(Phoenix, AZ) For the second consecutive week the University of Southern California Trojans Rugby Club made a trip out to Arizona, this time to take on Arizona State University. Unfortunately for the visitors, they came away with a similar result to the previous week, falling 24-47 to the Sun Devils.

The teams knocked-on through the first five minutes of play before ASU scored their first of eight tries. USC failed to find touch on a penalty kick by the narrowest of margins. Sun Devil flanker Joseph Banaga deflected the ball back into play before it crossed the out-of-bounds line. From the bounce, flyhalf Alex Walsh kicked the ball forward. Winger Kyson Jester gathered it and streaked the length of the field for an impressive score. Walsh converted the extras and added a penalty 5 minutes later. 0-10 ASU after 12 minutes.

The Trojans took their only lead of the match within the next few minutes after a couple of quick-strike scores. After Walsh’s penalty kick, ASU failed to clear their zone on the ensuing kick-off; giving USC the ball inside the 22-meter mark. After playing tight through the forwards, scrumhalf Guido Scassellati passed out to flyhalf Adam Bushell, who found center Mitch Suzuki running an outside line that put him through a gap. Suzuki pinned his ears back and raced into the corner for a try. ASU retained possession of the next kick-off but an errant pass from Cody Canann bounced around the midfield, where USC’s Bushell toed it ahead. The Canadian flyer raced past fullback Jester and dotted down under the posts. Bushell converted his own, making it 12-10 USC.

From there, things steadied for ASU while the Trojans’ penalty count continued to climb. Having seen enough infringements around the ruck, the referee finally issued a yellow card to Wing Namdie Ahazie in the 26th minute for not rolling away. Playing up a man, the Sun Devils would cross the line three times within a 10-minute span. Walsh converted one of the tries, taking the score to 12-27 at the half.

Said Head Coach Loa Milford, “The penalties and the set-piece absolutely killed us today. ASU exercised discipline and executed on specific phases of the game where they overmatched us. In open play, we defended very well…made our tackles…but they kept grinding out penalties, kicked-to-touch, and mauling over for multiple scores. We simply didn’t have the answers there.”

In the 45th minute from a USC lineout at midfield, ASU failed to match numbers. From the free kick, Trojans flanker Michael Cesar broke through the line before getting tackled at the 22. The forward pack continued to gain ground through a series of pick-and-drives. Having sucked the defense in toward the tackle area, scrumhalf Scassaletti dished to Bushell, who found outside Center Dimitry Veremeenko running a cutback line. Veremeenko was nearly away if not for an ankle tackle. The forwards went back to work, keeping the ball in tight; once again sucking in defenders. From 5-meters out, Scassaletti popped to Bushell, who crashed over for the try. The USC flyhalf converted again, bringing the Trojans to within striking distance at 19-27.

But that is as close as affairs would get. In the 57th minute, Veremeenko received a yellow card for a high tackle. From the penalty and line-out, the Sun Devils mauled over the line. 19-32 ASU.

On the next kick-off, replacement lock Bryant Young received a yellow card for taking the opposing player out in the air. Now down to 13-men, the Trojans proved powerless to hold the Sun Devils out as Jester notched his second and reserve flanker Oscar OckoMichalak got his first. ASU completed their try-fest when reserve prop Colin Clancy dove over on a driving maul. USC salvaged a last-minute try that culminated in 8-man Luc Desroches dragging a defender over the line for a score. 24-47 Final to ASU.

In summarizing the game, Milford said, “Coming out of the UofA match, we worked on the weaknesses the Wildcats exposed and certainly improved in those areas. However, this ASU match revealed an entirely different set of vulnerabilities that we will address this week and moving forward. As Dominic (Riebli – Director of Rugby) has said from the beginning, each game represents a benchmark for our development. We improved week-over-week but still came away with the same result. However, I don’t think the final score line reflected the entirety of the effort. If I have my data correct, ASU scored 32 points while playing with a one- or two- man advantage. We just killed ourselves with the penalties. Our sinbins were a function of our match fitness and the result of the pressure that the Sun Devils put us under. We’ve simply got to do better.

“This move to PAC Rugby continues to serve as a reminder of just how far we have to go as a program. In relation to last year (playing D1-AA), the precision of execution has increased ten-fold. We obviously expected the massive jump in competition; it really shows the difference not just in terms of overall athleticism, but also the advantages of playing in a varsity-type environment. These programs that we compete against all train most days per week. For us…we’re just transitioning to that model and learning how to make it work for the student-athlete. The growing pains are certainly there but we’re exceptionally grateful to experience them.”

The Trojans will play their first local contest this weekend, serving as the opening match for the UCLA/Utah game. USC kicks-off at 11am this Saturday against University of Utah’s JV squad in Westwood at UCLA’s North Athletic Field.

Fight On!

You can find the official D1A rugby release here

(Tucson, AZ) After a tumultuous Fall and pre-season that saw them log zero playing time before participating in our first ever PAC Rugby Conference match, the University of Southern California Trojans Rugby Club lost to the University of Arizona’s Junior Varsity squad by a final of 29-44.

Things started ominously for the Trojans as the Wildcats scored two tries in the opening quarter or play. Flyhalf Adam Bushell got USC on the board in the 18th minute with a penalty kick but Arizona responded with a long break and their third try of the half, 3-17. Openside flanker Michael Cesar made an excellent line break in the midfield and streaked through the defense to score under the posts in the 35th minute. Bushell converted the extras, bringing the contest to within one score at 10-17 midway through the affair.

Arizona opened the second half in the same manner as the first, scoring two more tries against a somewhat listless USC defense. Prop Kian Azizirad got the Trojans back to within striking distance in the 52nd minute on a well-worked series of pick-and-drives, 17-27 with a quarter to play. Unfortunately, that’s as close as things would get as the Wildcats scored three more times before Cesar responded with two late tries of his own.

Said Coach Zac Winter, “We definitely looked like a team that hadn’t played a game of rugby yet. The match fitness certainly wasn’t there. It’s difficult to simulate that type of endurance and intensity and we obviously would’ve benefitted greatly from getting some game time before now.” (USC’s originally scheduled preseason got upended by a series of cancelations and rainouts.)

“Fortunately, we can address the various areas of deficiency and hopefully give a better performance next weekend. As a team, we’re simply not all there. We had some brilliant individual efforts from Adam (Bushell), Michael (Cesar) and Luc (Desroches) but our team IQ at this stage is quite lacking. We don’t have the kind of depth or assets available to where we can afford to function as disparate units.”

“Coming into this competition, we knew every week represented an unprecedented challenge for us,” said Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli. “Each contest sets a benchmark against which we can measure our program. UofA has a program we can only aspire to at this time. Their roster size is 3x ours, their facilities are top notch, and their coaching staff is first rate. (UofA Head Coach) Sean Duffy has done amazing things here. Even though we played his reserve side, we knew that we had a tall order in front of us. Given the circumstances, the coaching staff expected a rough beginning but we had hoped for a better result. We’ll get back after it on Monday and prepare for ASU.”

The Trojans travel back out to Arizona this weekend to take-on Arizona State University. Kick-off is slated for 1pm at ASU Poly Field.

Fight On!

You can find the match video here

By Adam Bushell

This past Saturday marked the end of the Trojans’ 2016 season with a loss at UC Davis in the first round of the D1AA National Championship. UC Davis are the current holders of the championship title and fielded a thrillingly competitive side to go up against USC. The Trojans showed sparks of being able to compete with last season’s best, and perhaps if the side had been at their best their fate may have been different. But it was not their day, and USC’s first visit to Nationals in recent memory was cut short. UCD outran, outplayed, and outcompeted the Trojans and the Aggies’ victory was well deserved.

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Losing a tough fight after a long season will always be disappointing; any team with competitive spirit can attest to this. But the Trojans must not lament over their losses. Instead, the past season’s strides must be put into perspective. The team turned two wins and four losses in 2015 into five wins and one loss in the 2016 regular season, going on to win in the semi-finals of the GCCIR playoffs and losing the finals to CSU Long Beach by two points in the last minute of extra time, inevitably earning a spot in the first round of Nationals. This drastic turn around in performance in the span of one year is a major victory in itself. It is the efforts of the entire club, the coaching staff, the medical staff, and the players that must be commended for their achievements this year. In December, as pre-season came to a close and the Sevens players rejoined the Fifteens in training, it became apparent the level of expectations the club had for the upcoming season. It would require focus, tenacity, and drive to achieve the goal of reaching nationals and competing with the best in the division. The Trojan’s displayed just that. The desire to perform has been at a level unseen in years, and now USC Rugby has a season to show for it.

GCCIR 

(W) USC 38-10 UC Irvine

(L) USC 17-24 CSU Long Beach

(W) USC 30-18 USD

(W) USC 31-10 CSU Fullerton

(W) USC 36-24 SBCC

(W) USC 32-31 GCU

GCCIR Playoffs 

Semi-Finals (W) USC 17-12 GCU

Finals (L) USC 36-38 CSU Long Beach

DI-AA Nationals

First Round (L) USC 12-29 UC Davis

The momentum, however, must not stop here. The hard work of key graduating players cannot go to waste. There are two components necessary in USC Rugby’s quest to compete with the best in the nation.

Firstly, the club must continue to reach for bigger and better things and maintain the drive necessary to do so. If the progress made in the span of one season can be replicated in seasons to follow, success will inevitably come. Beyond the skills learned and the strategies implemented, this season’s efforts have established a culture; a culture critical in maintaining winning values long after its current players have left the side.

Secondly, the team must receive the necessary attention from those with power and resources to have an equal opportunity as the competition at hand. As a competitive club sport in a highly renowned university, one would expect the university itself to be the foundation of such support, but as of late this has not been the case. This past month, team was forced to play a semi-final home game at a middle school thirty minutes away, despite a perfectly acceptable field on campus being vacant but that the team was barred from playing on. On top of this, the funding received bi-annually from the university is at a bare minimum relative to other competitive sides in the division. A rugby team needs equipment, field space, a coaching staff, a medical staff, transportation, and other costly components. Fundraising can only achieve so much.

I do concede that the level of competition over the past decade has not been where it has needed to be in order to earn the heightened attention from the university. In addition, establishing a competitive reputation for a team takes time and consistent results. However, with the performance displayed this past year, the club’s position within the university’s recreational sport department must be revised. There must be greater representation for the club to achieve their goals and bureaucratic lag cannot stand in the way of the team’s success.

The past season has established what will hopefully be a bright future for USC Rugby. Refinements for next season will begin almost immediately with the election of a new student E-Board this coming Thursday.

We say thank you to our graduating players:

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                         Joseph Krassenstein (Center)           Jonny So (President, Lock)                             Luis Lopez (Prop)

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                                                   Nick Banks (Vice President, Prop)                    Jeff Stratford (Prop)

We would also like to thank those who generously contributed to all our fundraising campaigns over the past year and encourage you to stay connected via our Facebook page. This season would not have been possible without you. 

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Fight On.

By Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli 

In their final game of the regular season, the USC Men’s Rugby Club traveled to Las Vegas, host city to the American leg of the IRB 7s Series, to take on a Grand Canyon University.  Although they had already secured a playoff spot in the Gold Coast Conference, the Trojans needed to achieve at least a double bonus point loss (score four or more tries and keep the margin of defeat to within seven points) in order to maintain their hold on a first or second place finish and a home playoff match.  USC achieved their goal and then some; coming back from 21 points down to win 32-31 on a penalty kick in the 77th minute.

 With both teams playing in a foreign environment, USC and GCU spent the first 10 minutes of the match feeling each other out and playing for field position.  Sophomore Flyhalf Adam Bushell’s penalty kick in the 13th minute gave the Trojans an early 3-0 lead.  Unfortunately for USC, that represented their only score for the half as things went from bad to worse for the home side.  The Trojans frequently found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle as Freshman Hooker Oliver Daabo received a yellow card for a swinging arm tackle and Freshman Prop Kian Azizirad got pinged several times for pulling down the scrum.  Playing a man-up, Grand Canyon’s sizable pack battered away at the gain line and made several meters after contact.  They received their just rewards with tries at the 21st and 30th minutes. 3-12 Antelopes.

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USC looked to respond 5 minutes later as the forwards set-up a driving maul from a lineout inside the attacking 22.  After the maul collapsed near the goal line, Hooker Daabo picked the ball up from the tackle area and attempted to sneak in on the short side.  However, the Xavier High School product knocked-on before touching down, thus giving GCU a scrum on their five meter line.  After a couple of possession exchanges on the Antelopes half of the field, GCU had another scrum inside their own 22.  Instead of kicking out of their own end, as they had done on the previous sequence, Flyhalf Ben Pensyl passed to Center Ryan Canino.  This caught USC off-guard and their defensive line did not attack in unison, thus creating a gap for the Antelopes to exploit.  Canino burst through the midfield and had a lot of space to run.  Trojan Sophomore Fullback Mitch Suzuki’s cover tackle proved futile as Canino offloaded to Wing Dru Pelter, who took it the rest of the way for a coast-to-coast try.  With the conversion the Antelopes increased their lead to 16 points.  USC tried to strike back before halftime but an errant pass from Junior 8-man Corbin Bennett went bouncing around the midfield.  Canino picked up the loose ball and scored in the corner.  24-3 in favor of the Antelopes.

 “We played poorly in that first half; very uninspired,” said USC Head Coach Loa Milford.  “My speech was pretty simple: I urged the boys to up the tempo in the second half as it was the only way we could get back in the game.  We had so much riding on the outcome of the game (a home playoff match) so it’s not like I needed to remind them.  I wouldn’t say that we needed to dig deep and find something extra, we just needed to play with more urgency.”

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 And play with urgency, they did.  From the opening kick, Freshman Flanker Michael Cesar took the game over and made line break after line break.  The first came from a turnover near the halfway line.  Cesar dashed through the Antelopes pack and sprinted for the posts.  GCU Center Canino attempted to make a try-saving tackle but came in too high.  Referee Holmquist awarded USC a penalty try and Canino a yellow card.  With the Bushell conversion, USC trailed 10-24.

 Minutes later, Cesar made another break from deep inside USC territory and got dragged down near the halfway line.  With GCU scrambling back to cover defensively, the Trojans needed a quick recycle to continue the momentum and potentially pull themselves back into the game.  Unfortunately, Junior Scrumhalf Guido Scassellati attempted a probing run across the midfield, which delayed his offload to his oncoming teammates.  GCU Winger Pelter stepped into the passing lane, intercepted the ball, and scored an easy try against the run of play.  Pensyl kicked the conversion and put the Antelopes back on top 31-10.

 “That play should have crushed us,” said Milford.  “We finally started getting some momentum and looked like we were going to get to within 7; then their winger swept in and gave us a dagger.  That was literally a 14 point swing.”

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Seemingly undeterred, the Trojans answered back with a converted try from Freshman Center Dmitry Veremeenko.  Cesar then tallied his second score in the 60th minute.  With the conversion, USC found themselves 7 points down with a quarter to play.  They still needed to score another try and keep Grand Canyon from scoring if they hoped to hold onto a top spot in the league.

The teams both had scores go begging in the next 10 minutes as goal line defense beat goal line offense.  Veremeenko finally dotted down in the corner at the 70 minute mark to give his team the much needed bonus point try.  Unfortunately, Bushell missed the extremely important yet extremely difficult conversion, leaving USC down 29-31 with less than 10 minutes to play.  A converted try from GCU meant a certain victory and a second place finish for the Antelopes.

Salvation came in the 77th minute as a Grand Canyon were penalized for offside on their own 22-meter line.  Keenly aware of the situation, Milford directed Bushell to kick for points.  A converted kick would give USC the lead but, more importantly, would almost definitely secure the second bonus point.  Bushell’s kick literally squeaked inside the crossbar as it glanced off the upright and through.  The penalty gave the Trojans a 32-31 lead, their first since the beginning stages of the match.  GCU had a chance to snatch the victory back but a knock-on at fulltime ended the affair.

 With the win, USC moved to first place in the Gold Coast Conference with a game in hand over undefeated Long Beach State.  Should LBSU falter in their match against Santa Barbara City College, the Trojans would win the regular season.

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“It’s quite an accomplishment to go from an ‘also ran’ last year to competing for a regular season title,” said Milford.  “We obviously still have business to tend to and have yet to play our best rugby, but I’m happy for the guys right now.  When that whistle blew, you could tell that they’d given everything they had.  It made me proud.”

USC awaits final results and standings over the next couple of weeks that will determine their playoff opponent.  The only certainty for the Trojans is that they will host a playoff match for the first time in many, many years.

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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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 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.