By Ronan Nelson
Westwood, CA - After a solid debut performance at the UCLA 7′s last weekend, the UCLA Bruins 7′s Rugby Team travels to San Luis Obispo this Saturday to partake in the annual West Coast 7′s tournament, the first qualifying tournament for next year’s USAR Collegiate 7′s Championship. The West Coast 7′s has become one of the premier 7′s events in the region, and, despite a challenging opening stage group, UCLA has the potential to make a deep run into the tournament playoffs.
In order to compete well at the tournament, UCLA will hope to build upon their performances last weekend, which at times were hindered by communication errors. When asked about his team’s main “keys to success” to compete well at the West Coast 7′s, Bruins head coach Scott Stewart reiterated his belief in the power of communication. “It will come down to us communicating with each other out there. The skills, fitness and tactics are the bare minimum we must produce simply just to compete, but good talk will be the difference between winning it all or simply not.”
The tournament will feature four groups of three teams, with the #3 UCLA scheduled to play against #11 UCSB at 11:20 AM and #6 SDSU at 12:40 PM in pool #3. UCLA handled UCSB last weekend in Westwood and will attempt to show a week’s worth of improvement and get off to a quick start where sometime the Bruins have struggled. The match-up with San Diego State will be a challenge for UCLA who defeated the Aztec 2 of 3 times last season, the only loss recorded in this very tournament last Fall. The winner will likely win the pool and advance towards the Cup semi-finals to be played later in the day.
Each group winner will earn a berth into the Cup semi-finals, leaving UCLA little room for error over the course of the entire day if they are to have a chance at the Cup title. The only two teams ranked ahead of UCLA in the tournament are #2 St. Mary’s, last year’s DI National Champion, and #1 Cal, last year’s West Coast 7′s champion; two sides the Bruins might have to face in the playoff rounds.
The importance of Saturday’s tournament and the step-up in competition level has not been lost on the Bruins in mid-week training. According to Stewart, the “Guys are competing for jobs which makes it much more intense out here as there are now only two events remaining where players can earn a spot in the final squad for the Fall.”
Tomorrow’s competition will certainly not be easy, but the attitude of this UCLA Bruins team and the strengths they have shown thus far put them in good standing for a successful day at the office. Make sure to follow the action through the UCLA Rugby Facebook page, Twitter Feed (@UCLA_RUGBY), and the UCLA Rugby Channel on You Tube!
The UCLA 7′s event will be held on the IM fields at UCLA Saturday October1, 2016.
Please see the schedule below.
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By Thomas Howells – UCLA ’15
The UCLA Rugby Club returned to Westwood after a pain staking loss to Arizona State University by a single 2-point conversion. A tough day in the Arizona sun saw the Bruins finish their PAC season with a 2-3 record, with the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup on the near horizon.
The Bruins opened the 1st half inside the Sun Devils territory and a quick succession of pick and go’s resulted in a try for prop Arturo Hernandez. UCLA looked threatening in the back three, especially with Luke Hoffman from full back, who returned the ball half way back up the field multiple times. One of these counter attacks left the Bruins in a promising position inside the ASU half, which Antonio Cervantes capitalized on by showing his elusiveness to dot the ball down in the corner. The half ended with a third try for UCLA started on the eastern side of the venue with some silky hands allowing Seb Sharpe an easy cutback for a try near the posts. The simple conversion was added by #10 Ben Francis.
The Bruins looked comfortable going into half time, with a nice cushion to build on and held the majority of possession through a high success rate in the scrums and line-outs, but were unable to put the Sun Devils to the sword after the first 20 minutes. While the forwards showed improvement with winning possession, there was little cohesion with a back-line poised to attack and; as a result, ASU then took full advantage of some careless errors to get back into the game.
Center Race Noeldner looked to have calmed the nerves with an interception for a try, a play that is quickly becoming his trademark. He picked off a pass in the back three after a good clearance kick from Ben Francis and a good chase from the rest of the team. Francis then looked to have put the game away converting a penalty to give the Bruins an 8 point lead with just ten minutes to go, but the Sun Devils made the most of an overlap to score in the corner and tie the game. The ensuing conversion from the left touchline snatched the result and made the ride back even more painful than can be described with words.
UCLA will now face San Diego State at home on Saturday, March 14th. The game between two of Southern California’s preeminent teams will provide the Bruin’s a good chance to test their depth before they begin preparations for their opening match of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup against Air Force.
Come support and rally the Bruins on against San Diego State on March 14th!
5-0 Try Hernandez
10-0 Try Cervantes
10-7 Try Arizona State
17-7 Try Sharpe, conversion B. Francis
17-10 Penalty Arizona State
22-10 Try Noeldner
22-17 Try Arizona State
25-17 Penalty B. Francis
25-20 Penalty Arizona State
25-17 Try Arizona State, conversion Arizona State
UCLA departed Tucson with a victory after a last minute try by Pierre Courpron and a conversion from Ben Francis, capping off a close game that UCLA nearly let slip through their fingers.
The first half ended with the score tied at 7-7 thanks to Brad Roth’s first try of his career. The period featured fragmented play from both sides (largely due to the officiating) with UCLA often trying too hard to force the offload and not hitting pay dirt after well crafted line-breaks.. The Bruins’ defense held strong for the majority of the half, holding out the Wildcats before they eventually capitalized on their momentum with a score.
The second half started with a brace from Zach Bonte, who managed to direct his frustration from the first to good use. He had two marauding runs through the Wildcats defense to establish a lead for the Bruins. Seb Sharpe ran 50 meters into the end zone after taking a hard inside line off of Pierre Courpron to extend the lead, but with only two of four conversions added, the Wildcats still remained within striking distance and they did not go down without a fight.
The crowd and momentum were on their side and they slowly started clawing the Bruins back in before finally taking the lead through a dubious penalty try with six minutes to go. UCLA then re-focussed and proceeded to maintain possession for the next three minutes and after time had expired, put together phase after phase of old school grind before Courpron touched the ball down in the try-zone. Francis then slotted the pressure conversion from the left-hand touchline into a strong wind to give the Bruins a 31-29 victory on the road.
UCLA now sit in 2nd place in PAC Conference play behind California and head to Tempe next weekend to face the highly rated and talented Arizona State Sun Devils. Full preview to follow.
UCLA rallied from a first half deficit of 15 points to outscore Cal 12-3 in the second half, but it wasn’t quite enough to put the Bruins past the number 2 ranked Bears.
The Golden Bears struck early with a try from Scott Walsh, but were left frustrated for most of the first half, with UCLA’s defense holding strong. UCLA held Cal out of the end zone with two goal line stands, before Cal eventually scored with the last play of the first half, to take a 0-15 half time lead.
UCLA came out strong in the second half, closing the gap through an interception by Race Noelder, who took the ball 75 meters to score under the posts. Although the Bruins didn’t match the Bears for size, their speed and guile in the backs more than made up for this, as shown in an exquisite 80 meter team try which was capped off by Zach Bonte to put UCLA within three points with 10 minutes to go. The Bruins had Cal on the back foot for the rest of the game, however some handling errors prevented the Bruins from completing an enthralling comeback. Jake Anderson sealed the game with a penalty for the last kick of the game.
“The boys gave it their all today and I couldn’t be more proud of them”, said Coach Scott Stewart after the game. “California has always been the standard that we try to emulate, build our program toward and being in the mix in the late stages of these contests has always been our goal.”
UCLA now travels to Tucson next weekend to face the University of Arizona in PAC conference play.
The Bruins are gearing up for their biggest match of the year this week, as they prepare to face their neighbors from the North. California will come down to Westwood for a PAC conference showdown, with UCLA looking to hand them their first loss in the competition. UCLA were narrowly edged out by the Bears last year up in Strawberry Canyon. The Bruins led for the first 60 minutes, before Cal’s depth eventually paid off and they pulled out the victory.
UCLA will look to avenge their bitterly disappointing loss to Utah two weeks ago. “Things just didn’t go our way”, said Coach Stewart. “We have put that result behind us and are looking forward to playing a very good Cal team”. The Bruins are coming off of a bye week, so they should be well rested for their encounter with the Cal Bears.
Come support your Bruins at 1pm on the Northern Athletic Field this Saturday and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
The UCLA Bruins will begin their season in the PAC (Pacific) Conference against the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, OR this Saturday. Oregon State should prove a true test to the ‘True Bruin’ attitude UCLA will have to preserve in order to be successful on such a long road trip. The 2015 version of the PAC Rugby Conference, which leads up to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Championship, will only see the Bruins on home turf twice, playing the Utah Utes and Cal Bears in consecutive matches in Westwood. The remaining matches will be played under the scorching sun of Arizona, battling both the University of Arizona and Arizona State a week later. Please see our schedule here.
The Bruins XV’s team has an array of experience, but as usual, is led by Scrum-Half and Captain Grant Penney who continues to inspire the club with his high work ethic both on and off the field. Pierre Courpron will lead the forward pack, standing tall in the number 5 jersey and collectively all players will be required to be effective and efficient in all fundamental areas in order to achieve a win this weekend.
The Bruins will return to Westwood to face Utah at 1pm on February 7th in their PAC home opener featuring the Southern California HS semi-final as a curtain raiser.
Be sure to follow the UCLA Men’s Rugby Facebook page for updates of the season! We hope to see you in full force in the stands cheering the boys in Blue on!
The Bruins finished in second place in the annual Dennis Storer Classic the other weekend, losing to the California Golden Bears in the final. The Bears came out strong, punishing a few early handling errors with points on the board. The Bruins mounted a comeback with a try from captain Grant Penney after a a break from Ben Francis, but it proved to be a case of too little too late, as Cal sealed the victory with another try before the final whistle.
Dorothy Storer, wife of the former coach Dennis Storer, presented the trophy to Cal captain Jake Anderson. Dorothy Storer showed her admiration for both teams and expressed her pleasure at seeing the growth of the sport in this country, both at the high school and collegiate level. This was the first time the Bruins have played their Northern California rivals this season. They play them again in PAC conference play and have the potential to play them a further time in the Varsity Cup. “Cal are the benchmark for us”, said coach Scott Stewart. “We are a few mistakes away from making that game competitive and we can’t wait to play them again in February.
The weekend as a whole provided a lot of game time for the whole squad with every player on the 60 man squad getting minutes. The Bruins recorded victories against UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz before playing UC Berkeley in the title decider of the round robin tournament. The weekend marked the return of inside center Race Noeldner, who had been out for the past year recovering from shoulder surgery. His return, along with fellow fourth year fly half Ben Francis, who had also been recovering from his own shoulder problems, will provide leadership and three years of starting experience apiece for the potent Bruin back line.
The tournament also provides a chance for high schools from California and beyond to play on the picturesque UCLA campus, as well as an opportunity to showcase their own skills to the college coaches in attendance. There were 17 high school teams playing this year, the most ever for the tournament. With many of the college players graduating from the high school clubs who play in the Dennis Storer Classic, the weekend acts as a nice reunion for many players and their hometown teams. All of this creates a fantastic family atmosphere that makes this tournament so special.
The Bruins now head to Corvallis for a matchup against Oregon State to open up PAC conference play.