PROFESSIONAL RUGBY MAKES ITS DEBUT IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL

Major League Rugby’s Old Glory DC plays its first ever game at Cardinal Stadium on the campus of the Catholic University of America as Shannon RFC defeat Old Glory 26-22 

Chris Wyatt

May 19th, 2019

Was Old Glory’s debut all sunshine and roses?  Almost.  It certainly was sunshine with temperatures in the low 90s suddenly nearly double what they were in the District just a few days earlier.  While the temperature was hot, one could not say the same thing for Old Glory, who despite scoring the game’s first points on a penalty conversion in the fifth minute to take a 3-0 lead over visiting Shannon Rugby Football Club from Ireland, started the game with plenty of sloppy play.

“OG” may have put the first points up on the board, but Shannon quickly dictated the pace and tempo of the game scoring the first try in the 10th minute for a 7-3 lead and then jumping out to a 21-3 lead by the 22nd minute after poor Old Glory cross field offloads and successive Shannon lines breaks in what appeared to be gaping holes in the Old Glory defense.  Shannon was also opportunistic, repeatedly taking advantage of Old Glory mistakes.

As the first half ended, Old Glory finally scored its first ever try in the 41st minute.  After a missed conversion, the score was 26-8 at the half with Shannon holding a commanding lead.  The first 15 minutes of the second half saw no more scoring as both sides settled for the kicking game to get field advantage.

Old Glory began making substitutions early in the second half as the team’s new coach tried to get as many players on the pitch as possible to see what sort of talent he has on his hands.

It seemed as if fans would see no more scoring as the second half wore on until Old Glory began an impressive comeback, when in the 58th minute they got the ball out to the left flank.  After a brilliant offload Old Glory scored a try under the post with Shannon players trailing far behind.  The successful conversion made the score 26-15.

Play on the field was quiet for the next dozen minutes, but the crowd gathered momentum, urging on its new team until Old Glory scored a try under the post, seemingly out of nowhere, in the 73rd minute.  Fans got what they came for as Old Glory suddenly made a game of what just an hour prior had begun to look like a Shannon rout.  After a successful conversion the score was 26-22.  The D.C. fans were raucous at this point.  However, despite gaining possession, controlling the ball and driving deep into Shannon’s 22, Old Glory could not pull a rabbit out of the hat one more time as it turned the ball over.  Shannon won the scrum and kicked the ball into touch to end with a 26-22 victory.

When seeking to build a fan base and following, it is the little things that matter.  On this debut day parking, entry, concessions, kids playing area, and the tailgate section all appeared to be well in hand.  This bodes well for Major League Rugby and the DC franchise.  The club may have lost its debut game, but it won its first genuine test: drawing fans and ensuring they had a great experience.  Announced attendance for the game was 2,345, an impressive figure for an exhibition game.  It certainly seemed as if the very vocal and enthusiastic crowd was much larger.

With two warm up games out on the field ahead of the Shannon game, the clubs owners were visibly present, ensuring fans got a warm greeting, checking on parking, looking out for the welfare of parking attendants who had been standing out in the blazing sun and moving about the off field concession and fan experience areas to ensure things were running smoothly.  Micromanagement?  No not really.  This was more a case of enthusiastic, dedicated owners out for their first ever game ensuring fans had a great experience.

Old Glory’s second exhibition season game will be on Memorial Day, May 27th, 2019 at Cardinal Stadium when Scotland under 20’s come to town.