By Chris Wyatt, Rugby Ascendant & Guest Journalist, DJCoil Rugby (Chris is a retired Colonel, U.S. Army)
After an action-packed, multi-try game in excellent weather conditions, Major League Rugby’s Old Glory DC walked off the field victors, defeating Rugby ATL 30-23. In Old Glory’s first-ever home game at its new home on Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia, fans could hardly have asked for a better start to the day with clear skies, near-perfect game-time temperature, and outstanding views, regardless of where one sat. Coming off a draw last weekend in New Orleans against the Gold, head coach Andrew Douglas’s squad looked focused and ready to prove their mettle as they warmed up and then came on the field. Rugby ATL was riding high after what, some might say, was a surprising win over favored Toronto 21-14 last weekend.
The game began under perfect conditions with both sides appearing to be a bit off their game in the first half. Rugby ATL missed a penalty conversion nearly right in front of the posts but later came back in the twelfth minute to knot the score at 3-3. On the heels of a line out, Old Glory appeared to find its rhythm and to be on the verge of the game’s first try in the eighteenth minute when the Ratlers were called for a penalty directly in front of the posts. DC chose to take the points on offer and went up 6-3 on Danny Tusitala’s conversion. The game settled down for the next ten minutes with neither side appearing to get the upper hand until the Ratlers came out of a scrum near midfield and worked the ball up the opposite side of the field where their scrum-half came out of nowhere and made a mad dash for the try line, scoring with dramatic flair. The conversion put Rugby ATL up 13-6 in the thirtieth minute. Atlanta added another penalty conversion to take a 16-6 lead into the half.
The sky became overcast and just minutes into the second half, raindrops began to fall. But mother nature was not going to rain on Old Glory’s debut at Segra Field. Andrew Douglas shook up his squad with key substitutions in the second half and Old Glory suddenly responded, looking more polished, fluid, and confident. They rapidly turned on the pressure, scoring their first try and closing the gap to 16-13 in the fifty-second minute. Mikey Sosene-Feagai stole an overthrown Ratler lineout, darting up the pitch. Danny Tusitala picked up the ball, his dyed blonde mane flowing behind as he slid through Ratler defenders to score Old Glory’s second try of the afternoon. Old Glory now led 20-16. Tusitala slotted another penalty to take them up 23-16.
The Ratlers tried to come back, only to see Old Glory move the ball down the field again where, only meters from the try line, Tusitala fed the OG’s towering lock Api Naikatini who bowled over for DC’s third try of the second half. At this stage, the game appeared out of reach with Old Glory leading by two tries at 30-16 with only six minutes remaining. But the Ratlers and the crowd were not to be denied intrigue. ATL substitution Mark O’Keeffe scored for the Ratlers in the seventy-sixth minute. The 6’1″ and 220 lbs. 26-year-old Irish wing/center, who only signed with Atlanta a few days before this game, had Rugby ATL back within reach. The Ratlers quickly drove down the field. However, a late penalty in extra time, only meters from the try line, gave the ball back to Old Glory who kicked it into touch to end a tightly contested and entertaining game.
The victory moves Old Glory into second place in the Eastern Conference with six points, trailing conference leader NOLA Gold which has eight points after two weeks in the 2021 MLR season. The Ratlers are in fifth place with five points.
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
Old Glory DC: 1 Jamie Dever 2 Mikey Sosene-Feagai 3 Steven Longwell 4 Api Naikatini 5 Tevita Naqali 6 Callum Gibbins 7 Mungo Mason (c) 8 Jamason Fa’anana Schultz 9 Sean Hartig 10 Danny Tusitala11 D’Montae Noble 12 Ciaran Hearn 13 Doug Fraser 14 Sam Cusano 15 Renata Roberts-TeNana16 James King 17 Jack Iscaro 18 Jack Carroll 19 Stan South 20 Luke Campbell 21 Daniel Thomas 22 Mike Dabulas 23 Josh Brown
Rugby ATL: 1 Chance Wenglewski 2 Neethling Gericke 3 Alex Maughan 4 Conor Keys 5 Johan Momsen 6 Connor Cook 7 Matt Heaton (c) 8 Jason Damm 9 Rowan Gouws 10 Duncan van Schalkwyk 11 Rory van Vugt 12 Bautista Ezcurra 13 Robbie Petzer 14 Jeremy Misailegalu 15 Martini Talapusi 16 Jonas Petrakopoulos 17 Will Burke 18 Manasa Saulo19 Vili Helu 20 Daemon Torres 21 Mark O’Keeffe 22 Zander van Schalkwyk 23 Ryan Rees
Photos: Friends, Chris Wyatt
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Chris Wyatt was also a guest journalist for DJCoil Rugby covering the Rugby World Cup in 2019 in Japan.