determine this game. On attack Old Glory is going to have to figure out a way to break the through the Atlanta defensive line. Old Glory has been good in their last few games at getting over the gain line and creating breaks anywhere. This was what helped them against ATL in the preseason, and could be the key to cracking the Atlanta defense. It’s also worth noting that Toronto’s most success last week came when they played quickly and kept Atlanta on the back foot, something DC is known for.

On defense, the key factor will be the speed of Old Glory’s defensive shift. As mentioned earlier, OGDC plays a traditional defense that is susceptible to allowing breaks on the wing. Atlanta’s attack is optimized to take advantage of that. If Old Glory can successfully bottle them up before they can get the ball to the wing, then they will suffocate the ATL attack. So far however, Atlanta has been very resistant to being bottled up, making that a difficult proposition. Instead, Old Glory will have to shift quickly enough on defense to mitigate the damage on the wing. This is something that OGDC has sometimes struggled with, so we will see how it plays out.

The final factor will be whether DC can limit the relevance of the set pieces. Even with the return of Mikey Sosnene-Feagai and improvements from players like Jake Turnbull and Will Vakalahi, Old Glory will still likely lose a lot of scrums. However, since their game at NOLA in week one, they’ve started winning just enough of their own attacking scrums that they can minimize the advantage their opponents get from good scrummaging. If they can keep that up, they will be able to stay in the match.

Lineup

  1. Jake Turnbull
  2. Mikey Sosnene-Feagai
  3. Will Vakalahi
  4. Tevita Naqali
  5. Dylan Pieterse
  6. Travis Larsen
  7. Mungo Mason
  8. Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz
  9. Danny Tusitala
  10. Jason Robertson
  11. Doug Fraser
  12. Ciaran Hearn
  13. Thretton Palamo
  14. Declan O’Donnell
  15. Dylan Taikato-Simpson
  1. Mo Katz
  2. Max Lum
  3. Gordon Fullerton
  4. Josh Brown
  5. Matt Hughston
  6. Michael Reid
  7. Mike Dabulas
  8. Renata Roberts-Te Nana

Conclusion

These two teams played each other not much more than a month ago, yet both have grown so much since then. Atlanta has had one of the toughest schedules and has suffered a couple of tough loses. Old Glory had a rough start, but has since gained confidence. Whoever comes out of this with the win will be riding high and feeling good about the road ahead.

It will be physical and it will be close. Both teams are capable of winning. For my money, though, it’s hard to pick against a confident Old Glory team in a rocking home stadium.

Pregame Fixtures

1:15 pm – Old Glory Capital Selects vs ATL 404 (men)

Old Glory’s select side, the best players drawn from local capital-area teams, will take on Rugby ATL’s academy side, ATL 404. Both teams serve as regional player development pathways for their respective professional sides, making this an interesting chance to see some potential future MLR players.

3:00 pm – 7s Beltway Battle

This will actually be a tournament featuring four local women’s 7s clubs.

3:00 pmFredrick Rugby vs DC Revolution
3:20 pmMD Stingers vs NOVA
3:40 pmLosers of first two games
4:00 pmWinners of first two games

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