USC Rugby Team traveled to Cal State Long Beach to compete in the annual CSULB XV’s Invitational Tournament. This event was a perfect introduction to the game of rugby for our rookies, and a chance to test pre-season training progress for the veterans. Many of the teams at this event will be USC opponents during the spring regular season. (Note: An important factor of this tournament is time – each half is only 15 minutes. With the usual stoppages in rugby play (for scrum issues and general stoppages), the actual game time is very limited. This puts pressure on teams to score early).

USC’s first match was early in the morning, and the team woke up and played good rugby. They won all their own line-outs and won two opposition line-outs to keep the ball clearly on USC’s side. The scrum also performed well, holding up to good pressure even with soft footing due to some morning rain. USC still committed too many penalties in the first half (two ruck infringements, two offside penalties, and three obstruction fouls). Even with the mounting penalties, USC pushed the tempo and finally broke through the defensive line, with captain Joey Krassenstein cruising through for a try under the posts. A conversion by Erwyn Lam and a couple of penalty kicks from Haico Kaashoek, and the win was secure.

The afternoon matches did not go as well. The schedule had a large break between the first and second USC matches, and this did not do the team any favors. Along with a few positional changes and injury replacements, the USC team struggled to get forward momentum, and ultimately struggled to get possession of the rugby ball. The opposition forward pack held onto possession for long stretches of the game, and after USC allowed a soft opposition try, it became a struggle to come back and break through the defensive line. The USC Backs didn’t get much action, and when the USC Forwards got possession of the ball, simple mistakes turned the ball right back over to the stingy opposition.

Due to the tournament structure, USC made it through to the division semi-final, but once again ran into time and possession issues. Early USC penalties pushed the team back into their own half, requiring a lot of tackles by defense. The USC scrum and line-out were not finding their rhythm and were being pushed backwards and losing USC possession. After two opposition tries in the second half, USC had no time to mount a comeback. Out in the semi-finals.

Pre-season rugby allows every team to identify areas to improve, and USC realized their issues right away: possession and time (starting strong and finding their rhythm quickly). The team looks forward to full-length games where their fitness and growing momentum can be utilized to the fullest (and holding onto the ball will be helpful, too).

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