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.

By Jonathan So

Homecoming weekend means the return of USC Rugby for the annual Alumni Game. Trojan rugger grads put their boots on again to take on the Students. As the teams lined up for kick-off, both had something to prove: the Students wanted to show the Alumni firsthand how the program has progressed since 2014; the Alums wanted to continue their three year winning streak.

The match was fast-paced and high-energy, with the Students applying a more direct, physical brand of rugby. Despite a few handling errors, the Students dictated the pace of the match and put up 34 points in the first 60 minutes while holding the Alumni to 5. Credit goes to current Head Coach Loa Milford for not only drilling and preparing the current USC Team throughout this pre-season, but also putting up two tries as he suited-up for the Students. In the final 20 minutes of the game, the Alumni settled in, caught a second wind, and played positive rugby. After a great back-line play and try, the Alumni picked up momentum and put an additional 2 tries up on the board, ending the game with a final score of 41-20. The Students were pleased to finally end their 2-year losing-streak against the Alumni.

Many thanks to all players, families, and friends for coming out and participating. It is always a pleasure to host our former Trojan ruggers and we hope you enjoyed the Alumni Weekend as much as we did. Fight on!

A big thank you to our alumni for coming out and participating in our annual Alumni match this past Homecoming weekend! Always a pleasure to host our former Trojan ruggers!

A big thank you to our alumni for coming out and participating in our annual Alumni match this past Homecoming weekend! Always a pleasure to host our former Trojan ruggers!

By Adam Bushell

The sevens team travelled to UC Berkeley this past weekend for the annual PAC-12 Sevens competition. Making a statement at this year’s tournament was the end goal for the sevens boys, who had put a full season of hard training in with coaches Adam Siddall and Bryan Randles. After viewing the initial draft, USC was hopeful for a relatively well-matched round of pool play. However, due to two teams dropping out of the competition, USC was moved to a tougher pool and was set to face Arizona State, University of Oregon, University of Arizona, and UCLA. Saturday started off promising as USC put on a strong performance against ASU, despite conceding a loss to the nationally ranked sevens side. The day seemed long as the Trojans went up against Oregon, U of A, and UCLA, who all proved the superior in their matchups against USC.

Going into a consolation game on day two against Oregon State University, the team had a chance to prove their worth. Despite a tough day one, the Trojans rebounded against OSU to secure a 12-10 win and a positive finale for this season’s sevens.

Coach Siddall had this to say about the weekend, “The PAC 12 Tournament provided the highest standard of competition for the USC Sevens program this season. Despite being unsuccessful against stronger opposition on the first day the team backed it’s processes, fought through injuries and showed mental toughness to produce one of the seasons best performances and a convincing win on day two. The establishment of new patterns and processes will provide a platform from which the program can build in future years.”

With coach Adam Siddall returning to nation of birth New Zealand after Christmas, the program would like to thank him for his immense contribution and assisting the team in developing skills that will carry out into the years to come.

Looking ahead, the sevens squad will no rejoin the fifteens for the duration of the fall semester and into the spring to unleash the full potential of a team directed by Head Coach Loa Milford.

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This past weekend, USC Rugby had the pleasure of holding a match against the Sydney University Football Club who has been on a tour of the West Coast. This was a great opportunity for our boys to learn from players who live and breathe the sport. The day started with the viewing of the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia; the passion expressed by the SUFC players, several of whom are on track to play for the Wallabies, made the occasion a tense affair.

Following Australia’s loss to the All Blacks, the SUFC boys had no mercy when they stepped on the field to play USC. However, despite a score-line that suggested an overly lopsided matchup, there was much to be learned from playing a far superior opposition. The way SUFC moved the ball, the way they always attacked on the front foot, the way every breakdown was met with pure might, are the ways in which USC Rugby must learn to approach the game. It was a true spectacle that we in the United States are not exposed to enough. For the game to grow here, we must welcome more teams like the Sydney University Football Club with open arms, even if it means playing against a far superior opposition.

After 40 minutes of play, a number of players from both teams swapped jerseys and played another 40 minutes for the opposing team. The USC players could now compete alongside the talent that had opposed them the half before. In the true spirit of rugby, the day ended on a positive note.

Thank you, SUFC, for helping to grow the sport in the US and for giving us a good day of rugby.

Photos from the match:

– Written by Jeff Stratford, PR Contributor

On Sunday the XV’s traveled up to Malibu for an afternoon match against Pepperdine University. It did not take long for the Trojans to diagnose an exploitable discrepancy in the relative sizes of each team’s forward pack. With the mismatch favoring the Trojans, USC struck first with a try two minutes into the match from hooker, Michael Cesar. The elegant simplicity of the Trojan’s forward attack allowed USC to maintain possession for the better part of the match while opening up the backline for rookies Demitry Veremeenko and Trent Herschel to score their first tries as well as a try from veteran scrum half, Guido Scassellati.

Solid team defense held the Pepperdine University Waves try-less with only two penalty kicks. The Trojans marched out of Malibu undefeated in their preseason moving to 3-0 with a 24 to 6 victory over Pepperdine. The 2nd XVs fought hard and had moments of rugby brilliance, but fell to the Waves 15 to 17. Trojan Rugby newcomers, however, were victorious in their sportsmanship and willingness to gain in game experience. Indeed the future of Trojan Rugby looks bright. In the spirit of the sport both teams showed a mutual respect for one another with the final view around the pitch showing Trojans and Waves arm in arm for love of the game.

– Written by Adam Bushell, PR Chair

el-nino-7s-2015USC Rugby Sevens travelled to San Diego this past weekend to play in El Nino Sevens that hosted six teams from Southern California and Arizona. The Trojans were placed in a pool with the same opposition as they faced in pool play at the West Coast Sevens competition two weeks earlier, Arizona State and San Diego State University. Both teams had proven to be highly competitive previously and this past weekend was no different. USC faced SDSU in their first game of the day and the rhythm of play looked in favor of the Trojans until defensively things broke down. USC was unable to match the strength of the Aztecs offensively, the Aztecs managed to put 37 points on the board against the Trojans’ 5. The next round of pool play against ASU was destined to be an even tougher affair. Unfortunately, part way into the second half, the game was forced to end prematurely. Luis Lopez had injured his neck under the impact of a collapsed ruck and was forced to be transported to the hospital. Fortunately, the resulting injury was only muscular and Luis will face a short recovery time. Out of pool play, the Trojans faced Grand Canyon University in the final consolation match of the day. USC fell to GCU in a hard fought match that ended 12-5.

Although having a bleak record for the day, USC had expected the tournament to be a preparatory step in the Trojans quest for recognition at the upcoming PAC-12 sevens tournament. Score lines aside, the Trojans can learn from critical mistakes of this past weekend and make the needed corrections in preparation for the PAC-12 meeting on November 7th.

Lock Rohan Martin stretches to secure the ball

Lock Rohan Martin stretches to secure the ball

– written by Public Relations Chair Adam Bushell

USC traveled down the peninsula to take on UC Santa Barbara at the picturesque Palos Verdes High School.  With no 7’s commitments this weekend, the Trojans had their full complement of players available for the first time this Fall season.

UCSB plays in Division 1-A, which is a division higher than USC, so the Trojans understood the challenge before them.  Out of the gate, the Gauchos put the Trojans under pressure by dominating possession inside the USC half. However, a turn of events returned possession to USC and allowed for fly-half Adam Bushell to supply a grub kick through to inside center Joey Krassenstein. A fortunate bounce placed the ball into Krassenstein’s hands and it was try time Trojans. Off the restart, UCSB again pounded into USC’s territory and came inches from the try line, but was denied points by a supreme goal line stand by the Trojans over several phases of play.

Back with possession, USC took the ball into the opposite half and the test of goal line defense was now on UCSB. After a number of phases, hooker Michael Cesar pummeled over the line to score USC’s second and the convert made it 14-0. UCSB managed to nudge a penalty kick over for three, finishing the half with the score 14-3.  The second half saw the forwards dominating the play once more, holding off the Gauchos from scoring for the entirety of the half. A penalty kick was scored by USC early on. Cesar once again proved too much for UCSB to handle as he rolled another one over the line following a long drive by the forward pack. The final try of the day was scored when Krassenstein exploited an opening off of a quick-tapped penalty. Dancing around two UCSB players and brushing off another, Krassentein’s individual effort was awarded with his second try of the game. All tries converted, the final score equated to 31-3, marking a dominant win for the Trojans. The forward pack had been rock solid in all aspects of the game and were responsible for the score difference between the two teams.

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Coach Loa Milford commented on the performance, “I thought we were solid in defense, though I’d like to see us apply more pressure in the opposition backline. We need to continue to work on our attack and patterns of play. I thought it was a solid performance but we still have a long way to go.  UCSB blooded over 20 rugby neophytes so the final favored us a bit.”

In the 2nd XV’s match, USC showed some resilience and came away with a victory as well. Tries went to Nick Ludwig, Oliver Dabao, Robert Sieh, Gordon Stewart, making the final score 25-17.  Ludwig’s intercept try at full-time sealed the deal for the men of Troy.

Match Photos:

Shout out to our team sponsor RockTape for helping us go stronger for longer.

Shout out to our team sponsor RockTape for helping us go stronger for longer.

Congratulations to Head Coach Loa Milford and his first win as USC XV's also had a successful tour to UNLV winning 24-21 ‪#‎usctrojanrugby‬ ‪#‎winnerscircle‬

Congratulations to Head Coach Loa Milford and his first win as USC XV’s also had a successful tour to UNLV winning 24-21 ‪#‎usctrojanrugby‬ ‪#‎winnerscircle‬

This weekend, the USC XV’s team traveled to Sin City to take on a strong UNLV side for their pre-season opener.

Both sides were extremely evenly matched, with USC narrowly winning 24-21. UNLV opened the scoring in the first, but the Trojans shook off the off-season rust and retaliated with a physical offense and a tightened defense.

With 5 minutes left to go, Trojans were down 17-21. Fly-half Pierre Badin was able to break through the defense with a perfectly-timed sidestep and put the ball down for a try and make the conversion, putting the Trojans up by 3.

USC was able to hold off the aggressive UNLV defense and slow the game down to come away with the victory. Special mention must be given to the USC forward pack, which despite being outsized and having two starting players injured early in the game, managed to put on a fantastically physical display. The pack was dominant at the scrums and lineouts, not only winning their own set-pieces but also a significant amount of the opposition’s.

Additionally, the forward were able to out-grind the defense, consistently breaking the gain-line with tight carries. The backs must also be applauded for a strong and energized defense, despite also being significantly outsized.

Rookie front-row Eugene Lee was given Man of the Match honors after scoring two tries on debut. USC XV’s looks to build its pre-season winning streak against a strong UCSB side this weekend (Oct. 17)

USCRFC finishes the day off with a win to take home the Bowl from this weekend's ‪#‎westcoastsevens‬.

USCRFC finishes the day off with a win to take home the Bowl from this weekend’s ‪#‎westcoastsevens‬.

– By Adam Bushell, Public Relations Chair

The 7’s team travelled to Cal Poly, SLO this past weekend to compete in this year’s West Coast Sevens tournament. Going into the tournament ranked eleventh of twelve teams, USC had much to prove in their quest for recognition amongst the best of the west.

Early morning pool play proved a tough entrance into the tournament, going up against reputable sides San Diego State and Arizona State. The opening game against SDSU proved a greater challenge than expected, with USC conceding several early tries to the Aztecs and failing to maintain possession of the ball for more than one or two phases. The Trojans fell 34-0.  The second match saw ASU mark their territory with a confident win over the Trojans.  USC made strides in the game, holding the eventual pool winners to a 35-5 victory. Hooker Michael Cesar scored an unconverted try for USC.

Finishing pool play in third, USC was relegated to the Bowl playoffs. Facing teams more equally matched, USC now had a chance to turn the day around. The team met the University of Nevada, Reno in their first play-off matchup and were finally able to develop a rhythm to their play. Carl Aguirre scored twice and Joseph Krassenstein and Mitch Suzuki each scored once. The game finished 22-17 in favor of the Trojans who advanced to play Stanford in the Bowl final. Stanford showed fatigue from their semi-final match against SBCC and were unable to match the pace of USC’s play. USC showed its depth as substitutes took the place of the day’s starters seamlessly, keeping pressure on Stanford for the duration of the game. The formation and strategy of USC was arguably the best we have seen yet.  Final score: 20-5 in favor of the Trojans.

Coach Adam Siddall summarized the day, “The team started slowly in pool play against tough opposition but showed heart and continued to fight for everything. In the playoff stages with more possession and a better understanding of the pattern, the team illustrated its attacking danger with many line breaks and tries”

USC won the Bowl and finished the day ranked ninth, a two-place improvement from the beginning of the day. In theory, USC could have done better had their draw not been so difficult. SDSU took the Plate and ASU lost in the Cup final to Cal. USC has another two chances to prove their worth, first at an SDSU hosted sevens tournament on October 24th and then on to the annual PAC-12 tournament on November 7th.