On a beautiful March night, Rugby ATL slipped to a third consecutive defeat as they lost out to Old Glory DC 31-29, on Sunday in a nail-biting encounter at Cardinal Stadium. Scoring went back and forth between the two Eastern Conference rivals with the result hanging in the balance through to the final whistle.
To start, Rugby ATL won a penalty at the first scrum and kicked to the corner. The lineout drive was similarly dominant, and when Danny Tusitala came in at the side the referee awarded a penalty try and sent the Old Glory scrumhalf to the sin bin with just four minutes on the clock.
Jason Robertson replied with a penalty goal for Old Glory DC, but just a minute later Rugby ATL was in for a second try. Old Glory bobbled the restart and #13 Jeremy Misailegalu was quickest to pounce. He was stopped by a desperate Robertson tackle but #11 Harley Davidson was on hand to take the offload in for the score. #10 Kurt Coleman’s conversion went straight down the middle.
Another Robertson penalty followed, and then a second just ahead of the hydration break. Coleman notched one of his own when the two teams returned to the pitch as Rugby ATL took a 17-9 lead. It wouldn’t hold as Old Glory exploded with two tries before halftime.
A spilled ball distracted Rugby ATL’s defense just long enough for Tevita Naqali to scoop and drive through a hole. Quick ball from the ruck went wide right to a wide-open Dylan Taikato-Simpson to touch down.
Doug Fraser’s barging run down the left side sparked the second try. Again the ball was recycled quickly and Robertson flung the ball wide to Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz. The big No 8 bumped off one and crashed ahead, and two passes later Declan O’Donnell was blasting through under the posts. Robertson tacked on the extras as the home side took a four-point lead into the break.
Rugby ATL re-took the lead just after the restart. DC’s discipline broke down and Coleman kicked to the corner. The lineout drive was executed to perfection and #2 Alex Maughan took the credit for the try. Two more points from Coleman’s boot nudged the visitors ahead by three.
An obstruction penalty while on attack cost Rugy ATL dearly. Old Glory won their lineout and after two quick hit-ups, Taikato-Simpson wrapped around on a set play to break the line. He connected with Renata Roberts-Te Nana, with Tusitala following up on the inside to take the final pass in for seven points.
Robertson landed his fourth penalty to extend the lead but the game was far from over yet. Rugby ATL won a penalty and in need of a converted try opted for the corner. As it had earlier, the maul was successful with Maughan again getting the plaudits. Coleman’s conversion attempt from a difficult angle was wide of the mark, however, and it left ATL two points adrift.
#23 Bill Fukofuka was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle at the 75th-minute mark, and Robertson had a chance for three but his radar was also off target. Rugby ATL regathered and began to inch their way into scoring position. With time expired they retained possession but a penalty for incorrect entry at the ruck went against them, and Robertson thumped the ball into touch to bring the game to a close.
If you have never seen live Rugby, there’s another home game for Old Glory next Sunday as they host the resurgent Colorado Raptors. Rugby ATL will enjoy a bye week to recuperate before returning to action on Sunday, March 22, at home against the New England Free Jacks. Tickets for this “First Responder” dedicated event can be purchased at RugbyATl.Rugby/Tickets.