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.

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.

Bennett (left) and Scassellati (right) will serve as USC's new team captains

Bennett (left) and Scassellati (right) will serve as USC’s new team captains

By Adam Bushell, Public Relations Chair

USC Rugby would like to congratulate Corbin Bennett as Team Captain and Guido Scassellati as Backs Captain for the immediate future. Bennett, a returning starter for the program will also be the team’s Forwards Captain.

Bennett will be assuming the responsibilities for the role after long standing captain Joseph Krassenstein decided it was in the team’s best interest to hand the reigns down to the next generation of Trojan Ruggers. Krassenstein, now a graduate student, will however continue to play for USC during the spring season.

Bennett possesses natural leadership characteristics and although this is only his second year playing the game, he has proven to be an incredibly quick learner. Rugby does run deep in the Bennett lineage however as his father, Tom Bennet, also played for USC (Class of ’87). Corbin Bennett however focused on baseball as his sport of choice and played at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon for two years before arriving at USC. After realizing his desire for contact sports and oddly shaped balls, he decided to give rugby a try and has excelled at it ever since.

“As coaches we chose Corbin because he has strong potential to lead the team and the quality of work he has put into this team is amazing. He gets respect from all the players on the team and will lead by example,” commented Head Coach Loa Milford.

Bennett will also have the resources of Guido Scassellati, a third-year starter from Rome, Italy who is no newcomer to the game. Scassellati, the team’s scrum-half, has had a long development experience with Unione Rugby Capitolina in Rome and has proved that he is very capable in his knowledge of the game. 

“We’ve given Guido the responsibility as assistant captain as he’s proven to be responsible and resourceful in the game of rugby. Especially at scrum-half where he’ll have to talk a lot throughout the game, the captaincy gives Guido a greater say in the team’s on-field and off-field decisions,” said Coach Milford.

USC is currently undefeated in the XV’s preseason after defeating UNLV, UCSB, Pepperdine, CSUN, and the Alumni. The Trojans finish the preseason against crosstown rivals, UCLA, on December 5th in Westwood.

 

 

 

Join USC Rugby at Blaze Pizza on Figueroa December 2nd to help us raise funds for the upcoming season! Bring some friends, make a delicious pizza…outrageous fun.

20% of the proceeds raised between 7:30 and 10:30 will directly support the USC Men’s Rugby Club!

Blaze Pizza
3335 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, California 90007

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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!

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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: