[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]goffrugbyreport-logoCongratulations to Freshman Center Dima Veremeenko for being selected for Goff Rugby Report’s list of D1 College Gamebreakers![/vc_column_text][us_btn text=”Gamebreakers – DI College Men” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.goffrugbyreport.com%2Fnews%2Fgamebreakers-di-college-men-4||target:%20_blank”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By Adam Bushell 

The USC Men’s Rugby Club travel to Las Vegas this weekend to compete in their last match of the regular season against Grand Canyon University. The Trojans secured a playoff spot after a victory against Santa Barbara City College two weekends ago. A win will put the Trojans in a highly advantageous position going into their playoff run, securing second place with the possibility of moving up to first, and a home-field advantage for their first playoff game. The coaching staff has made clear that the only objective is to come away with a win. Getting the victory will be no easy feat, however. USC experienced the might of GCU at last year’s Rugby Bowl, an exhibition match held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Trojans fell heavily. With a chip on their shoulder the USC side are looking for redemption to cap off their most successful regular season in years. Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli commented, “This is an important test for us. Can we go on the road, into a foreign environment with lots of distractions, and keep our poise and focus? It’s going to take 80 minutes of commitment to see us through.” 

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Here are some key points leading into the match:

Players to watch for…

Dima Veremeenko: Freshman Veremeenko has scored in four out of five games this season. The explosiveness of Russian Center has been difficult to for opposition back lines to handle and has proved deadly on many occasions.

Michael Cesar: The Openside Flanker has a level of experience that few can match, having played for the highly renowned rugby school in England, St. Pauls. He has the tenacity of a flanker but the ball skills of a back; a double threat to say the least.

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How the table stands…

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If the Trojans manage to come away with a victory on Saturday, second place will be secured with the possibility of a first place finish if Cal State Long Beach slip up against Santa Barbara City College. However, in the event of a loss for the Trojans, conceding three or less tries will still secure second place on the basis of point differential. If the Trojans concede four or more tries and go on to lose the match without having scored four tries themselves, GCU will go one point ahead in the standings, putting USC back to third place.

“GCU have had a very uneven season thus far. They lost to USD then came from behind to take SBCC. LBSU beat them soundly a couple weeks back but they responded last weekend by doubling up Fullerton. Reports are that they have a sizeable pack and have skill position players returning from injury. They are a good, young team.” said Riebli. 

If you are in Las Vegas this weekend, come out and support the men as they go into what will be their most important matchup yet.

Address: Field #17 at the Silver Bowl Fields, 7000 E Russell Road, Las Vegas, NV 89122.

The USC Men’s Rugby Club competed in their fifth match of the season this past Saturday against Santa Barbara City College. The Trojans recognized the importance of the match as a win would secure a spot in the playoffs.

SBCC kicked off and USC took to the opening minutes with high intensity, keeping the majority of play in Vaqueros’ territory. The opening try of the match came seven minutes in as SBCC were under great pressure deep inside of their 22. The SBCC Scrum-Half threw a sloppy pass to no one that USC Fly-Half Adam Bushell was able to dive on behind the try line. The conversion was made putting the score at 7-0.

The Trojans kept the offensive pressure high over the next ten minutes as the forwards drove the ball into Vaquero territory once more. A half break that was stopped just before the try line, but Prop Luis Lopez picked the ball before the SBCC defense could reset, forcing the ball over the line for a try. The conversion was made and the score was now 14-0 nineteen minutes in.

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Momentum slowed for the Trojans as SBCC picked up the pace of their offensive game, running USC from sideline to sideline. The fast ball movement of the SBCC backs proved too difficult to handle on several occasions, allowing for several SBCC line breaks along the sideline and three unanswered tries to be scored before the close of the first half. The score at the half time whistle stood at 19-14 in favor of SBCC.

After a sturdy half time talk from the coaches the Trojans knew to be mentally prepared for a fight in the second half. The USC backs adopted a more direct style of play. Centers Joey Krassenstein and Dima Veremeenko hammered the ball across the gain line and made several line breaks down the middle of the pitch. On one occasion Veremeenko broke through the SBCC defensive line, brushing off several players before running it in for a try. The conversion was good.

The Trojans earned themselves an even greater lead when Scrum Half Jeff Cohen scored a try that was unconverted, putting the score at 26-19. Flanker Michael Cesar joined in on the action ten minutes later with a try of his own. This time the conversion was successful and at sixty minutes the score was 33-19.

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With ten minutes left the Trojans were awarded a penalty due to the SBCC ill-discipline in their own half. Bushell put another three points on the board.

At seventy-five minutes SBCC managed to get a try back to come within twelve points of USC, but were unable to form a comeback in time. Final score: 36-24. The Trojans came away with a critical victory and for the first time in years have earned a spot in the playoffs.

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The team have next weekend off and will face Grand Canyon University is Las Vegas on the 5th of March.

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02.21.2016 – Alex Goff

Cal State Long Beach sits clear atop the Gold Coast after an impressive 72-12 defeat of Grand Canyon University Saturday.

GCU was hit with some injuries but still fielded a big, powerful forward pack. Battling the heat of an Arizona February afternoon the Long Beach 49ers worked the ball wide as much as possible, and the tactic worked nicely.

“I was worried going into this game,” said CSULB Coach Jason Reynolds. “We had never seen them play before and they were huge. Our pack is usually small, but we held our own, did well in the scrums and didn’t have any problems in the lineouts. Our maul was good. But we knew we had to play away from those forwards in open play, and that’s what we did.”

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A well-conditioned 49ers team enjoyed another very good game from their halfback combination of Roland Blackiston and Steven Bodley. Reynolds is very high on Blackiston, an aggressive and intelligent scrumhalf, while Bodley kicked extremely well, often nailing conversions from the touchline. The pair accounted for all 19 of the 49ers first 19 points; Blackiston scored four tries on the day, and Bodley scored two and kicked another 22 points.

No. 8 Jerell Abellera-Neri, wing Anthony James, each scores tries and fullback Devon Stone added two.

Meanwhile, the resurgent USC team continued to play well, and logged an impressive 36-24 win over Santa Barbara City College, moving to 4-1 and securing a place in the Gold Coast Conference’s playoffs. Flyhalf Adam Bushell scored a try and his kicking accounted for another 11 points, while prop Luis Lopez, center Dimitriy Veremeenko, scrumhalf Jeffrey Cohen, and flanker Michael Cesar all scored. Tries from Bushell and Lopez staked the Trojens to a 14-0 lead, but SBCC came storming back, showing some of that flair that has seen them win so many games in the past. Three tries from SBCC put them up 19-14 at the break.

But Veremeenko’s try tied the game and Bushell’s conversion put the Trojans ahead to stay. Two more USC tries and a penalty from Bushell sealed it at 36-19 before SBCC scored another late.

Cal State Fullerton slammed UC Irvine 69-19 to record their first win of the league season and put them in the conversation for a playoff bid. CSULB and USC are in the semis, with SBCC 0-3 but mathematically still eligible. But Irvine can’t make it. But the fight for the final two playoff spots are likely between GCU (2-2), San Diego (2-1), and Fullerton (1-2).

Santa Barbara plays Irvine next week and should win that game. Then, a March 12 meeting with Long Beach State carries much importance. The key game is likely going to be Grand Canyon v USC on March 5.

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2015-2016 Regular Season Standings

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Saturday saw the University of Southern California Men’s Rugby team travel to San Diego to face University of San Diego Toreros for an important match that had Gold Coast Conference playoff implications. The Trojans made the necessary adjustments in the week leading up to the match, identifying USD’s strengths and aiming to counter them.

The two and a half hour bus ride risked leaving the Trojans lethargic and heavy footed upon the opening whistle. However, from the kickoff USC hit the ground running, dominating the majority of play and working to keep the ball in USD’s half. Trojan Flyhalf Adam Bushell kept the Toreros pinned in their own half for the opening fifteen minutes until USC capitalized on a mistake in the attacking zone. An errant USC pass landed nicely into Bushell’s arms, allowing him to fall over the line for the opening try of the game. The Flyhalf converted his own score, 7-0 USC.

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The teams consistently swapped possession for another fifteen minutes until USD conceded a penalty inside their half. Bushell stepped-up and nailed the kick. 10-0 USC.

Minutes later, Center Joey Krassenstein made a half-break a threw a perfectly timed offload to Bushell. Unfortunately, he couldn’t collect the pass. The ball went to ground and a pacey USD Center took it the other way. The Trojans scrambled to recover and brought the man down, but not before he found 8-man Cameron Guirguis for a try against the run-of-play. USD’s Flyhalf Avery Vandenberg easily converted; 10-7 USC after 40 minutes of play.

USD carried the momentum into the 2nd half with Vandenberg bookending his unconverted try with two penalty kicks. The Trojans complicated matters during that interval when Lock DeMarco Scavuzzo received a yellow card for diving over the ball. Having already conceded one try and a penalty, USC had their back against their goal line a second time. Although they ultimately conceded a penalty kick, the resoluteness of the Trojan defense gave them a boost of confidence heading into the final quarter 10-18 USD with 12 minutes left in the game.

From the restart, the Trojans started an unforeseen comeback when Center Dimitry Veremeenko’s fantastic individual effort lead to several broken tackles and a try out of virtually nothing. Bushell missed the conversion. 15-18 USD. Four minutes later, the Trojans recaptured the lead when Halfback Guido Scassellati dummied, fended off a defender, and scored in the corner. Bushell’s kick went wide again. 20-18 USC. In the 77th minute and inside the attacking twenty-two, Veremeenko struck again by making a half-break and offloading to Flyhalf Bushell for his second of the day. The conversion went astray again, keeping USD within reach of a try at 25-18. However, Flanker Michael Cesar sealed things up when, from a Torero scrum, the ball went flying out the back and eventually into his arms. Krassenstein missed the convert, bringing the final score to 30-18 in favor of USC.

Trojans Captain Corbin Bennett commented, “No one expects us to win or to perform at the level we have thus far. Our team has embraced the underdog status and we all love playing with that chip on our shoulder. While we will enjoy this victory as it does attest to how far our program has come, we still have a long season ahead of us and still have many things to improve upon. We truly would not be where we are without the sacrifice our coaches and their families continue to make.”

This Saturday, February 13th at 10:30am, USC goes up against CSU Fullerton at Dodson Middle School in Palos Verdes.

Photos from the match

Match Running Score

Current Standings

by Alex Goff

Southern California shocked the University of San Diego Saturday in the Gold Coast DIAA Conference, scoring four tries in the final 13 minutes to turn an 18-10 deficit into a 30-18 victory.

USC, which had shown some improved results of late, was expected to give USD a push, but many would have accepted an 18-10 loss as a sign that the Trojans were improving. Instead, they blew the doors off the game.

USC started off well, with flyhalf Adam Bushell scoring a try, which he converted, and then adding a penalty for a 10-0 lead. But USD pushed back with a converted try scored by No. 8 Cameron Guirguis and converted by flyhalf Avery In the second half, a penalty to tie the scoe, a try at 55 minutes, and then a penalty to make it 18-10. That’s when the Trojans went to work, as center Dimitry Giudo, Bushell, and, at the end of the game, flanker Michael Cesar, all touched down.

The win bumped USC to 2-1 and dropped USD to 1-1.

Also in the Gold Coast, Grand Canyon defeated UC Irvine 36-15 to move to 2-1 and remain in 1st. GCU ran out a fairly young team and Coach Ryan Kelly said they played well at times, and not so well at times.

“We are hoping it all comes together by April,” said Kelly. “We’ll see where we are in two weeks when we play Long Beach State.”

As for Long Beach State, the 49ers smacked Cal State Fullerton 38-3. Fullerton actually scored first, but then tries from scrumhalf Roland Blackiston, No. 8 Jerell Abellera-Neri, and wing Devon Stone staked CSULB to a 19-3 halftime lead. Center Anthony Simeone and lock Joshua Myles scored tries in the second half, while flyhalf Steven Bodley added five conversions and a penalty.

So there’s plenty of rugby to be played and Long Beach State is the only unbeaten team.

By ERIC HE
February 2, 2016 in Sports

When you think of prestigious athletic programs at USC, you don’t often think of rugby.

Only a few people know that the rugby team rivals football in terms of longevity. Founded in 1887, rugby was even a varsity sport before football took over.

Nowadays, rugby is a club sport that plays in the Southern California Gold Coast Conference, and is comprised of 64 players who are dedicated to an underappreciated — if not forgotten –— sport on campus.

Jonathan So, a senior and president of the team, is mindful of the history of rugby at USC.

“The USC rugby tradition has been carried on all these years,” So said. “It feels really rewarding to be part of something that’s so old and has been around for so long.”

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At first glance, rugby seems like a disorganized, chaotic sport, with the ball continuously moving, bodies flying all over the place and scrums developing on every play.

But beneath the surface, it is a sport that requires extreme versatility and demands respect between opponents. Unlike football, rugby players stay on the field for both offense and defense, increasing responsibility. And the continuous action is more tiring on the body and more harmonious to watch than football, where play is stopped seemingly every few seconds.

“There’s a huge focus on teamwork,” So said. “I know that sounds vague, but there’s honestly a spot on the field for everyone. The positions are so diverse, and it’s definitely a ‘gentleman’s sport.’”

That’s the underlying theme of rugby, which they say is a “hooligan’s game played by gentlemen” (as opposed to soccer, a “gentleman’s game played by hooligans”). Players may be trying to tackle each other in the open field without much protection, but opponents have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.

Junior Corbin Bennett, the captain of the team, believes this is what sets rugby apart from other sports.

“Rugby has camaraderie to it, where it’s more of a brotherhood,” Bennett said. “There’s this respect to it that you can’t describe or find a quote for unless you actually experience it yourself. That’s something so beautiful about the game, and it’s overlooked among other sports.”

However, it is hard to learn to appreciate a sport if you can’t see it, which is the predicament that USC students face with rugby. The team is not allowed to play its home matches on campus, meaning it is relegated to borrowing local high school fields. This prevents them from drawing much of the student population who have been drawn in by a rugby match held on campus.

“We wish we could have a wider fan base, and that’s something we’re working toward,” So said. “But it’s something that’s also very difficult, because we don’t necessarily have the resources to draw that fan base.”

The team used to play at McAlister Field — also home to women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse — but was banned after they left the field conditions “damaged and unplayable” following a match, according to a statement from USC Athletics. They practice at Cromwell Field but are unable to hold matches because the field is not regulation size.

“The Athletic Department and Recreation Sports Department decided to eliminate rugby games on McAlister Field in order to protect the field’s condition and playability for its many other users,” the statement concluded.

For the team, though, this feels less like a need to protect field condition and more of an unfair restriction on the oldest club sport on campus.

“[The administration was] throwing [its] weight around,” So said. “It’s a little ridiculous, because the women’s rugby team is allowed to practice there, and every other club sport can use that field, but it’s specifically men’s rugby they’re complaining about. For that reason, we can’t have home games. When you can’t have games at home, it’s hard to bring a fan base out.”

So said that while they have an immediate network of fans that support them and membership on the team has doubled since he was a freshman, the administration is holding them back from taking bigger steps to increase the popularity of rugby around USC. They don’t have the money for a scrum machine, a common and necessary piece of equipment in the sport. Without a place to work out, they wake up at 6 a.m. to trek to Lyon Center to avoid crowds.

“Being the largest and oldest club sport in a private school, it’s a little ridiculous that Athletics is brushing us aside while all these programs [in other schools] grow around us,” So said.

But the dedication and commitment remains strong, and the camaraderie even more apparent. As practice wrapped up one Wednesday last month, the players locked arms in a circle while their coach gave a pep talk. Then, they launched into a chant -— the “USC Rugby War Cry” — a loud, bellowing series of yelps in perfect harmony.

“Here we are, ha, here we are, ha, SC, SC, ra ra ra, T-R-O-J-A-N-S, Trojans,” the chant ends.

“The bond that rugby brings is something that is so unique about the game,” Bennett said. “It doesn’t matter your height, weight or size; somebody is going to have your back even if you just met them. It’s unlike any other sport.”

It is a sport that is slowly growing on the world stage. The Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world. Rugby sevens, a variation of rugby, will be an Olympic sport for the first time in 2016. The Professional Rugby Organization is launching North America’s first professional rugby league that will begin play in April of this year.

Yet, despite the progress around them, the rugby team at USC feels stuck in the mud.

“Our players are putting in the effort, but we really need the school to step up and provide us with more resources so that we can grow as the sport grows as well,” So said. “We don’t want to be left behind.”

By Director of Rugby, Dominic Riebli 

When we first received our league schedule, I felt disheartened that we would play Long Beach State at such an early phase of the season. With an entire system to install, the coaches would not have enough time to prepare for the reigning Gold Coast Conference champions. Given that they had beaten us so thoroughly over the past several seasons, we wanted to play our best on this day. The coaches didn’t think that we could do that so early-on.  Unfortunately, we were right; we didn’t play our best today. Fortunately (if such a thing exists in defeat), not playing our best translated to a 17-24 loss that came down to the final play of the match.

 

 

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As I told the team during the Captain’s run on Friday, this game will not define our season; it merely serves as a barometer for where we stand right now. I truly did not know how the match would go for the Trojans.  Knowing that Long Beach had beaten us 80-10 last season and sensing the mixture of doubt and excitement in our ranks, my expectations varied from dominating to being dominated. Having come out the other side, I now state with confidence that we went toe-to-toe with the top of the league for 80 minutes, never backed down, and announced that the Trojans would no longer serve as an easy mark. I believe that we will face Long Beach State again this season and I know we will be markedly improved on that day.

 

Affairs did not start well for USC as the 49ers picked up where they left-off last season – playing hard charging interior rugby.  The Trojans conceded a penalty for hands-in the ruck and the opposing flyhalf slotted the kick. 0-3 LBSU through 10 minutes of play. Though dismayed at having given up the points, we got the sense that we could physically compete with Long Beach. USC had the ascendency in the scrums and competed well in the line-outs.  Our midfield, though outsized, had better skills.

 

On the ensuing kick-off, the Trojans kept the 49ers pinned back and forced them to kick out of their own half.  After several phases of attack, Center Joey Krassenstein showed style, speed, and strength as he slipped his defender, straight-armed another would-be tackler, and ran in the first try. Flyhalf Adam Bushell missed the conversion. 5-3 USC.

 

After moving back into the attacking zone, we knocked-on; thus awarding LBSU the scrum. Our flanker and scrumhalf got their lines crossed in defense and allowed the 49ers flyhalf to break free down the right sideline. Wing Connor Patenuade made the open-field tackle but our scramble defense arrived too late, allowing the opposing scrumhalf to pick-up from the base of the ruck and go the remaining 50 meters for a soft try. Conversion good; 5-10 LBSU.  That sequence served a as a double whammy for the Trojans as we conceded a try that never should have happened and got our flanker yellow-carded for a high-tackle in the try zone.

 

USC successfully killed-off the penalty time and once back at full-force, went on the attack. At the 38 minute mark LBSU’s wing received a yellow card for a dump tackle on our 10-meter line. Now a man-up, the Trojans made the most of their opportunity by crashing the ball through the forwards, collapsing the defense, and then swinging it out to Patenuade for a try in the corner. Bushell missed from the difficult angle, leaving us deadlocked at 10-10 midway through the match.

 

For the first 20 minutes of the second half, we executed very poorly, didn’t take advantage of the space that Long Beach allowed us to kick to, and simply failed to get out of our own way. LBSU kicked long and pushed us back into our defensive zone. Instead of kicking out of our own half and playing defense, we took the ill-advised route and tried to run out. On one particular occasion, LBSU kicked long. Our wing received the kick, attempted to counter-attack, got isolated in the tackle, got the ball poached, and left the rest of the team too little time and distance to recover.  Try converted; 10-17 LBSU.

 

We had our best shot to even things up when a Long Beach penalty lead to a lineout inside the attacking 22. The pack successfully mauled the ball to the 5-meter mark and received penalty advantage. After the maul collapsed, the ball went wide and, ultimately, astray. From the penalty we opted to tap-and-go instead of kick-for-touch and set-up another maul.  That decision proved detrimental as we didn’t score through the forwards and failed to execute another backline move. This time the ball went loose and to the ground. LBSU’s wing pounced on it and was in the clear for a long distance, soft try.  However, Krassenstein ran him down short of the line. The fantastic effort went for naught as USC’s support could not arrive in time and the 9ers were able to ruck, go, and score under the posts.  Conversion good; 10-24 with five minutes to play.

 

Down but not out, USC immediately struck back from the kick-off. LBSU knocked-on and set-up a scrum on the attacking 10-meter line. The backs executed a beautiful “unders” line that sprang Center Dmitry Veremeenko. He stepped the fullback and wing and dotted down under the posts. Krassenstein converted the extras; 17-24 with three minutes to play. From the kick-off, Long Beach went deep and forced us to run the length of the field. We managed to work our way three-quarters of the way there but eventually knocked-on and ended the game.

 

The Trojans played valiantly today and I’m very proud of the effort. Our shortcomings and failings are correctable and will come with time, teaching, and experience. The players continue to grow and are starting to define their rolls within the team. Of particular note, Lock DeMarco Scavuzzo played his best game of rugby and showed that he can be a dominant force.

 

In the 2s match, USC came out victors with a 10-5 score line. Flanker Andrew Daoud had a fantastic game and Lock Jonny So took home the Iron Man Award for most minutes played (40 minutes in the 1s match, 60 minutes in the 2s match).

 

This week we travel down to San Diego to play the Toreros. If you live in the area or can make the trip, we would love to see you there.