Seditious sources from the South report that Old Glory DC vanquished your New England Free Jacks in close fashion 22-27. The affair was not streamed, out of fear that someone from Rugby New Jersey may be able to gain some advantage from it. Fortunately, RFBN’s DC correspondent, Alistair, was on the scene to report on your Free Jack’s successes, trials, and tribulations. We also did not have a team sheet for yesterday’s game, but it looks like the usual suspects were accounted for. Sadly, there is no accurate information available about what rookies your New England Free Jacks may have fielded.
How was the pack and the set piece?
The good news first. The line out is looking solid and ready to rumble. Presumably the captain Josh Larsen is still doing the good work at lock, but the line out also showed good variety and appeared to be well coached. This is a key strength of New England’s game.
The pack generally carried the ball well, which is vital to making the New England attack sing in the future. Building momentum through the phases so that the backline has the ability to take advantage of a tired and strung out defense is critical to future success.
The maul at well was strong in the first period of play. Apparently it tailed off as the evening wore on, but I will choose to take that as a positive sign that the starters are getting things rolling. In a maul heavy league, this will hopefully be a strength.
The bad news: DC dominated the scrum. The scrum is a dark place into which this pundit dare not venture, but it is likely that the loss of Japanese-great Kensuke Hatakeyama may have contributed to this apparent weakness. This is something to work on before next weekend’s opener.
How did the backline gel?
Boyle is solid, but still not fabulous as a playmaking flyhalf. He excelled in the outside channels, but Waaka kicked fantastically, and was very dynamic on the ball. It does raise the prospect of moving Boyle to a second playmaker role, similar to what England have done with their surplus ten, leaving Waaka to take over main flyhalf duties with his lethal boot. This is an especially tempting prospect given Waaka’s stellar outing as an emergency ten in the last game of last season against the RATLlers, in which Waaka kicked a beautifully weighted cross-field kick to his winger to score a try just before the half. If he can continue to demonstrate that kind of play making ability, it may make sense to move him over to flyhalf full-time, and to make use of Boyle’s abilities in the wider channels at inside center.
Poland is still his usual absurdly good self. He has good ball speed out of the base of the ruck, can mess with a scrum, and has a good box kick. His big plus is his ability to reliably place kick as well, which is also essential given the general standard of place kicking in Major League Rugby. If there are injuries to the other main place kickers, Poland will be there to step up to the plate.
This was still a preseason game, and there were plenty of new players and people who’ve never played opposed rugby together before. This is, hopefully, the low watermark for your New England Free Jacks. We will have to see how well they perform at next week’s opener at New Orleans to get a more accurate gauge of how this season is likely to go. More on that in the season preview post and podcast coming later this week.
If you have any feedback or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at @RugbyBoiBinns, and give my podcast, What the Freejack??? a follow on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. I’m also still looking for a name for this blog, so give me a tweet with any ideas you may have.