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The third match of the Red River Conference’s opening weekend pitted New Orleans against the Dallas Harlequins. In the closest result of the weekend, New Orleans eked out a six-point victory, 42-36.

Inconsistency plagued the game for New Orleans. According to Saade Bou-Mikael, the team’s coach and starting inside center on Saturday, the spotty performance was from a combination of early-season rust and a high turnover stemming from the offseason. Even though these factors were in play, New Orleans aimed to put together strong phases of play and open the season with a win.

“We were rusty,” he said. “It being our first game, this was anticipated. Nonetheless, we want to really push ourselves to deliver a better quality game for the full 80 minutes. Overall, however, I am happy to get the bonus-point win.”

Ross Bellaci took Man-of-the-Match honors for New Orleans. Bellaci was responsible for a set of tries, two conversions and six penalty kicks. Bou-Mikael and Cameron Falcon also scored tries for New Orleans.

“We had some great play from a number of individuals,” Bou-Mikael. “Two of our tries came from great line breaks from Alex Philpott, who is making a mark in the centers, moving in from the wing. Carlos Rosa provided the team with some great go-forward ball. The lineouts were all on point, and provided us with a great platform to attack.”

Where the offense was strong at points, New Orleans’ own errors often meant the undoing of the work done by the ball carrier. Poor handling even cost New Orleans seven points in the early goings of the match. Fortunately for New Orleans, this aspect of the game seemed to be more on point than others on Saturday.

“Set piece provided the best platforms to attack,” Bou-Mikael said. “We challenged them in their scrums and won most of our own. Our lineouts were very well executed. I thought Cam Falcon and Cullen Glennon were on the mark all game with their throw-ins.”

Defense went in waves on Saturday for New Orleans as well and will need to be addressed in ensuing practices. Strong stands on the defensive line by the back row of Sean Gallagher, Jarrett Falcon and Scott Garren ensured that New Orleans kept the Harlequins at bay enough to get the win.

With this win on the books, New Orleans has a lot to improve upon as the season continues. According to Bou-Mikael, many of the issues on Saturday boiled down to personnel problems. With a large number of players new to Division I play and one another, the chemistry necessary to put together a smooth 80-minute performance was lacking. That will come with time. Until it does, the focus for New Orleans is on the lessons learned from Saturday and improving.

“The first win was absolutely crucial,” Bou-Mikael said. “We are in a highly competitive conference. The Dallas Reds beat Metropolis early in the season when they were shaking off their rust. The Austin Blacks, meanwhile, pushed NYAC to the end in last season's final and have since only gotten stronger with their recruiting. We can't afford to have any slip-ups if we are to challenge those teams this season, so a bonus point win is what we aimed for.”

In the next two weeks, New Orleans will batten down the basics, focusing on tackling more effectively and getting to the breakdowns with increased speed and purpose. According to Bou-Mikael, everything else is a matter of time. New Orleans has the Dallas Reds after the weekend break.