Old Glory Looks for First Road Win in Dallas - Week 12 Preview
By: Alistair Kirsch-Poole
May 5, 2023 - 6:07pm
Despite a campaign that is already more successful than last year's just nine matches in, Old Glory is still looking for their first road win of the year. Despite close matches in New England and Atlanta, the team hasn't managed to take a win away from home. They will look to rectify that against Dallas tomorrow.
There is a lot on the line for this match. OGDC is third in the east with a game in hand over all of their potential rivals save Rugby ATL, whom they lead by five table points. That's a substantial lead, but it's not enough to put them clear of the rest of the pack and guarantee a playoff spot. Matches like this one will be crucial to holding on to that spot.
In that sense, you could describe it as a "must-win" game. However, I prefer to flip that around and describe it as a "can't lose" game. Old Glory absolutely beat the Jackals, based on their relative records in the league so far. Old Glory is 4-5 with a league-leading 9 bonus points, while the Jackals are 1-9, with the sole win in their franchise history coming against a Toronto squad that's easily the worst team in the league. This is Old Glory's game to lose.
So Old Glory absolutely ought to be favored, and that's half of what makes this a "can't lose" game; if this team wants to be a legitimate contender for the playoffs, they cannot be dropping matches that they are so heavily favored in. They cannot be losing the matches that are, on paper, the easy ones.
Which leads in to the other half of what makes this a "can't lose" game: Dallas could absolutely pull off an upset. The Jackals have had several games where they've looked close to an upset. Against New England, they were the first team on the board and they lost by just a single point. Against Houston they took the lead half way through the match, but eventually the Sabercats scored in the last ten minutes to win. Against San Diego, they were tied at three times in the match, and were just two points behind before a final Legion try. Dallas has seemed poised to steal one sooner or later. If Old Glory isn't careful, it could be them that slips and falls to the hungry Jackals.
Dallas bulked up in the offseason and now has a pretty talented roster. First round draft pick Sam Golla has been a star for them at lock, as have eightman Adriaan Booysen and flanker Jerónimo Gómez Vara. In the backs, new flyhalf Martin Elias has elevated the attack, with Tomas Malanos at center also playing a big role.
Still, while the Jackals have talent, what they're missing is cohesion as a team. They have brilliant runners but lack the support in attack necessary to score. They have some of the league's most prolific tacklers but they lack the connectedness to plug the gaps in their defensive line. In many ways, they remind me of Old Glory towards the end of last year: doing all the right things to remain competitive, but not doing them consistently enough to actually win.
For all the hype I've given Dallas as a potential trap game, I don't actually think that they'll win. Old Glory's patience on defense will frustrate the Jackals into recklessness on attack, and OGDC's ability to create and then exploit open play will give them plenty of points for themselves. As I said, this absolutely should be a win.
And Old Glory isn't holding back with the lineup either. The starting forward pack remains unchanged from last week, Iscaro, Souchon, and Stewart in the front row, backed up by Newcomer, Gattas, and Herrera on the bench. Grosse and Baillie are in the second row, the latter coming off of a fantastic debut for the team before the bye week. The back row has the stellar combination of Jama and Bavaro at flanker and Langilangi at eight, providing a lot of heavy ball carriers. The loose forwards on the bench are Daireaux and the newly signed Nico Jones. Since neither is a lock, Bavaro will likely provide cover for the second row if necessary.
In the backs, it's a similar story of consistency. Tusitala and Bowd are the halfbacks, with Palamo and Talataina in the centers and Sa'u and Lasaqa on the wings. However, there is one big change with Tito starting at fullback instead of Baker, who has dropped off the roster. I'm really excited to see what Bowd and Tito can do in combination on the field,.given their complementary skill sets. Off the bench at scrumhalf will be Lefevre, while the rest of the back line is covered by Young and Sheehy.
Overall, this should be an exciting game of rugby. Dallas will absolutely put up a fight and make it a physical game in their home ground. In the end, though, expect OGDC to take home the glory.