Scrumhalf Chris Codding (center) vs Saint Mary’s in a 2016 conference match. Photo Daniel Dempster
#13 Cal Poly earned a bid in the D1A Rugby Playoffs and will play #8 Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo. this Sunday, April 17.
Cal Poly finished third in the California Conference behind Saint Mary’s and San Diego State with a 2-2 conference record. The team is ranked #13, dropping one spot after a 50-11 loss at Saint Mary’s last Saturday.
Air Force finished with a 3-2 record, losing to #5 Utah and #15 Colorado State. With a higher ranking, Air Force gets the home-field advantage.
Cal Poly will return with the same starting lineup they had against Saint Mary’s.
Cal Poly lineout against Saint Mary’s. Photo Daniel Dempster
The first round D1A Playoff game will start at 3 PM local time in Colorado Springs this Sunday. The game will not be available for live stream, but will be made available shortly after the fixture.
The winner of the match between Cal Poly and Air Force will play at #2 Saint Mary’s next weekend.
Connor Cudeback for the U20s against Canada. Photo by Travis Prior
Prop Connor Cudeback has been kept busy this season. Along with being a usual starter on Cal Poly’s 1st XV, Cudeback has made appearances with both the USA U20s and Belmont Shore Rugby Club of the Pacific Rugby Premiership.
Cudeback attended several U20 training sessions throughout January and February playing in a friendly against Lindenwood during a U20 camp in January. In February Connor started for the U20’s match against Canada, which they won 19-18.
Cudeback against Canada. Photo Travis Prior
The USA U20s qualified for the World Rugby U20 Trophy which will be held in Harare, Zimbabwe starting April 19.
Cudeback made two PRP appearances with Belmont Shore Rugby in March, coming in as a reserve against OMBAC and starting against SFGG Rhinos in weeks 7 and 8 respectively.
In his last match Cudeback suffered a break in his tibia and fibula which also affected a ligament in his leg, which required surgery.
Connor had a successful surgery on Tuesday, and will be able to start a rehab process in the summer.
Cal Poly Rugby is currently #9 in the D1a Top 20 leading into the regular season beginning in 2016. The top-ten team had high expectations coming into the fall after a playoff berth last season and looked to fill the hole left by graduating players.
The team competed in both 7s and 15s, with much more success coming with the latter. Cal Poly played in two 7s tournaments and went 3-5.
The Cal Poly 1st team, also known as the 1st XV, finished with a 6-0 record in their fixtures this fall. Three of these came on Oct. 24 in a tournament at UC Santa Cruz. In the three other matches, Cal Poly played Chico State, Fresno Rugby Club, and Santa Barbara Rugby Academy.
Two opponents completely withdrew from matches with Cal Poly, along with many reserve sides not being able to field a team against Cal Poly’s reserves.
“Most of the challenges we’ve faced this year have just been actually getting games this preseason,” Club President Zach Markow said, “trying to get playing time and experience for our younger players has been a bit of a struggle.”
With depth being a concern, playing as many games as possible will help players filling in important roles by getting them more seasoned for 1st XV play.
Sophomore players were also expected to step up. Using the same game plan as last year, Head Coach James Tesoriero hoped that the continuity would be helpful for the veteran players.
“What we lost in terms of talent I was hoping we could make up in terms of continuity,” Tesoriero said, “we should be equally competitive.”
Even though Cal Poly’s 1st XV went undefeated this fall, the team thought they could’ve played better, and still have high expectations for the season.
Many of the opponents Cal Poly faced this fall were in lower division, like D1aa and Division II teams. Cal Poly will start to play tougher teams beginning Jan. 30 against Cal, who competes in the Varsity Cup.
There are some good overall signs of the team’s play according to Tesoriero which will help once the more competitive matches start.
“The young guys have come through and really stood up and made claims for the 1st XV jersey,” Tesoriero said, “and our fitness is really good, in all of our trial matches we’ve finished the game stronger than the opposition.”
Beginning his coaching tenure last year, Tesoriero noted how the veteran players look much better and organized in the style of play implemented.
“12 months down the track with the same group of guys, going through the same kind of systems, I think we’re a whole lot more organized.” Tesoriero said.
To help get the team prepared even further, Cal Poly Rugby will host a training camp starting Dec. 11 with #1 Saint Mary’s. Tesoriero said that bringing in an opposition will help the team to do more than go through the motions, and will give the new players a taste of what’s to come.
“It’s going to be a big step for us to learn from [St. Mary’s] and play with them, but we definitely have to get better.” Industrial Technology Senior Sean Gorman said.
Hopefully for the team, the camp will make up for some of the game time lost from opposing teams withdrawing from fixtures.
Additionally, practice against a conference rival will help prepare the team for not only it’s match against St. Mary’s, but also for the other California Conferencematchups.
“St. Mary’s, San Diego State and Santa Clara will all be quite tough.” Tesoriero said.
Cal Poly will need to have a favorable record against these teams to get a good spot in the playoffs, which the team expects to make after the end of the regular season.
“We’re certainly hoping to get a playoff berth again” Tesoriero said,
“the guys who traveled out to Utah last year and lost that playoff game last year will be a whole lot stronger for the experience.”
After a long and competitive season, the Cal Poly Rugby Club had a lengthy and eventful offseason. Many members of the club improved their game by staying active with local rugby clubs or following a tough off-season conditioning regimen, which will figure highly into their skill level in the coming season.
Many players were able to single themselves out as impact players for the team, most notably sophomore prop Connor Cudeback. In July, Connor was invited to attend the Collegiate All-American Summer Camp in Vallejo, Calif. With the help of the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American coaching staff, featuring many notable collegiate rugby coaches, Connor was able to improve his already substantial skill and figures to establish himself as a leader of the dominant Cal Poly forward pack. Connor has been selected as an Honorable Mention 2015 D1A All-American.
Connor Cudeback (front row, fifth from the left) at the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Camp
It wasn’t just the players who kept busy during the off-season. In early August, Head Coach James Tesoriero attended the Honda Heat Summer Training Camp in Abishiri, Japan. With the Honda Heat, a Japanese Top League team, James was able to shadow an experienced coaching staff. James was able to learn a lot from the coaching staff which includes notable rugby figures such as former World Cup-winning New Zealand All Blacks head coach Graham Henry and former All Blacks captain Reuben Thorne. With a valuable learning experience such as this, coach James will have more tools at his disposal to help the Cal Poly Rugby Club train like professionals.
Head Coach James Tesoriero (Left) with Graham Henry
More recently in the off-season, the Cal Poly Rugby Club competed in the local Tri-Tip 7s Tournament on September 12. With many of the regular players still out of town, many new faces were able to compete. Incoming freshmen Dante Cappellano, Isaac Stoll, and Wesley Williams made their club debuts in the tournament. With many of the core 7s players away and the squad facing a very competitive pool, the squad was unable to advance past the pool stage. However, the Cal Poly Alumni team went undefeated through pool play but fell short in the Shield Final. The 7s squad has a lot of improvement ahead of them heading towards the West Coast 7s on October 10.
Cal Poly Rugby at the Tri-Tip 7s. (September 12, 2015)
While current members of the club were kept busy during the off-season, incoming freshmen of the class of 2019 waited eagerly to get back on the field. This year’s recruiting class is strong, with more than 20 players committing to the program. Many of these rookies have strong rugby experience and figure to provide much needed depth for the coming season. With the offseason coming to a close, the Cal Poly Rugby Club has high expectations just as ever.
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This weekend, the Cal Poly Mustangs will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to take on the University of Utah in the opening round of the USA Rugby D1A Playoffs. The boys have been very focused at practice of late, and it showed in the 48-7 performance against San Diego State last weekend. Coach James Tesoriero has his account below.
Thank you to those of you who made it for Parents and Alumni weekend!
Coach’s Corner with Head Coach James Tesoriero
Saturday marked a number of ‘final’ milestones for the 2015 season. We played our final D1a conference match, it was the final home game of the season, and 7 seniors played their final home matches at Cal Poly. In addition, we welcomed a large cohort of former players for the annual Alumni game, and Saturday night we held the Parents & Alumni Dinner, so it was a day of great significance in many ways.
The Alumni vs Cal Poly Veterans match kicked off first up, with the ‘old boys’ matched against a collection of our more senior current players. We were warned ahead of time the old boys would be fielding a very talented team, and would be ‘coming in hot’! The Alumni didn’t disappoint, leading for the entire match and posting a comfortable win, turning back the clock and entertaining a considerable crowd on the hill. The Poly team were competitive however, and kept the Alumni honest for 80 minutes. This game featured a Father/Son play head-to-head (The Lowe’s on opposite wings) and Father/Son teammates (the Nunno’s). There was also much grumbling from the Alumni group about how much the jerseys had shrunk (particularly around the waist) since the guys graduated years ago.
The 2nd XV had a very different look from previous weeks, with many regular 2nd teamers playing against the Alumni in the early game. This provided an opportunity for some younger and less experienced guys to prove themselves against a talented opposition in the form of San Diego State 2nd XV. The match was a grind in the opening period, with our team in control yet unable to post points. Points came towards the end of the first half, and again after the break. SDSU competed throughout and crossed our line a number of times, however we kept a points buffer throughout and recorded a relatively comfortable win. Grant Beadle, who gets better with every game, was electric from halfback. Sal Guevara was a standout at flanker, while Eric Martin was dangerous on the edges and Dan Dempster was solid at fly half.
The 1st side were entirely ‘up’ and motivated for their final D1a game, aware that SDSU would be playing to keep their season alive and would enter the game with great intensity. We had scouted SDSU thoroughly during the week and had a good feel for their strengths and vulnerabilities. Our top team has played brilliant stretches of throughout the season, although with the Playoffs a week away, had not yet played 80 minutes of consecutive great rugby. This was our goal for the match.
As expected SDSU started strongly, broke our line on a few occasions, and posted the first try in the 15th minute. We gradually wrestled control of the match, largely on the back of a very dominant scrum. ‘Try sneak’ Matt Ryan crossed for our first try in the 24th minute, followed shortly after by another to Chris Codding. When John Joe crossed at the stroke of halftime, we had SDSU on the ropes at 17-7.
During the halftime break we reaffirmed our commitment to bringing 80 minutes of intensity and quality play, and to continue to pressure the opponents. In the second half, our forward pack well and truly gained ascendency on the opposition, gaining meters through midfield, and absolutely bullying the SDSU pack at the scrum. Scrum dominance allowed the backline to throw the ball around with the knowledge that a dropped ball would bring another scrum, and likely more possession.
As the afternoon progressed, the Alumni on the hill cheered louder and were treated to spectacular play from the home team. We played out the 80 minutes as hoped, and delivered our best performance of the year, finishing comfortable 48-7 winners against a very capable and talented San Diego outfit. The entire forward pack was outstanding, both in set piece and around the park, laying a superb platform for halves Chris Codding and Keli’i Dominguez to dictate play.
This strong form is timely, with an elimination Playoff vs Utah in Salt Lake City next Saturday 18th April. No 6 ranked Utah will present a very difficult challenge, however our form, fitness and motivation levels are peaking at the right time, and we will give ourselves every chance of progressing to Quarter-Final the following weekend.
Finally, thanks to the parents and alumni for getting behind Saturday night’s dinner, and a special thanks to those who donated items, bought auction prizes, and bought drinks throughout the evening.
1st XV Cal Poly 48 def SDSU 7
3 Points- Keli’i Dominguez
2 Points- John Joe Murphy
1 Point- Nathan Sylvia
– Connor Cudeback
2nd XV Cal Poly 31 def SDSU 17
3 Points- Grant Beadle
2 Points- Salvador Guevara
1 Point- Eric Martin
3rd XV Cal Poly Alumni def Cal Poly Veterans
3 Points- Phil Bezouska
2 Points- Dylan Lynch
1 Point- Zach Markow
D1A Playoff Picture
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Following a their 59-21 victory over Grand Canyon University, the Mustangs will host San Diego State this Saturday April 11th at 3pm. It will be a pivotal match deciding the standings in the California Conference with both teams looking for a playoff bid.
Preceding the 1st XV game will be an alumni game with the 3rd XV at 12:00pm, and a 2nd XV game at 1:30pm. All alumni are encouraged to bring their boots for a great afternoon of rugby! The day will conclude with the annual Parents & Alumni Dinner at the American Legion Post. The address for the dinner is 1661 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo (near the tank on Grand Ave.)
Below is an update from Head Coach James Tesoreiro.
by Coach James Tesoriero
“Rugby returned to the Cal Poly fields on Saturday, with Grand Canyon University visiting from Phoenix, Arizona. GCU has a young and ambitious rugby program, and has assembled a talented team in only their first year. Our rugby program, meanwhile, enjoyed a short hiatus for Spring Break, during which we held a Spring Training Camp in San Francisco. The players were eager to test out some newly learned skills and strategies, while the coaching staff was looking for a tough hit out only a few weeks out from the Playoffs.”
Chris Codding was dangerous with ball in hand. Jan Piper Photo
“The 1st XV made a very strong start, controlling possession, attacking with width, and scoring plenty of tries. Chris Codding controlled the game very well from halfback, and surprised a few spectators with some crunching defence. Max Tackett was typically dangerous at centre, and both wings were in the thick of action throughout, a sign that the team was playing a good style of rugby. Mark Grzanich already had a hat-trick when the halftime whistle blew, and we were ahead 47-0.
My message at half time was to continue to apply pressure, to make use of every possession and set piece during the second half, and to adopt a playoff mentality to take forward to next weekend. To GCU’s credit, they came out a much improved team in the second half, capitalised on some of our mistakes and outscored us comfortably in the second half. The final score of 59-21 was pleasing, however, the second half’s patchy performance was less than ideal so close to the Playoffs.”
John Joe Murphy on the attack for the Mustangs. Jan Piper Photo.
“The 2nd XV were in a tight contest, trailing 3-0 for much of the first half. A few tries before halftime opened the game up, and the team was good enough to put some distance between themselves and the opposition in the second half and finish with a 29-3 win. It was a brutal match and the Athletic Trainer was kept busy, our players suffering facial cuts and various injuries. Sal Guevera received Coach Pete’s man of the match, breaking the GCU defensive time a number of times and scoring a try. Zac Markow also played well despite carrying an injury into the game, and Grant Beadle continued his run of form and ongoing improvement.”
“Earlier in the day the 3rd XV played a friendly against SLO Youth, posting an impressive win against a spirited yet inexperienced opposition. Dylan Lynch was in everything, scoring 3 tries. Andrew Acosta also crossed the line a number of times and played strongly.”
“We would love to see all family, friends and Mustangs fans this Saturday (11th April) for our final home game of the season against conference rival San Diego State. The 1st team needs a win to ensure a Playoff spot, and a convincing win could elevate our Playoff seeding, so there is much to play for. Following the match the annual Parents & Alumni dinner will be held in downtown SLO, and evening should also be a highlight of the club’s social calendar!”
1st XV Cal Poly 59 def GCU 21
3 Points- Chris Codding
2 Points- Connor Cudeback
1 Point- Max Tackett
1 Point- Kevin Cragin
2nd XV Cal Poly 29 def GCU 3
3 Points-Salvador Guevara
2 Points- Zach Markow
1 Point- Austin Changras
1 Point- Grant Beadle
3rd XV Cal Poly 7 tries def SLO 3 tries
3 Points- Dylan Lynch
2 Points- Andrew Acosta
1 Point- Phil Bezouska
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On the heels of two tough losses to Cal and BYU, the Mustangs were again on the road this past weekend and picked up a victory over San Diego State. The Mustang players and coaches believe that a lot was learned in the early pre-season losses.
“Our set-piece wasn’t up to scratch, and we saw very little possession because of it,” said Coach Tesoriero. “We also identified some defensive issues that we’ve begun to address at training.”
Max Tacket with the ball vs Cal (Leanna Long photo)
In San Diego, the score was close throughout the match with the first points not coming until the Mustangs scored a try late in the first half. SDSU responded to level the score at halftime. The Mustangs controlled the ball for most of the game, although they struggled to convert possession into points. With less than 10 minutes to play, San Diego was threatening to score at the Cal Poly try line for numerous phases, but the Mustangs defense proved too strong.
“Our defense was massively improved and the lineout was almost perfect,” said Coach Tesoriero. After winning a turnover, the Mustangs were quick to score with a great counter attack to extend their lead and seal the game. Cal Poly would go on to score another try with only a couple of minutes remaining to make the final score 33-14. The Cal Poly 2nd XV also defeated SDSU 2nd XV 35-5, and Cal Poly 3rd XV defeated The University of San Diego 28-14.
Matt Ryan scored two tries against San Diego State (Leanna Long photo)
Chris Dempster jumping in the lineout. (Leanna Long photo)
Congratulations is in order for Brandon Puccini, this year’s recipient of the Kevin Higgins Scholarship. Brandon, an alumnus of Bellarmine College Preparatory, is a first year Mechanical Engineering student. He has been quick to impress the coaches with his athleticism and knowledge of the game.
“Brandon has a very strong work ethic and has never missed a practice or conditioning session,” said Charles Zanoli, Director of Rugby Operations.
On winning the scholarship, Brandon said, “I would like to thank the U.S. Rugby Foundation for honoring me with this award. I would also like to thank my family, friends, teammates, and coaches for providing me with support along the way. Receiving this scholarship means so much to me because not only am I being rewarded for all my hard work, I am also able to learn from Kevin Higgins’ life story. He inspires me to live my life to its fullest potential, as if every day could be my last.”
Kevin Higgins Scholarship recipient, Brandon Puccini (Phillip Bezouska photo)
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Under the guidance of Head Coach James Tesoriero, the Mustangs (#10 D1A) have been putting in great effort at training to prepare for a schedule that will see them face opponents ranked #1, #2, and #4 in the nation. The Cal Poly coaches see a great benefit to having such a tough schedule. “We’ve intentionally scheduled skilled opposition going into the D1A season, so that we can test our team system and get our boys match hardened,” says Coach Tesoriero. “It will be a good opportunity to measure ourselves against the best teams in the West.” On moving from New South Wales, Australia and taking over the Head Coach position, Tesoriero says, “The transition has been fairly seamless; [former Head Coach] Dave Burnett left behind a great program. I also have returning players who know the game and help keep the club running smoothly.”
The Mustangs enjoying the view over San Luis Obispo on a Winter Training Camp conditioning run.
The team recently completed Winter Training Camp: a full weekend of practice, conditioning, strategy meetings, and a performance nutrition seminar from Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chris Borgard. It was a taxing weekend, but he payoff was evidenced in the first pre-season game as the Mustangs 2nd XV defeated Santa Barbara City College 26-22.
This Saturday, Jan 24, Cal Poly travels to Berkeley, California to take on the Cal Bears (#4) in a rematch of the 2004 National Championship that saw the Mustangs fall to a powerful Cal side. All Cal Poly fans in the Bay Area are encouraged to make the trip to Witter Rugby Field for the 1pm kickoff!
Next Saturday, Jan 31, the Mustangs will go to Mesquite, Nevada to meet BYU (#2) for another non-league match-up. Last season, Cal Poly went all the way to snowy Provo, Utah and surprised the BYU Cougars with dominating play from the forward pack and an early 10-0 lead. Although the Mustangs were unable to hold the lead, the club took a lot of positives from the match and look forward to the upcoming game.
The first big home game will come on March 7, when the Mustangs play host to the reigning National Champions, St. Mary’s College (#1). The two conference rivals have seen a lot of each other in past seasons and it is sure to be an exceptionally high intensity game. Following the final home match against San Diego State on April 11, the Mustangs will host the annual Parents and Alumni Dinner. Save the date and check back for more information as the season progresses.
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