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.

By Adam Bushell

USC travelled to UC Irvine on Saturday for their league opener in the Gold Coast Conference. After a successful Fall campaign, first year Head Coach Loa Milford tested his expectations for the Trojans. The game kicked off with the Trojans dominating play and the back line exploiting ample room. It took only three minutes for Center Joey Krassenstein to make a line break after showing a dummy and breaking free to score under the posts. The successful conversion made it 7-0.

Minutes later, the Trojans were back in their opponent’s half, making consistent strides toward the line through several phases of play. After stealing a lineount on the attacking 5-meter line, the USC forwards methodically drove closer to the try line. Lock DeMarco Scavuzzi made the final hit-up and scored in the corner. The conversion fell short. 12-0 Trojans.

Momentum stayed with the Trojans throughout the rest of the first half, allowing freshman Center Dmitry Veremeenko to find room out wide and score his first try for the team. Winger Mitch Suzuki also got his first score after a flawlessly executed play by the backline left the UC Irvine defense in shatters. The Anteaters got on the scoreboard with their only try of the half with some well executed forward play. Veremeenko got his second tally right before the half time whistle, putting the score at 31-5.

Momentum slowed in the second half as the Trojan’s indiscipline at the breakdown proved costly. A Trojan in the sin bin left the team a player down for ten minutes and USC were up against their goal line for a majority of that time. Eventually, UCI notched their second score of the match. Substitutions came in and USC went back to full strength for the closing passages of play. Replacement Hooker Oliver Dabao got his first career try from a quick-tapp penalty deep into Anteaters’ territory. The game finished 38-10, marking a convincing first win of the season for USC and a proud moment for Coach Milford.

The Trojans travel to CSU Long Beach this Saturday for an important early season encounter.

By Adam Bushell

Our very own Joey Krassenstein returned from Santiago, Chile earlier this month after representing the USA in the Pan American Maccabi Games. The Maccabi Games is the third-largest sporting event in the world with over 78 countries participating. They take place every 4 years in Israel. On the offset 4 years, there are regional games such as the Pan-American Maccabi Games, European Maccabi Games, and others. 20 teams participated in this year’s games, with Argentina, Chile, the Prince of Whales Rugby Club (Chile), and USA comprising the rugby competition. Krassenstein had a wickedly successful tournament, winning gold and silver in rugby sevens and fifteens respectively, scoring a hat-trick against Chile in sevens. He played the entirety of every game, including a sevens thriller against Argentina that saw the US win by a mere conversion. 

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The USC center commented on his experience at the games, “It was an amazing opportunity being a part of a team that represents not only my religion but also my country. I got a chance to play rugby in a new country against opponents with very different playing styles, and got to enjoy socializing and exchanging with them afterwards.” He co-captained the sevens side and was the fifteen’s MVP in the backs.

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Krassenstein now returns to USC Rugby with new skills that will surely do USC great service in the upcoming Spring season. 

The current regular season schedule for the USC Trojan Rugby Team in the Gold Coast Conference of Intercollegiate Rugby.

Press Release

2015+Pan+American+Games+7s+Gold+MedalThe Maccabi USA Rugby squad has just returned to the United States following the 2015 Pan American Maccabi Games, which was held in Santiago, Chile. Before this year’s edition, Rugby was last played at the 1995 Pan American Maccabi Games, with the USA winning Gold in the 7s competition. This time Rugby XVs was added with Argentina, Chile and the USA taking part – alongside the Prince of Wales – winners of the National Chilean Club championships in 2015 (added as a warm-up fixture).

Results – XVs Competition:

USA 22 Argentina 28 
USA Tries: Andrew Berson, Dallen Stanford, Sam Rabb. USA Conversions: Jake Levine (2). USA Penalties: Jake Levine.

12465889_10205462044295187_4630921591609848423_oUSA 50 Chile 22
USA Tries: Joey Krassenstein (2), Tristan Sylk (2), Dallen Stanford, Howie Goldsmith, Rudy Rudzinsky, Sam Harrison. USA Conversions: Joey Krassenstein  (4), Jake Levine.

USA claims Silver Medal in XVs.

Results – 7s Competition:

USA 45 Chile 12
USA Tries: Joey Krassenstein (3), Howie Goldsmith, Adam Markun. USA Conversions: Dallen Stanford (5).

USA 14 Argentina 7 
USA Tries: Dallen Stanford, Eyal Hakim. USA Conversions: Dallen Stanford (2).

USA claims Gold Medal in XVs.

This tour was vital for the development of existing and new Jewish Rugby players, giving the program more structure as it competes at the World Maccabiah Games every four years. At the 2013 Games, the USA squad won Gold in 7s at the and Bronze in XVs. Preparation will begin soon ahead of the 2017 World Maccabiah Games – with application details to be released in March 2016.

Special thanks to the Maccabi USA Rugby Pan American Games Chairman, Erik Dollman, and coaches Aaron Davis and Dallen Stanford.

USA Rugby Squad:

Eitan Babcock; Milwaukee Rugby Football Club, Andrew Berson; Dartmouth Rugby, Erik Dollman; Albany Bootleggers / Albany Knickerbockers RFC, Jon Fonvielle; Mystic River Rugby Club, Dan Freedman; Santa Barbara Grunion RFC / Coach at Santa Ynez Valley Youth RFC, Joe Freundlich; Chicago Westside Condors RFC, Zachary Getson; Auburn University RFC / Griffins RFC, Howard Goldsmith; Chicago Westside Condors RFC, Eyal Hakim; Boca Raton RFC, Sam Harrison; Head Coach at Colorado College RFC, Zachary Hiller; Houston United Rugby Team, Jaeson Kaylegian; UIC RFC / Chicago Riot RFC, Robert Keene; South Valley Rugby / Pacific Club Rugby, Joseph Krassenstein; University of Southern California RFC, Max LaVictoire; New York Rugby Club, Jake Levine; Dartmouth Rugby, Eli Mandel; University Washington RFC, Adam Markun; Middlebury RFC, Samuel Rabb; San Francisco Golden Gate, Ben Rotstein; New York Rugby Club, Michael Rudzinsky; USC / Mystic River Rugby Club, Matthew Sarna; Maryland Rugby, Adam Satz; University of South Carolina Men’s Rugby, Dallen Stanford; Tiger Rugby, Tristan Sylk; Philadelphia Fight Rugby League / Media Rugby Football Club.

For more information on the Rugby competition in at the Pan American Maccabi Games, contact Maccabi USA Rugby Chairman Erik Dollman at erik.dollman@tbs.toshiba.com.

About the organization:
Maccabi USA (MUSA) is a federally-recognized not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with an extensive history of enriching Jewish lives through athletic, cultural and educational programs. The organization is the official sponsor of the United States Team to the World Maccabiah Games, and the Pan American and European Maccabi Games, as well as a sponsor of the JCC Maccabi Games for teens in North America. As the official Maccabi representative in the U.S., Maccabi USA supports Jewish athletic endeavors, enhanced by cultural and educational activities in the United States, Israel and throughout the Diaspora.

MUSA develops, promotes and supports international, national and regional athletic-based activities and facilities.  It strives to provide Jewish athletes the world over the opportunity to share their heritage and customs in competitive athletic settings.  MUSA supports programs that embody the Maccabi ideals of Jewish Continuity, Zionism and Excellence in Sport.  Maccabi USA Builds Jewish Pride Through Sports.

Maccabi USA has been selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) as a Multi-Sport Organization (MSO). The nonprofit organization becomes one of 35 MSOs nationwide to be recognized by the USOC for its ability to cultivate a national interest in sport and increase opportunities for participation internationally, nationally and at the grassroots level.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The USC Men’s Rugby Team visited ‘A Place Called Home’ this past weekend to teach intercity children the great sport of rugby. It was a fantastic experience for the team and we feel very privileged for the opportunity to work with such a delightful group of bright young kids. We hope to continue this relationship with A Place Called Home moving forward. Fight on!

Here is a player perspective from team member Jeff Stratford:

“It is both a privilege and a fulfilling opportunity when Trojan Rugby has an opportunity to give back to the community. For many of us, things like financial security and family support are taken for granted. We do not have to travel far from our campus to find communities where these things are not a given. Thankfully there are those in LA who have diagnosed the problems that face densely populated urban environments and offer a remedy in the form of love and understanding. One such organization is ‘A Place Called Home’ at 28th Street and S. Central. We have Trojan Rugger, Mikey McMonigle to thank for introducing us to this group. Having already volunteered his time with them he recognized what an opportunity there was for USC Rugby to give back to the youngsters at A Place Called Home. On November 20th, USC Rugby took a short drive from campus to share their time, energy and enthusiasm for rugby.

After arriving, their field was swarming with a mixture of college athletes and children of all ages. The children began in three stations to learn the basics of the game. The critical skills of passing and tackling were taught before putting it all together for a game of touch. With a little instruction and a whole lot of encouragement, the kids quickly started to look like a team putting on moves against the experienced Trojan Ruggers. Ask anyone on the team about the kid’s tackling and they may be embarrassed to tell you the truth. But let it be known that these kids could hit and more than once I found myself knocked down and absolutely flabbergasted. All it takes is hard work and determination for rugby to take these kids places. That much became evident. Finally a game was organized to illustrate the importance of having fun on the pitch. USC Rugby was pitted against all the kids in a modified sort of tag. The ball was passed among USC players who after catching the ball had to keep their feet still. If any of the kids were tagged by the ball they were out. With that, the day culminated with smiles and screams of joy for everyone involved. In moments like this, it becomes obvious how volunteering one’s time is perhaps the simplest and most rewarding thing one can do. Rugby already has so much to offer in the way of teamwork, discipline and physical fitness. These are all concepts that make for bright and healthy people. It truly was a privilege to give our time to A Place Called Home. We hope to maintain a continued relationship with this amazing organization and the entirety of our surrounding community. Thanks for having us!”

[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B76yLef095M”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APCH 008[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By Adam Bushell

Nearing the end of the preseason, the skills and strategies implemented by new Head Coach Loa Milford are beginning to fall into place. The team travelled to Cal State University Northridge this past weekend to gauge this progress.

Off the kickoff, USC was sluggish and slow to set the tempo of the game as was the mission statement established beforehand. Within ten minutes the Trojans had conceded an unconverted try to put the team down by five. Shaken up by the unexpected first few passages of play, USC shifted up a gear and was able to level the score after a more promising passage of play. USC’s second score came from a line break through a porous CSUN defense and a last minute offload to Carl Acquire meters from the line to put the score at 12-5 before the half. The second half saw both teams enter a grid lock of possession for the majority of the half, each teams only getting one more score a piece. USC become evermore nervous as CSUN closed in on Trojan territory with only one try between the two teams, but USC’s defense held off the Matadors. The score at the final whistle was 19-12. 

The Trojans would have liked to have created a bigger deficit, particularly in the second half, so there is still more work to be done late on into the preseason. However, a win will be accepted graciously and the gain of momentum will be important going into the Trojan’s last preseason game against UCLA on December 5th.