Free Jacks Preseason Fixture Recap

 

Free Jacks Win Lineout in Texas

The Free Jacks traveled to Texas for four training days, culminating in a preseason fixture against the Dallas Jackals. The fifth and final week of preseason allowed 33 Free Jacks players to be selected to play against a combative and physical Dallas side. The Jackals made for a great preseason test, gelled with chemistry gained from their trial match versus NOLA Gold the week prior.

The preseason trip guaranteed outdoor training time and team bonding experiences such as exhibiting their golf skills at TopGolf. Players showed mixed abilities from the tee, but more importantly, they had fun and continued to create a strong cohesion amongst the whole squad.

Nearing the end of the training week, the Free Jacks competed against Houston in a live training session. Debutant and veteran players showcased the fruits of their pre-season work against a strong Sabercats side complete with a heavy South African forward pack.

The Free Jacks’ squad held a much larger selection than a regular season match. A trial match to close the Texas trip provided an excellent opportunity for coaches to evaluate players, strategies, and partnerships in preparation for the regular season. The preseason fixture against the Jackals consisted of four 20 minute quarters, ensuring that all selected players could play and contribute.

Kickoff

The match opened with Dallas collecting a clean bounce off their own kickoff, leading to a powerful run by Sam Golla. After a scrum and a few rounds of kick-tennis, a beautiful 50/22 kick by fullback Reece MacDonald put the Free Jacks into scoring position close to the five-meter line early in the first half. Hometown hero Cam Davidowicz capitalized on close territory, searing out of the maul to lunge over the line for the Free Jacks’ first pre-season try.

The Jackals immediately struck back shortly after the restart as Connor Winchester passed and looped behind his back line, quickly finding a gap inside the Free Jacks defense and finding space for the left wing to get over the tryline.

8’
The Free Jacks were quick to gain territory after the Jackals conceded an offense in the ruck. Returning league MVP and top scorer Jayson Potroz opted to kick for touch, placing the Free Jacks at Dallas’ five-meter line once again. This time around, the Jackals had wisened up to New England’s maul-power and defended their line until they were able to give themselves some breathing room with a kick into touch that landed just behind the halfway line in Free Jacks territory. Six phases later the Jackals found width, breaking a would-be Free Jacks tackle to score right under the uprights, making for an easy conversion.

25’
Once again, the Jackals’ strong ball carriers had made their way deep into the Free Jacks’ half. After a scrum on the Free Jacks’ five-meter line, Dallas fought their way over the line, scoring their third try of the evening. Conversion made.

29’ 
Shortly after the restart, New England were able to regain possession when an offside Jackal tampered with a high ball. Like clockwork, Potroz hammered a kick for touch to Dallas’ five-meter line. Complemented by a textbook line-out and maul combo, the Free Jacks closed the score before halftime with a maul-try from Andrew Quattrin.

32’ 
The second half began with a Dallas possession, however errors by the Jackals put the ball back into Free Jacks hands and subsequently onto MacDonald’s boot (now playing at flyhalf). MacDonald kicked to touch and a line-out was called at Dallas’ five-meter line. After a clean collection on the far end of the line-out by Conor Keys, the Free Jacks’ pack sent crashing pods; inching forward. After 10 phases of recycling the ball along the Jackals’ five-meter line, a quick pop to new-comer Cam Nordli-Kelemeti began a backline strike, set alight by a screamer of a skip pass by MacDonald to the Free Jacks’ collegiate draftee, Will Chevalier who gave a shrewd offload to Boston-born Irish debutant; Killian Coghlan. The outside center sprinted and leaped into the far left corner of the Jackals’ try zone, scoring his first try for New England.

44’ 
An identical kick to touch from MacDonald put the Free Jacks at the Jackals’ five-meter line once again and Keys brought the ball down from the line-out. A half-dozen rucking phases later, New Zealand flanker from the Tasman Mako; Seta Baker, cracked through Dallas’ defense and grounded the ball over the line for a try on his debut. MacDonald slotted the conversion through the posts and New England gained back the lead for the first time since the eighth minute of the match.

56’
The match paused for a quick water break and restarted with a scrum about fifteen meters out from the Jackals’ try line. After some tactical kicking from each side and a scrum in the Free Jacks’ half, New England were penalized and Dallas opted for a kick to touch to give them another shot at winning the preseason fixture. A maul from Dallas and four phases through Jackals hands left a one-on-one scenario between two wingers. A step inward threw the Free Jacks defense to their right and the Jackals scored what became the final points of the match.

 

FULL TIME: Free Jacks 22, Dallas 24

“Based on the match against Dallas, we will utilize our learnings to sharpen our collision accuracy,” said Free Jacks GM Tom Kindley when asked which areas of the game will be prioritized in preparation for the regular season.

New England looks forward to a busy week preparing for their first regular season game versus Anthem Rugby Carolina in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, March 3rd, 2024 at 7 p.m. 

Written By:

Colin Elliott

Staff Writer, Intern, @ New England Free Jacks

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