logo-uclaUSC Rugby played their final pre-season match against Pac 12 rival UCLA at the Westwood campus. The 2nd XV players started the day with the curtain raiser match, and the 1st XV followed.

The first game was a spirited match with plenty of action from both sides. Simple USC handling mistakes and the familiar missed tackles allowed UCLA to run in three first-half tries and a conversion. Even though the score was starting to get away from USC, the team played good physical rugby and produced some entertaining moments. USC inside-center Christopher Li played an excellent match, as did forwards Anthony Jusuf and Jack Haley, showcasing USC’s improvement. UCLA scored two more tries in the second half, but USC improved their play, keeping UCLA’s scoring to a minimum.

The 1st XV match was always going to be a tough challenge for USC, as UCLA plays in a division higher than USC. But even so, USC’s hands let them down. The few times USC did gain possession of the ball, they quickly turned it over to UCLA, who marched down the field to score. This happened several times early in the first half before USC started holding back the UCLA attacks. Near the end of the first half, USC finally managed some quality possession and put pressure on the UCLA try line, but was unable to score before the half-time whistle. A penalty kick from Haico Kaashoek did put USC on the scoreboard in the first half.

USC played much better in the second half, gaining more territory with the ball in hand and making more tackles to stop UCLA attacks. And Robert Semu scored what was to be USC’s only try of the game. Still, UCLA was able to capitalize on plenty of USC errors to run in four more second-half tries. As USC improves our ball handling and tackling, we’ll be able to keep that score much closer.

Outstanding players for USC were Aaron Soskin, Adam Bushell, and Man Of The Match Big John Martinez.

USC ended their 2014-2015 pre-season with a 4-2 record. We’ll work hard to improve and be ready for the kick-off the regular season. Fight on!

claremont-colleges-logoThe USC Rugby team traveled East to visit the Claremont Colleges on a perfect November rugby day in Southern California. Both teams agreed to allow unlimited substitutions and to play safe rugby. The spectators were treated to an entertaining and well played match.

The game started with USC gaining possession and working quickly and efficiently as a team. USC drove the ball into the Claremont end of the pitch, applying consistent pressure with attacking back line runs and probing forwards’ drives. After the opening 15 minutes of play, USC had run in three tries. Rookie Andreo Coury scored a try as a starter on the wing, along with gliding tries by fly-half Adam Bushell and captain Joey Krassenstein. The USC forwards standouts included Sam Bowers and Jonny Wolverton, who were both tireless and productive with every opportunity on the pitch.

Many players were rotated into different positions, and near the end of the first half, the oval rugby ball started bouncing against USC. Several darting line-breaks by the well drilled Claremont team got through the USC defense, and the score got much closer. USC continued with another try for Joey Krassentein, and rookie Justin Sheppard ran a fast winger try into the corner.

The second half started with both teams rotating many 1st XV players back into the match. With both teams making positive adjustments to their strategy, lineup and energy, the score remained locked. It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes of play when USC gained some needed possession and passed along the back line to rookie Kwabz Osei-Larbi, who scored in the corner. Moments later, the other USC wing, rookie Justin Sheppard, attacked with equal force and scored the door-closer with only minutes remaining in the match. USC continued to defend and tackled out the time to win, 35-25.

Both teams provided a good day of rugby and an entertaining match. Congratulations to the USC Man of the Match Justin Sheppard with two wing tries. Special mention to USC co-captain Haico Kaashoek for his attacking runs and great passing.

Joey Kranssenstein 2
Justin Sheppard 2
Adam Bushell 1
Andreo Coury 1
Kwabz Osei-Larbi 1

csulb-logoThe USC Rugby Team traveled to Cal State Long Beach for another pre-season match against a regular season opponent. It was another great opportunity for more team members to get some playing time, and address issues needed to resolve before the regular season kickoff.

The USC 1st XV started the game with positive decision making and good energy. Right from the opening kickoff, USC secured the ball and moved through phases to build territorial gains. Strong kicking by team captain Joey Krassenstein kept USC gaining ground every time CSULB committed a penalty. USC Forward Travis Fox gave another standout performance, continuing his excellent pre-season play. Additional team standouts were P.J. Schaul and forwards captain Cameron Streeter. The individual tackling and control of the ball throughout the USC team made slight improvements from previous matches, but not enough to prevent CSULB running in some first half tries when USC didn’t wrap up their tackles. The pace of the game was fast, and although USC players are fit, they just couldn’t keep up with the outside running speed of CSULB and allowed a few more second half tries scored on the wing. The final score was 53-3 to CSULB.

The USC 2nd XV played the following match and worked well as a team to showcase their best rugby of the pre-season. Good teamwork from everyone allowed the team to put pressure on CSULB. USC Back Mitch Suzuki scored an excellent try, which was set up by the forwards moving down the field building phases of control. The USC 2nd XV entertained the audience and played great rugby.

Special thank you to our local USC Rugby Team supporters who cheered on the team. Thank you for coming out to the game to support USC Rugby! Fight on!

USC Rugby Team traveled to Cal State Long Beach to compete in the annual CSULB XV’s Invitational Tournament. This event was a perfect introduction to the game of rugby for our rookies, and a chance to test pre-season training progress for the veterans. Many of the teams at this event will be USC opponents during the spring regular season. (Note: An important factor of this tournament is time – each half is only 15 minutes. With the usual stoppages in rugby play (for scrum issues and general stoppages), the actual game time is very limited. This puts pressure on teams to score early).

USC’s first match was early in the morning, and the team woke up and played good rugby. They won all their own line-outs and won two opposition line-outs to keep the ball clearly on USC’s side. The scrum also performed well, holding up to good pressure even with soft footing due to some morning rain. USC still committed too many penalties in the first half (two ruck infringements, two offside penalties, and three obstruction fouls). Even with the mounting penalties, USC pushed the tempo and finally broke through the defensive line, with captain Joey Krassenstein cruising through for a try under the posts. A conversion by Erwyn Lam and a couple of penalty kicks from Haico Kaashoek, and the win was secure.

The afternoon matches did not go as well. The schedule had a large break between the first and second USC matches, and this did not do the team any favors. Along with a few positional changes and injury replacements, the USC team struggled to get forward momentum, and ultimately struggled to get possession of the rugby ball. The opposition forward pack held onto possession for long stretches of the game, and after USC allowed a soft opposition try, it became a struggle to come back and break through the defensive line. The USC Backs didn’t get much action, and when the USC Forwards got possession of the ball, simple mistakes turned the ball right back over to the stingy opposition.

Due to the tournament structure, USC made it through to the division semi-final, but once again ran into time and possession issues. Early USC penalties pushed the team back into their own half, requiring a lot of tackles by defense. The USC scrum and line-out were not finding their rhythm and were being pushed backwards and losing USC possession. After two opposition tries in the second half, USC had no time to mount a comeback. Out in the semi-finals.

Pre-season rugby allows every team to identify areas to improve, and USC realized their issues right away: possession and time (starting strong and finding their rhythm quickly). The team looks forward to full-length games where their fitness and growing momentum can be utilized to the fullest (and holding onto the ball will be helpful, too).

riverside-logoUSC was welcomed to Riverside with a warm, dry heat, and a slightly narrow field. The USC team started slowly and found themselves defending for the first 10 minutes of the match. This did produce some good goal line defense that prevented Riverside scoring, and eventually USC managed to move out of the shadow of their goal line. But the ball carriers still had some problems with handling and control of the ball. Fumbles, dropped passes and poor transfers between players kept USC on the back foot and continually defending Riverside counter-attacks. Most surprisingly, the half time score was only 3-0 in favor of USC, thanks to team Vice Captain Haico Kaashoek converting a long range penalty kick.

The second half started with new energy. Finally finding some gaps in the Riverside defense, the USC ball runners made 10409363_716852118382909_9164248901554849624_nsome positive forward progress, and the upfield movement allowed for easier passing between the players. USC Captain Joey Krassenstein started the try-scoring with another gliding burst through the middle of the Riverside defensive, weaving between the final two defenders to score under the posts. Shortly after, OJ Haugen made a strong break and scored. Then the backs completed a fast transfer of the ball across the field, opening up the gap out wide, and Haico Kaashoek scored a beautiful try, outrunning the defender down the left wing. Haico later scored another try and kicked a total of two penalties and four conversions, earning him USC Man of the Match. The final score was 34-15.

USC players with big tackles throughout the match included Duncan Chalfant, OJ Haugen, Jack Haley and Dylan Sidoo. Excellent ball running by Nick Ludwig and Rob Semu, and great sidestepping by reserve back Kwabs Osei-Larbi.

The USC 2nd XV played a condensed 10-a-side match due to limited opposition players, but that didn’t stop the Trojans from taking on Riverside and getting excellent match experience. Shortly into the second half, a couple of Riverside jerseys were filled with USC players, and now the USC players were scoring on both sides of the field. Everyone enjoyed the conversion attempt by USC forward Nick Banks – he missed, but was rewarded with another shot at the posts minutes later, which he converted. Excellent ball running by Omar Zeitoun, and reserve back Justin Sheppard scored a blistering try with a cut back to the score under the posts.

Thanks for following the USC Rugby Trojans during the Fall season. The USC Team will be traveling within the Pac 12 region, and needs additional financial support to make the matches happen. Please email Captain Joey Krassenstein to support the USC Rugby Team with a donation. Thank you.

10614373_710899642311490_6097543674825599854_nPepperdine College welcomed the USC Rugby team to their beautiful Malibu campus for a 2014 pre-season rugby match on a perfect Southern California day with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. Rugby in paradise.

It was another tight contest between these two teams. The score was close throughout the match until USC closed the door right at the end to win 28-19 with an intercept try.

With a solid backline and a good mix of veteran and rookie forwards, the USC team started strongly, gaining good territorial kicking meters thanks to captain Joseph Krassenstein. Quick thinking Guido Scassellati zipped into the corner to open the USC scoring.

Penalties became an issue for the USC team. Early in the match, the referee awarded multiple penalties at the scrum, and again multiple penalties for ruck infringements. At one point, USC had two players sitting in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle and repeat offside infringements at the defending try line.

Luckily only one try was conceded during the time USC was weakened.

Throughout the match, the forwards worked hard at the line-outs, secured quality ball, and showed a solid scrum that looks to become a real force. The USC backs passed well and connected multiple phases. They also showed excellent all-around skills – top notch kicking with two conversions, three penalty kicks, and long range kicking during open play that gave USC strong field position throughout the match.

For the second game of the day, the USC 2nd XV took the field for their pre-season match. Though they didn’t win, they played hard, provided great rugby viewing for the spectators, and gained valuable experience for the team.