When: Sunday, February 16, 2020
Time: 3:00 pm Kickoff (doors open 11:00 am)
Where: Cardinal Stadium, Catholic University (map)
Opponent: Seattle Seawolves (0-1)
Channel: ESPN+ (streaming), NBC Sports Washington (local)
Openers: Life University vs Penn State University at 11:00 am; USA Rugby South Panthers vs Old Glory Selects at 12:30 pm (more information)
What about the Beast? Tendai Mtawarira has arrived in the US and will be playing in the game!
After losing their season opener to their West Coast rivals, two-time MLR Champions the Seattle Seawolves will be coming to DC to prove they have it in them to win the league again. Fresh off losing their own season opener and MLR debut in dramatic fashion, Old Glory will be trying to defend their home turf and prove that they belong in the league.
How good are the Seawolves?
The short answer is very good. You don’t win the MLR twice without being at very good.
The long answer is that Seattle is probably the only team who we know exactly how good they are. They have been the most consistent team in terms of quality pretty much from the start. In 2018, they were averaging 5.5 points per game more than their opponents; last year, they averaged 5.7. In 2018, they won or tied 75% of their games; last year, they had the exact same percentage.
Furthermore, taking a look at their six losses over two seasons, they lost twice to the best-in-league Glendale Raptors, twice to the best-in-league San Diego Legion, once to the playoff-caliber Toronto Arrows, and once to the NOLA Gold while they were good. In other words, respectable losses to great teams.
In their game last week, a Championship rematch with San Diego, the Seawolves played really well. They looked slightly rusty after a later start to their preseason (they’ve had about a month’s less training than everyone else), but they were able to stay in the game and keep things close. Overall, they looked a lot like the Seawolves that we’ve come to expect.
Obviously, Seattle has a loaded roster. Nakai Penny and Vili Toluta’u are both excellent and internationally capped flankers, and they are joined by Seattle’s major signing of the offseason in Juan Manuel Leguizamon. Riekert Hattingh, the number 8, had a great game against San Diego. The backs have a number of names to watch, including flyhalf Ben Cima, center Shalom Suniula, and winger Brock Staller.
What will it take for Old Glory to win?
It’s going to be an uphill battle for DC, for sure, but a path to victory does exist. Let’s breakdown what it will take.
As always, it starts in the trenches. I feel a bit like a broken record, since I’m basically going to repeat what I wrote a few day ago after the NOLA game. The OGDC scrum was completely run over last week. The scrum is an essential part of the game, because if it breaks down consistently it will energize the opponent’s attack and stifle any forward progress of your own. It’s not the only thing that matters, as Houston showed last season, but it’s a prerequisite for everything else that happens in the game. If Old Glory’s scrumming isn’t at least mediocre, then nothing else they do will be effective.
Now, there is reason to hope that things will get better on that front. Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, who was a starter on the South African team that won the World Cup a few months ago, has finally arrived and will be playing on Sunday. He won’t magically fix all of OGDC’s problems, but if nothing else he will provide a much-needed mental boost to the struggling pack. Unfortunately, both starting hookers Mo Katz and Mike Sosene-Feagai are still out, and they could have provided even more stability to the scrum.
If there is at least a modicum of stability in the scrum, then the game should be competitive. If you ignore the set pieces, Old Glory was definitely a match for NOLA last week. Their numbers suffered a bit as they pressed a little too hard to make up for the deficit, but otherwise their offensive production was actually superior to NOLA when accounting for the lack possession. Danny Tusitala is a talented scrum half, and OGDC boasts a trio of great centers in Thretton Palamo, Ciaran Hearn, and Doug Fraser. On the wing, New Zealand international Declan O’Donnel will be back from injury to join a potential breakout star in Renata Roberts-Tenana. In open play, there is no reason that DC can’t match up to the Seawolves.
It’s unlikely that Old Glory will enjoy a victory on Sunday before they go back on the road. But, if the scrum can find a way to hold together, then it should at least be closer than last week. With some good bounces and lucky breaks, it’s even winnable.
- Tendai Mtawarira
- Dante Lopresti
- Gordon Fullerton
- Tevita Naqali
- Api Naikatini
- Travis Larson
- Mungo Mason
- Jamason Fanana-Schultz
- Danny Tusitala
- Jason Robertson
- Renata Roberts-Te Nana
- Ciaran Hearn
- Thretton Palamo
- Doug Fraser
- Dylan Taikato-Simpson
- Max Lum
- Jake Turnbull
- Will Vakalahi
- Dylan Pieterse
- Matt Hughston
- Nic Mirhashem
- Michael Reid
- Mike Dabulas
- Djustice Sears-Duru
- Mike Shepard
- Jake Ilnicki
- Brad Tucker
- FP Pelser
- Andrew Durutalo
- Nakai Penny
- Reikart Hattingh
- JP Smith
- Dean Scott
- Brock Stalker
- George Barton
- Shalom Suniola
- David Busby
- Mat Turner
- Vili Toluta’u
- Kellen Gordon
- Tim Metcher
- Jeremy Lenaerts
- Eric Duechle
- Jope Motokana
- Joey Iosefa
- Siti Tamaivena
OGDC will have two matches to open before the game on Sunday. They both promise to be fantastic matches and are free for all ticket holders, so consider checking them out.
11:00 am – Penn State University vs Life University (Women’s)
Penn State is a traditional powerhouse, having won all but two national titles from 2007-2015, and having played in all but two finals 1995-2015. They joined the new top competition of the women’s collegiate rugby, the Division I Elite Club, when it formed in 2016 and went on to win it in the first two years. Life University is also a traditional heavy hitter, and although its women’s team has only been around sine 2014, they also compete in the Elite Club and have contested for the title in the last two years.
12:30 pm – USA Rugby South Panthers vs Old Glory Selects (Women’s)
The USA Rugby South Panthers are a select side of the best player from a number of rugby clubs across the South. They only play a limited schedule together, but the level of talent is about the best you’ll find in the US. The Old Glory Selects side has been assembled from the finest local DC players, in partnership with Capital Rugby Union.