By Chris Wyatt, Rugby Ascendant, Photo: David Hughes Photo
NOLA stays in the playoff hunt with 25-21 win over Old Glory
Fans who make the trip out to Leesburg have by now become accustomed to the sounds of light aircraft flying overhead and circling around Segra Field. Located a stone’s throw from the Leesburg Executive Airport, the atmosphere is often punctuated by the sound of planes in flight. While the planes are not much of a distraction and seem to have no impact on the games, they do add a unique sort of ambiance to an Old Glory DC match. With NOLA Gold coming to town, things were slightly different, with a rare and unique buzz in the air. That buzz, which occurs once every 17 years also had nothing to do with the game between Old Glory DC and NOLA Gold. Cicadas were busy singing, mating, buzzing around and dying at SegraField. The infrequent appearance of cicadas made for an interesting backdrop to a game Nate Osborne’s side desperately needed to win to keep pace for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
With lockdown restraints easing, Segra Field saw a recordcrowd present for this game. A game that began under cool, comfortable, cloudy conditions in the first half, saw the sun make an appearance in the second half, raising temperatures, before disappearing behind the clouds as a slight drizzle fell to wrap up the game.
With cicadas landing on players, the pitch and spectators proving to be more an amusement than a distraction, NOLA Gold struck first when Juan Cappiello pushed across for a try under the posts off a NOLA scrum in the ninth minute. Cappielo’s score came after the Gold held on to the ball for much of the early stages of the game. Sitting in a position that has become a bit too familiar this season, Old Glory DC now trailed 7-0. But OG was not going to let themselves fall far behind in the first half this time.
Old Glory co-captain Thretton Palamo’s return from injury was timely and he made his presence known fairly quickly. Taking a pass from flyhalf Jason Robertson, Palamo brushed off the NOLA defenders enroute to an impressive try under the posts in the 15th minute to knot the score at 7-7. OG nearly added another quick score with a Roberts-Tanana charge down that was booted out of the try zone. Undeterred, OG kept up the pace, spending a lot of time in NOLA’s end of the field, but getting little to show for it until the 24th minute when a returningMungo Mason spun his way for a try after an OG lineout and a Robertson quick tap after a subsequent NOLA penalty. Robertson slotted the conversion and Old Glory suddenly found themselves in rare territory, leading 14-7 in the first half.
OG’s lead was short lived with NOLA coming back in the 28thminute when Mike Dabulas (selected to the US Eagles national side for this summer’s tests) brought Hanno Dirksen to the ground but could not hold him in the tackle. The NOLA fullback got back to his feet and surged across the try line. A bizarre kick from Dirksen then bounced off both posts but still went through for the conversion, knotting the score once more at 14-14, where despite a few more golden opportunities for Old Glory to add to their tally, the half ended tied but not withoutfireworks. Chippy play throughout the first half finally boiled over with the referee issuing a yellow card in the 37th minute.
NOLA got the scoring going early in the second half after a penalty directly in front of the posts led to a quick score in the 43rd minute and a 17-14 lead. The Gold added on to that tally with a Julián Domínguez try pushing them to a 22-14 lead. The conversion attempt was not remotely close to the post, leaving the Gold up by two scores. As the game wore on, NOLA looked fresh, perhaps benefiting from not playing at home in heavy humidity. Another penalty conversion in the 71st minute gave NOLA a 25-14 lead and all but sealed the game for them. However, despite errors and missed scoring chances, Old Glory would not go away quietly.
D’Montae Noble’s late insertion for OG seemed to not only add his speed and flair but to give the entire squad a bit of a boost too. Noble made an immediate impact dashing up the side of the pitch not long after entering the game. But glory was to elude him as NOLA managed to push Noble into touch short of the try line. Shaking off the missed opportunity, OG kept coming and in the 83rd minute worked the ball from one side of the field to the other before getting it to Noble who dove over for the score. The successful conversion resulted in a close 25-21 final score, but another tough loss for OG.
In a season of ups and downs, Old Glory now has a much-needed bye week and returns to action in Atlanta against a difficult Ratlers team the following weekend. With a record of 4-7-1, the playoffs are going to be difficult for OG to reach. NOLA continues their long road trip as they head to Atlanta this weekend to play the Toronto Arrows. The Canadian side is also having a difficult season at 4-8-0, no doubt in no small part a consequence of playing all their games on the road this season. NOLA remains solidly in the playoff hunt, trailing second place RUNY by five points on the log.