By Adam Bushell
The USC Men’s Rugby Club traveled south to the home field of Los Angeles Rugby Club for a “home” game against Cal State University Fullerton in week four of league play. With the expectations the coaches set for the Club, the Trojans know the importance of each match; the Fullerton game was no different. USC looked to maintain the momentum they had built from the prior week’s victory over a strong University of San Diego side.
In the opening minutes, the majority of play kept Fullerton in their half. USC Center Joey Krassenstein positioned the team nicely from a penalty kick, allowing for a driving maul straight off the lineout. Having moved the maul steps from the try line, Club President Jonny So peeled off the side and scored his first for the team. The conversion veered wide. 5-0 to USC six minutes in.
For the next fifteen minutes, possession flipped back and forth via handling errors and turnovers in contact.Fullerton opted to keep USC in their own half by sending multiple kicks deep into Trojan territory. The back three – comprised of Mitch Suzuki, Jeff Cohen, and Connor Patenaude – dealt with several high balls and heavy pressure from an aggressive Fullerton defense.
The Trojans scored their second try when a Fullerton clearance kick went astray and Krassenstein collected, stepped through a scattered defense, and touched down in the corner. The conversion went wide again. 10-0 in favor of USC.
Minutes before the half, USC put on an technical display of rugby when Suzuki collected a high ball and sent it through the hands of Flanker Michael Cesar and Center Dima Veremeenko to allow Krassenstein to draw the last defender and feed it straight to Winger Jeff Cohen who scored his debut try for the club. The conversion was successful and the half ended with a score of 17-0.
In the second half, Fullerton came out with much greater aggression and scored their first of the game when their backs moved the ball out wide inside USC’s 22, being stopped just before the try line. It was then picked up and driven over the line before the USC defense could reset. The conversion missed and the score was now 17-5 at 46 minutes.
The Trojans regained momentum when Krassenstein got his second of the game after Cesar fed him a perfect pass close to the touch line. The conversion was good, putting the score at 24-5.
Moments later the Trojans found themselves deep in attacking territory and were benefactors of a Fullerton penalty. Halfback Guido Scassellati quick tapped and kicked cross-field to Patenaude, who displayed great skill in receiving the ball, avoiding the touchline, and running it in for the try. The conversion was good. 31-5 to USC.
In the closing minutes, Fullerton hammered the ball deep into Trojan territory, forcing USC to defend on their goal line. With tired bodies after 80 minutes of rugby, CSUF broke through the USC defense and got their second try of the match. Final score: 31-10.
The Trojans marked their third win of the Spring and yet another step towards an impactful season in the Gold Coast Conference. Next weekend USC goes up against Santa Barbara City College at the Santa Monica Rugby Club at 1pm.