Image courtesy of Garrett Farrell
By Garrett Farrell
The first-ever professional rugby union team in D.C. recently played its first home game against the two-time defending champions of Major League Rugby, the Seattle Seawolves. The match was a great success, with Old Glory coming away with a thrilling 28-22 victory for its first-ever win in front of a sold-out crowd at Cardinal Stadium on Sunday, February 16.
Old Glory is one of three expansion teams coming to Major League Rugby this season; the league has been operating since 2018 and has added four teams since 2019. There are currently twelve teams competing in the league, including the New Orleans Gold, the Utah Warriors, Rugby United New York, and the Austin Gilgronis.
Old Glory seemed to have been set up for success since its inception. The inaugural head coach position was given to Andrew Douglas, a coach from New Zealand who began coaching notable farm teams and progressed to being a consultant on Super Rugby’s Chiefs during several championships. Additionally, Old Glory was able to bolster its team by signing several players from World-Cup-winning teams, most notably Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira of South Africa’s Springboks, who won the World Cup last November.
The crowd at the match created an exciting atmosphere, although at times the divide was visible between those who were new to watching the sport and those who have been watching all their lives. This difference was most visible during Seattle’s kicks for points, when those who were new to the sport treated kicks as if they were at a football game and attempted to distract the kicker, and those who were more familiar with the customs of rugby gave the kicker silence while he was kicking. On the whole, the crowd made the match an exciting experience, and one that is enjoyable for any fan of sports. The crowd was particularly excited whenever Mtawarira received the ball, which resulted in excited chants of “Beast! Beast! Beast!”
The match was particularly enjoyable from a student’s perspective. Since home games are played at Cardinal Stadium, they are an especially fun weekend activity located on campus. Sophomore Michael Staresinic is particularly excited about the team’s proximity and the future of major league rugby in Washington.
“I think that it’s really exciting. Having played a little bit of rugby I think that it’s just an amazing sport to watch and what’s more is I think it’ll be really great for the guys and girls on our club teams to have, so close to home, a demonstration of pro rugby and a really fun venue for good times,” Staresinic said. “It’s an awesome sport and I’m so excited to see pro-level games on our own turf.”
The match itself was exciting as well; Old Glory scored the first points of the match in a matter of minutes on a try from Jason Robertson to take a 5-0 lead. From then on out the match was a back and forth slugfest that continuously excited the home crowd. Old Glory was up at half-time 13-9. Early in the second half, Seattle would score several penalty kicks and a try to build a nine point lead over Old Glory. Old Glory would battle its way back in the last minutes by scoring a pair of tries after capitalizing on Seawolves mistakes. The contest came down to the final play of the game, where a player for the Seawolves was held up in the try-zone, which resulted in the end of the match with Old Glory winning 28-22.
Old Glory plays home matches on March 8, March 15, March 29, April 11, April 26, May 3, and May 24, and tickets are available on Old Glory’s website.