– 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.

USC Rugby traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to play in the 2nd Annual Rugby Bowl hosted by ASU Rugby. USC Rugby played Grand Canyon University in the curtain raiser for the final match of the day. The field was on the San Francisco Giants Spring Training grounds – and it was a beautiful sight!

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Scottsdale Stadium – home of the San Francisco Giants Spring Training

The USC Rugby team prepared well during the week, and had an uneventful road trip to Scottsdale, and looked forward to the competition. Opening kickoff of the game, it was clear the heat, and some lingering injuries could not be ignored, and after a few (too many) missed tackles, USC Rugby was already down 14 points and looking to push the action to get back into the game. Unfortunately another USC turnover and a quick GCU counter-attack pushed the score out again.

USC Forward’s Colten Elkin and Cameron Streeter worked tirelessly throughout the match, and even with a brand new front row (due to injuries and illness), the scrum never gave up and continued giving their all. Special recognition to Luis Lopez, playing with a torn shoulder muscle, and Richie Podkowski coming off the bench after only 15 minutes to play hooker and prop in the match, and he also made a bunch of tackles.

Colten Elkin

Colten Elkin

Vice-Captain Haico Kaashoek kicked USC’s first points from a penalty, and Captain Joey Krassenstein dotted down a try after an effortless kick-charge and perfect patience to wait for the ball to bounce up into his hands for the opening USC try.

After the halftime break, USC continued to pressure and create interesting opportunities for scores but the Grand Canyon Rugby goal line defense prevented any more scoring in the match. Clever kicking into the corner by Guido Scassellati pushed Grand Canyon back into their own defensive zone, and good breaks by Robert Semu and rookie sensation Mitch Suzuki continued to push for another score. Adam Bushell guided the backline and made several breaks, but the continuity couldn’t convert line breaks into points. USC Rugby improved throughout the match and has learned from this experience.

Duncan Chalfant

Duncan Chalfant

The USC bench was cleared and everyone played and performed well. Man of the Match for USC Rugby was Colten Elkin with his tireless work ethic and his positive attitude and ability to always be around the ball, and special mention for Duncan Chalfant for his outstanding tackling, and he also played periods of the match at Hooker and Prop.

USC Rugby also left a good impression in the Scottsdale Old-town district as well. This team traveled well, played hard, and enjoyed themselves in good spirits and positive intentions. The other guests at the team hotel loved having a rugby team to hang with. Fight on!

GCU defeated USC 59-8 in The Rugby Bowl.

Match Photos:

Photos courtesy of photographer Spencer Campbell.

Starting XV final

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Traveling Team

First Name   Last Name Position Favorite Athlete Stunk on an island with the music …
Pierre Badin Fly-Half Johnny Wilkinson Bob Marley – Redemption song
Samuel Bowers Hooker Kiira Korpi Message In A Bottle – The Police
Adam Bushell Fly-Half David Beckham Fix You- Coldplay
Duncan Chalfant Prop Colin Kaepernick Game of Thrones Theme Song
Chadd Dunn Prop Teemu Selanne Shut up and Dance by Walk The Moon
Colten Elkin Flanker Steve Prefontaine Rhapsody in Blue
Austin Giles Center Paul Bissonnette (Biz Nasty) Fancy- iggy azalea
RJ Haskins Loose Forward
Alec Hively Flanker Lebron James Ain’t No Mountain High Enough- Marvin Gaye
Haico Kaashoek Fullback / Vice Captain Conrad Smith “Wandering Eye” – Fat Freddy’s Drop
Joseph Krassenstein   Center / Captain Sonny Bill Williams or Julian Savea Jammin’ by Bob Marley
Taiu Kunimoto Wing Ian Thorpe “I will survive” — Gloria Gaynor
Luis Lopez Prop J J. Watt Moshpit- Flosstradamus
Kwabz Osei-Larbi Wing Russell Westbrook Sanko by Timaya
Richie Podkowski Hooker Rob Gronkowski Like a Cowboy- Randy Houser
Guido Scassellati Scrum-Half Conor Murray- Munster & Ireland Bloody Sunday-U2
Robert Semu Wing Derrick Rose California Gurls – Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
Dylan Sidoo Lock Pavel Bure Summer Madness (Kool & The Gang)
Jonathan So Lock Henrik and Daniel Sedin Call Me Maybe
Gordon Stewart Scrum-Half Nick Diaz (MMA) Anna Karina by Blue Scholars
Cameron Streeter No 8 John Martinez (Portland Thunder) “What I Got” by Sublime
Michael Suzuki Wing Alex Morgan or Bryce Harper I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift
Jonathan Wolverton Lock Sonny Bill Williams Careless Whisper
Alvin Wong Wing Wrestler Dan gable Cross road blues by Robert Johnson
Omar Zeitoun Flanker Muhammad Ali Island by Pendulum

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Another perfect Southern California rugby day for the USC Rugby Alumni match held on the USC campus. With Coach Dave Lytle’s retirement banquet that evening, the Alumni team had extra players ready for subbing. This was going to be a long match for the USC Rugby team.

From the opening kick-off, both teams were eager to move the ball and push through the defensive line. The opening score was Joey Krassenstein picking off an Alumni backline pass to zip away for the try. This woke up the Alumni, and didn’t take long for the Alumni to find a gap and push through – and not surprisingly current Forwards Coach Austin Reed did the most damage – with his knowledge of the current team, he picked his targets wisely.

The tries kept coming for the Alumni who seemed to find more energy as the game progressed. Even with USA Eagle Adam Siddall playing fly-half for the students, couldn’t find a way through the stingy Alumni defense. It wasn’t long until Adam, also a USC Law graduate student, switched jerseys and messed up the Alumni attack.

Super speedster winger, Dave Lytle, finally got his hands on the ball and dodged a tackle and carried another tackler with him over the try line to score.

The final score was USC Alumni 60 – USC Rugby 21.

Man of the Match was Dave Lytle. Scoring a try at age 78 is pretty awesome. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making the game a huge success. Fight on!

Photos from the match:

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Mitch Suzuki

Mitch Suzuki

The final match of the regular season for USC Rugby against the table topping Cal State Long Beach Rugby team. It was a very warm March afternoon for the kickoff.

Right from the kickoff, CSULB put pressure on USC and pushed up against the try line, holding USC inside their own defensive area. After holding back wave and wave of attacks, CSULB finally punched through to score the opening points. A second try from Long Beach shortly after woke USC up and with some better passing and stronger forward work, USC started moving the ball down the field against the strong CSULB defense.

A slightly different strategy from USC Rugby in this match as USC kept pushing the ball back into CSULB’s territory with deep kicks from captains Joey Krassenstein and Haico Kaashoek. Rookie wingers Alvin Wong and Mitch Suzuki played the kicking strategy perfectly running back kicks into attacking territory.

Two major factors preventing a closer match – the USC forward pack were hurting for trained front rowers due to injuries, and the tackling was lacking any bite and too many CSULB ball runners found their way into the USC backfield, often without any contact from the first line of defense.

Later in the game, USC Rugby put together many phases of excellent rugby, and moved the ball across the field looking for breakthrough opportunities. At one point, it was clear the left wing was open and with quick hands and a two long passes, Mitch Suzuki broke through the final defenders tackle to score his first USC try in the corner.

Once again, the score line does not give the best reflection on this match. With only minutes remaining in the first half, and minutes remaining the second half, USC let through four tries that ballooned the scoreline out of reach for a comeback. Closing out playing periods and holding back attacks until the whistle will need to be a focus for the USC defense.

The Man of the Match for USC Rugby was hard charging Cameron Streeter. His forward pack was undersized and yet he organized the scrum to compete throughout the match. Cameron never stopped tackling and prevented many line breaks with his text book tackles.

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Photos from the match:

In a tight match, USC and Fullerton played 80 minutes of exciting, enterprising rugby, and only the full time whistle ended what could have been won by either team. Fullerton won the match with a converted try at the full time 31-29.

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Photos from the match:

USC Rugby beats UC Irvine with 11 tries

USC Rugby vice-captain Haico Kaashock

USC Rugby vice-captain Haico Kaashoek

This Saturday USC Trojan Rugby hosted UC Irvine at USC’s McAllister Field on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon. The game was USC’s first appearance playing at home so far this season. In front of a crowd of fans, friends, and family the Trojans started the game with dominating speed and possession.

In the first minute of the Trojan’s offensive play, Joseph Krassenstein broke through the Irvine backline for a half field run before finding Austin Giles for a quick pop that was soon offloaded to Adam Bushell for the opening try of the game.

Then Haico Kaashoek’s kicking boot took over with the conversion and two penalty kicks that followed. With the score at 13-0, Haico Kaashoek soon got the ball on the wing and was able to find a gap in the defense. After shimmy shaking through two defenders, Haico made it all the way to in front of the try-line before getting tackled. He was able to reach out to put the ball down for the second try of the game.

A similar try came minutes later when freshman speedster Justin Sheppard was able to find space in the midfield and outrun the defending full back. Only a few minutes later, Alvin Wong another standout freshman, was able to put another 5 on the board after smooth transition through the backline to find space on the wing. After a following conversion slotted by Kaashoek, the standing score was 34-0 at the 23 minute mark.

USC soon let the lead go to their heads and began with sloppy defense. After a couple passages of poor tackles and defensive rucking, UC Irvine was able to score their first try. Their powerful forward pack followed up with two more tries on the board. All were unconverted. Score was 34-15 at the 35 minute mark.

Adam Bushell

Adam Bushell

Soon after, Krassenstein got a long slanting pass from fly half Adam Bushell that allowed him to blast through the hole in the defense. Approaching the try line, Krassenstein was hit hard by Irvine’s rushing full back but was still able to put the ball down for a score. Half time score was 39-15.

UCI continued with another try in the opening play of the second half. Soon after on a sloppy backs play by UCI, Krassenstein was able to scoop up a missed pass and run it in for his second of the day. He converted his own try with an easy drop kick through. A minute later USC was able to retain possession off the kick off. Adam Bushell got a clean ball from a scrum in UC Irvine’s territory, dummy passed, and then slithered through the defensive line for his second try of the game. The score at 47 minutes was 53-20.

USC soon took over with tries coming from outside center Austin Giles and forward captain Cameron Streeter. Both were of their first tries of the season. UCI answered back with a try of their own at the 60 minute mark. It wasn’t long before USC opened the floodgates again with another try coming from rookie prop Luis Lopez who blasted his way through the tackles to score underneath the posts.

Soon after, second row Jonny Wolverton also scored his first USC try with a cheeky run down the left wing. UCI answered with one more try but it was too late, the lead was too far away. Final score 81-32.

Man of the Match was Haico Kaashoek. Special mention to front row sensation Luis Lopez who scored his rookie try.

Score

Match Photos

Video Highlights

Gordon Stewart

Gordon Stewart

In the shortened B-side game USC faced Whittier College. USC was looking at a team mostly made up of Whittier’s football team, most of who were new to rugby. USC was able to produce several passages of beautiful rugby.

After testing out their defense, a memorable chip kick from Gordon Stewart was chased down by winger Kwabana Osei-Larbi, who snatched the ball on a favorable rebound and opened the score with a beautiful try, converted by Gordon Steward. Steward later added three points to the scoreboard after Whittier was penalized for handling the ball in a ruck.

Towards the end of the first half, center Alistair Skeoch scored USC’s second try after his opposite number attempted an interception and subsequently left a wide gap in the defense. Whittier came back from the break more determined than ever. Making full use of their superior sizes and capitalizing on a few less than perfect tackles, they broke through on the wing and scored twice, reducing USC’s lead to 15-10.

Pierre Badin

Pierre Badin

Some time later, fly half Pierre Badin was able to snake his way through for a try of his own. Standout plays also came from freshman Sean Stanbridge at scrumhalf and Alistair Skeoch at center. USC was able to win with incredible defensive tackling (against a much beefier team) and with having a strong grasp game knowledge. Excellent leadership by Nicholas Ludwig, Pierre Badin, Alistair Skeoch and Gordon Stewart in the second game. USC won after 3 tries, 1 conversion, and two penalties at 23-10.

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Photos from the match:

USC Rugby traveled North along the Santa Barbara coastline to play the Santa Barbara City College Rugby Club. The beautiful Elings Park hosted the match.

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Jack Haley

The opening minutes of the match showcased enterprising rugby from both teams. USC controlled their ball possession well, and worked with good field position and territory gains. The overall defense was sound and the few times Santa Barbara broke the USC defensive line, the USC sweeper would quickly make the tackle to clean up the attack. A standout moment in the first half, Santa Barbara player dove for the try line to score, and USC Forward Jack Haley caught the player and the ball while in the air, and tackled the player backwards another 5 meters, got up and turned over the ball for a USC clearing kick into touch. Great defense Jack!

After 20 minutes of scoreless rugby, USC over committed to a ruck, and Santa Barbara cleared the ball out to their winger with an easy man overlap to run in a quick counter-attack try. The support required to hold a ruck, and the USC defense working against a big Santa Barbara backline, found themselves forced to make tackle decisions where USC were outnumbered. Sometimes a correct decision was made and USC stopped another wing attack, but two more first half Santa Barbara tries put them in a comfortable position going into the half.

Colten Elkin

Colten Elkin

USC started the second half with good momentum and possession again. Throughout the match, the USC line-out was perfect on their own throws, and competed to win 50% of the opposition line-outs. Excellent work by USC jumpers Jonny Wolverton, and today’s USC Rugby Man of the Match Colten Elkin.

USC worked hard in the second half and only gave up another two Santa Barbara tries, and USC vice-captain Haico Kaashoek scored a try in the final moments of the match to put USC on the scoreboard. Final score Santa Barbara City College 45 – USC 5.

Austin Giles taking on the backline

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Gordon Stewart

USC scrum half Gordon Stewart played well and cleared the ball from rucks and make good sweeper tackles. USC prop Luis Lopez also had many storming ball carries and tackled anyone within his sight.

Video Highlights:

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1st XV Match Photos:

Score:

2nd XV Photos:

Round two of the Gold Coast Rugby Conference placed USC against visiting USD, with the teams facing off at a rugby pitch in Santa Monica.

DSC_0606At the opening whistle, though USD came out of the gates quickly and efficiently, USC countered with equal pressure and started moving the USD defense backwards. However, throughout the first half, USC ball handling and control at the ruck lacked focus, and players started turning the possession over to USD. With USC mistakes at the ruck, dropped passes, kicking away possession, and missed tackles opened up easy USD pathways to start the scoring. USD quickly put 26 points on the board without any USC interruptions.

USC started to build good phases of continuity in the first half and put pressure on the USD tryline, but with ball handling mistakes and some poor decision making, USC wasn’t able to cross the line to score.

Robert Semu

Robert Semu

After the break, and with a few tactical and injury replacements, USC fired up for the second half and improved their team play. This time, the pressure USC built moving down the field was converted into points with a nice gliding try by USC Rugby outside center Nick Ludwig scoring in the corner. After finally breaking the tryline, USC re-energized with more open and forward moving play. It wasn’t long until USC rookie Alvin Wong scored his first USC try by busting down the left wing. USC vice captain Haico Kaashoek kicked a nice conversion from out wide and into the breeze to bring the score board closer.

All the momentum shifted to USC in the second half, and now it was a race against the clock to get back into the game. USC kept attacking the USD defense but just couldn’t find another way through, until Robert Semu burst through a gap and sprinted 70 meters for the final score of the match. But it was not enough to catch USD. Final score USC 19 – USD 33.

It was a tough loss for USC Rugby, knowing this was a match that could have been won with better decision making and better handling.

Alvin Wong

Alvin Wong

Standout performance from Alvin Wong earned him the Man of the Match. Not only did Alvin score his first try for USC Rugby, his position play on the left wing was excellent, and he stopped some charging USD players without giving up an inch of territory – he tackled like a brick wall.

Congratulations also to Nick Banks for another strong performance in the scrum and ball running. Nick always moves forward with determination and force and puts a lot of pressure on the defense to make good tackles.

USC 19 (Nick Ludwig try, Alvin Wong try, Robert Semu try, Haico Kaashoek 2 con)
USD 33 (Team 5 tries, 4 con)

Match Highlights

Photos from the match

Score

2nd XV Photos