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But the 49ers, while a playoff team last year, were a little under the weather for 2016-17. Long Beach finished 3-2 in the Gold Coast Conference, a league the 49ers won going away with a 6-0 record in 2015-16.
So, it does seem like CSULB dropped down somewhat last year, and that's with one of the best college scrumhalves in the country, Roland Blackiston, on the team. Blackiston, a truly strong player, has graduated, and that's got to hurt, right?
But the 49ers have recruited hard, and head coach Jason Reynolds has been smart in looking at the tight five. He's brought in some big bodies with a ton of high school rugby experience. With that sort of young power, and with flyhalf Steven Bodley and center Anthony Simeone holding down the decision-making in the interior backs, the 49ers might be poised for a move forward.
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And consider their results in the spring of 2017. Sure, Long Beach lost two conference games, but those setbacks were by slim margins of 31-28 and 22-19. Surely the 49ers could overcome a three-point deficit? In addition, CSULB got into the national playoffs despite being 3-2. With Claremont College (4-1) opting for the National Small College playoffs, USA Rugby asked Mountain States runner-up Dixie State and CSULB to play for the final West Coast spot in the DIAA playoffs.
Long Beach won that game, and while the 49ers then lost to UC Davis in the spring quarterfinals and to Western Washington in the consolation game, their players got a taste of their potential heading into the offseason. Added to that, CSULB is on tour right now in the Czech Republic, broadening the players' horizons and giving next year's starters a jump on the season.
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The Gold Coast Conference won't kick off until January, but when it does, keep an eye on Long Beach State.
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