Old Glory Heads to Toronto for Thursday Night Match - Preview
By: Alistair Kirsch-Poole
May 17, 2023 - 5:00pm
Just a few days after hosting the Free Jacks at Segra Field on Sunday, Old Glory will play the Arrows in Toronto in a Thursday night match up. The quick turnaround could cause problems for Old Glory, who otherwise would be the unquestioned favorites over the struggling Arrows.
Of course, OGDC should still be favored to win. Toronto has had a disastrous season, winning just a single match this season against the similarly disappointing Chicago Hounds. They also have the unfortunate distinction of being the only team to have ever lost to the Dallas Jackals. This poor run of form has closely correlated with an avalanche of injuries to some of the team's most important players, including star flyhalf Sam Malcolm and center Nic Benn.
It would be a mistake to write off the Arrows completely, though. Last week, they managed to avoid defeat against Rugby ATL, pulling off a 34-34 tie. It was by far the best performance the team has put together yet, perhaps signally better times ahead for the Toronto faithful.
In particular, Toronto brought a level of aggression and fire that allowed them to claw back into a match that looked lost after Atlanta scored 18 points in the opening 16 minutes. When the Rattlers felt comfortable with their lead and took their foot off the gas, the Arrows were able to exploit that opening through sheer determination.
The Arrows also still have a number of dangerous players. New signing D'Shawn Bowen has been very impressive the wing, showing a great combination of speed and strength and also scoring a hat trick in his MLR debut. Team captain Lucas Rumball will also be a threat, especially given his unrivaled ability to steal at the breakdown. Fortunately for OGDC fans, he will be coming off the bench this week.
Even so, Old Glory should be in a good position to come away with the win. It took everything Toronto had to pull even a draw against Atlanta, and OGDC won't be any easier of a task.
Old Glory will need to focus on minimizing errors in their game. Toronto was able to capitalize on errors against Rugby ATL to gain a foothold in that match. Keeping handling errors low by keeping passes safe, protecting the breakdown on attack, and avoiding easy penalties on defense will be key to winning. Toronto will rely on those sorts of mistakes to create scoring opportunities, making it imperative to limit them.
Old Glory also needs to show the will to win. The Arrows pulled themselves back from the brink by force of will, showing great determination and bringing an energy that Atlanta didn't match. OGDC will need to match that energy level and keep it up the whole 80 minutes. Anything less would be opening the door for their opponents.
This will be an interesting test for the team. They have had almost no rest, which could hurt them as the match goes on. However, they still have the stronger squad and the stronger culture. They are a better team than the Arrows - they just need to show it.
There are only a handful of changes this week. The front row is almost unchanged, with Iscaro, Souchon, and Stewart starting. Newcomer and Gattas are joined on the bench by Herrera, who replaces Martinez. In the locks, Baillie is once again paired with Grosse, with Naqali out of the lineup for the week. The back row sees no changes: Bavaro at 6, Jones at 7, and Fa'anana-Schultz at 8. Daireaux and Haupeakui are the cover on the bench.
There is consistency in the back line as well. Tusitala and Bowd start at scrumhalf and flyhalf, with Talataina and Palamo as the centers and Lasaqa and Sa'u on the wings. The only change is at fullback, where Sheehy swaps with Diaz Bonilla for the starting spot, with the latter joining Lefevre and Young on the bench.
This lineup mostly isn't surprising. The front row seems to be in a rhythm now, with Herrera a welcome return who should dominate Toronto's second string. Grosse has been a starter all year, and Jones was magnificent on debut last week. In the backs, Palamo seems healthy and has stepped up on defense.
The only real surprise is Tito dropping to the bench. Sheehy had a great game last week, scoring a try off the bench, but it's hard to say whether this is a reward for a his performance or an attempt to give Tito some rest.