Tuesday, November 28, 2006




The first society meeting of the 2007 Northern California rugby season will be next Wednesday evening, from 7 to 9, at the SF/Golden Gate rugby clubhouse on Treasure Island.

RDO David Williamson has put together an interesting and educational program which will be heavy on hands-on activities: we’ll be working through referee situations with whistles in hand.

Food will be available from 6 to 7 for early arrivals, while the Development Committee is working.

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend.


Reno will be hosting Santa Rosa on December 2. A referee is needed and sought after.

Want to drive up through the majestic snow-covered Sierra?


Manu Finau has asked us to announce this year’s edition of the Hayward pre-season tournament. Contact him if your team is interested:

“The tournament will take place on the 9th of December and is scheduled for Oliver Garden Sportspark on Hesperian, the usual site for this event.

“All teams including D2 and D3 are welcome. We will have two fields, with spaces for 10 – 12 teams, with a guarantee of 3 games to each team. The charge is $300.00 per team.”

This means we’ll need more referees as well! Please chime in if you’d like a run on the ninth.


Scott Wood knows how to celebrate Turkey Day:

For the third year in a row, S.O. and I jetted off to Europe to spend Thanksgiving weekend. Each year is filled with fun and adventure. First we saw Italy beat up on the US and last year Wales triumphed over Australia. So it was with some wonder that the home team this year did not fare well against the visiting Springboks. As usual, we crammed into steerage for untold numbing hours to fly over the upper latitudes, arriving bleary-eyed at a bright 9 a.m. GMT. A quick stamp at passport control and off we went to fetch our luggage. While watching the conveyor go round and round (and patiently wondering when our bags would appear), we were approached by a Department for Transportation (DfT) woman. She stated they were training a new wonder mutt (i.e., drug-sniffer) and asked if she could use my cargo pocket for such. Since I was not doing anything at the moment (our bags having a bit of stage fright) I said, "Okay. But I've left my cocaine on the plane." Apparently she has dealt with this sort of wise-ass because she replied, "That's okay, this is heroin." The dog made its way down the line of passengers and bags (none of which were ours) and finally to us. Gave me a quick sniff and moved on. The handler must have figured something was up so he brought the dog around for another try. This time it keyed to my stash and immediately sat down to await its treat: a tennis ball. Ah, the dog's life. Well, finally our bags arrive and we left to catch the train to Bedford (yes, DfT retrieved the heroin).

An hour and a half ride through the countryside, into the outskirts of London, and northwest to Bedford. We were picked up by Murray Felstead who delivered us "home" to the Felstead Manor, Touchdowns. Dinner that evening was at a wonderful Wellingborough restaurant ("The Courtyard"?) that featured a very animated Italian chef who did a hard sell on a great tray of fish. I opted for a traditional Thanksgiving meal of sea bass (re-check your history if you doubt the validity of that) while S.O. went for the fish stew. The stew was more like a bucket of salmon, trout, sea bass, prawns and oysters with a little broth--very large and tasty.

On Friday, after a wonderful, traditional breakfast prepared by Murray, the legendary ‘fry-up’, we hired a car to drive on the wrong side of the vehicle on the wrong side of the road. A quick drive along the carriageway and, after a missed-marked turn, we arrived at the American Military Cemetery outside of Cambridge. This stop is highly recommended for anyone wondering what sacrifices are made to live in a free society. There are 3,812 American military dead buried there. On the wall running from the entrance to the chapel are inscribed the names of 5,127 Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country, but whose remains were never recovered or identified. Most of these died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of Northwest Europe during World War II.

Afterwards, we walked around the city of Cambridge. Great college town with very old architecture. Lunched at a Greek restaurant. Walked some more about the town. And then walked even more because we forgot just exactly where we parked the car. Found the car, made a couple loops in the city, found the highway, and returned to Felstead House. That evening after a well-needed nap and meal, we took in a bit of evening Rugby on the telly between Bristol and Gloucester. Bristol edged the 'Best in the West' showdown at the Memorial Stadium thanks to a late Jason Strange drop goal which clinched a 14-12 win over Gloucester. The drop goal, with the last kick of an enthralling encounter, took the Cherry and Whites unbeaten record and left Bristol as sole leaders of the Guinness Premiership. Quite a remarkable finish as Bristol was on the attack and Gloucester maintained excellent discipline at the rucks even in the face of the impending drop goal that was being set up.

Saturday's a Rugby day. A quick breakfast and Laurie Pearson arrived to take S.O. and I to Twickenham. We dropped off our bags at the hotel and found a car park in town. After a brief deluge, we walked to the pitch to join Laurie's boss, Michael Haygate, for a picnic (what we call tailgating). Some beer, wine and fresh salmon sandwiches, and we were off to find our seats. What a match! Suffice to say, maybe USA will do better than expected in its RWC pool. If England plays the way they did against South Africa, the Eagles stand a fair chance to keep the score real close. Two words of advice: Drop Goal. After the match we met up with Sue and her daughter, Kate, for some pre-Christmas shopping at the Stadium Store, then off we went to our hotel. Given the chance, stay at the Lensbury Hotel at Teddington Lock. This place is very nice and everybody boasts about their breakfast (which we unfortunately missed because we had to catch the train). Back at the airport we were offered a chance to get on the "volunteer list". Our intrepid travelers did not win the opportunity to catch a flight the next morning, "win" 400 GBP each, and receive a free night's stay at a local hotel. Many hours later I arrived back at SFO, well-traveled and tired, looking forward to a longer stay on the continent next year.

Many thanks to Sue and Murray Felstead for their hospitality and to Ian and Elaine Baggott and Michelle and Laurie Pearson for celebrating Thanksgiving with us.

This week’s photo memorializes this gathering of trans-Atlantic rugby cousins.


Thanks to Aruna Ranaweera for this account:

Wednesday Nov 22

On the day before thanksgiving, Paul Bretz and I travelled to Victoria, BC for the annual NCRRS exchange with the Vancouver Island RRS. The international departure terminal at the Seattle airport was deserted, probably because most Americans chose to stay in the US for thanksgiving. Canada's top international referee, Phil Smith, welcomed us in Victoria and drove us to a warm neighborhood bar near the University of Victoria (UVic). Another international referee, Bruce Kuklinski, and a highly-regarded local referee, Dave Valentine, joined us for beer and shepherd's pie. To my pleasant surprise, our Victorian hosts insisted on paying the tab, a not-so-bad pattern that would continue throughout the tour. Paul was hosted by Phil Smith, and I stayed with Dave Valentine and his wife Lee. My hosts provided hotel-quality accommodations: pretty sweet.

Thursday Nov 23

Former international referees Keith Morrison and Mel Jones drove us to Shawnigan Lake School, 45 minutes up the hilly forest above Victoria. Cold, dark rain and 40F temperatures reminded us that we were far from California, but our jovial chaperones kept us entertained with rugby talk. Shawnigan is an immaculately maintained, co-ed private (prep) school in which rugby is the dominant sport. They have a cozy, elaborate clubhouse that has an international-grade rugby field on one side, and two more rugby fields on the other side. The Vancouver Island Junior (Grade 10) Boys' rugby championship was being held at Shawnigan and Paul and I had been assigned to referee: there was even an official program with our names on it: cool. I refereed a 60-minute quarterfinal match between St. Michael's University School (SMUS) and Dover Bay. SMUS qualified for the semifinal with a 39-7 win, 7 tries to 1. For the first time in my refereeing career, I did not need to hydrate during half-time as the Canadian cold prevented me from sweating! Mel Jones provided a useful referee coaching report. Another international referee, John De Goede, hosted us to a nice dinner at his home that night. The lively dinner-table discussion covered rugby, North American politics, the environment, the probability of a bridge being constructed to Vancouver, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, amongst other topics.

Friday Nov 24

From the Vancouver Island waterfront, the view of the majestic, snow-tipped Olympic Mountains in Washington State is pretty spectacular. On our way back to Shawnigan with Keith Morrison for the Junior Boys' championship, Paul and I checked out hundreds of salmon swimming upstream the river: quite a sight. (I had no idea the salmon deteriorated so much in the process: not a pleasant way to go). I refereed a 60-minute consolation match between Oak Bay and Mt. Douglas, which Oak Bay won 55-24, or 9 tries to 4. Although the ground was wet and muddy, it didn't rain like yesterday, so the quality of play was quite good. (Paul refereed a semifinal match). Back in Victoria, Dave Valentine and his wife Lee hosted me to an excellent home-cooked dinner.

Saturday Nov 25

I tried to wake up at 6am to watch the Argentina vs France match on TV, but failed to get out of my warm bed. Armed with my Mediazone password, Dave Valentine and I managed to watch most of the All Blacks versus Wales match on his computer. At 1pm, I refereed a Vancouver Island men’s Division 1 quarterfinal match between the University of Victoria Norsemen and Cowichan. In Canada, colleges and men’s clubs play in the same league in the Fall. I learned that the UVic coach was an assistant coach at UC Berkeley earlier this year. The UVic playing field is considered the best in Victoria, so the 35F weather was not a hindrance. The UVic "Norsemen" are UVic's 2nd XV, but they are considered a formidable outfit because they include many Canada Under 19 players. Sure enough, UVic's speedy backs opened up a 33-0 half-time lead that left the men’s Division 1 team, Cowichan, quite demoralized. In the second half, UVic emptied its bench, but still won, 69-19, at the end: 12 tries to 3. This was a fun match to referee with lots of open play. Keith Morrison provided a useful coaching report. If UVic's 2nd XV was that sharp, how good must their 1st XV be, the UVic "Vikings"? I got to find out because the Island Elite division Final was played soon after my match (at a different ground) between the UVic Vikings and the Castaway wanderers. This was an excellent final: I'll leave the details to Paul, since he was an official. After the Elite Final, we metup with Phil Smith, Keith Morrison, and John De Goede for dinner at a restaurant owned by a local rugby player. Phil Smith and another Victoria referee took Paul and me to a downtown Victoria bar/nightclub to celebrate with locals, including a number of UVic and Castaway rugby players who (fortunately) had good things to say about the two California referees.

Sunday Nov 26

Back at Keith Morrison's comfortable (heated) house, I woke up to the sight of heavy snow falling outside my window. All Sunday rugby matches were cancelled. Phil Smith and Keith Morrison treated Paul and me to a farewell brunch at a local diner, after which Phil drove us to the airport. I learned that as a New Zealand/Canada dual citizen, Keith Morrison was the last New Zealander to have refereed the All Blacks, back when they toured British Columbia. (Pretty neat trivia question.) The 22km drive to the airport in Phil Smith's rear-wheel drive Volvo was quite dramatic as the heavy snow had caused numerous accidents on the highway. Some guy with a strange accent on the radio said it was 0 degrees Celsius! Even then, Phil delivered us to the airport in time and after bidding farewell to Phil until San Diego in February, Paul and I were on our way back to USA. After a 2-hour snow delay in Seattle, I was back in Oakland and paying California rates for airport parking.

Much thanks to NCRRS and VIRRS for setting up this referee exchange! Paul Bretz was an excellent rugby travelling companion, so much thanks to him for his advice and mentorship. Overall, this was a fun and educational rugby trip. I plan to visit BC again someday, probably in the spring/summer.


We haven’t heard from our travelers to the New York Sevens. Presumably, a long holiday weekend of travel followed by a return to work during a busy social season is impinging on their keyboard composition time.

That just means there’ll be more fun reading a week from now!


RENO 86 – Mendocino 12 Referee: Don Pattalock
Touch Judge: Phil Ulibarri

In a preseason friendly, this was a match played with great spirit and minimal tackles. For the fist half, the teams played 13 on 13 and in the second half, 12 on 12. Needless to say, there was a lot of space for the more experienced Reno side to exploit. Mendo played hard throughout the match and scored a hard fought try at full time.


Report from David Williamson:

On November 19, representatives of the four NorCal high school conferences conducted a business meeting. Items concerning referees included the Safety Protocol, mouthguards for high school players, and yellow/red cards.

The reps confirmed their support for the Safety Protocol, and did not propose any revisions. The reps decided mouthguards are required for all high school players--to be enforced by the coaches.

Perhaps the most important issue was the concern that many yellow and red cards issued by referees are not documented in reports to the NCRFU disciplinary committee. The High School organization does not have its own Disciplinary Committee, and relies on the NCRFU committee for follow-up. Teams also rely on the reports from the Disciplinary Committee regarding eligible players. All cards issued must be reported!!

From a scheduling standpoint, the NorCal High School playoffs are scheduled for April 27-28 (semi-finals), and May 4-5 (finals).


This is primarily for those who play or coach the game, not for refs.

From Dave Pelton:

Please pass this on......The more responses we receive, the better!

For Immediate Release
November 14, 2006

USA Rugby's Competition Review Taskforce Requests Members Feedback

BOULDER, Colo. - USA Rugby, in an effort to unlock the full potential of rugby in the U.S., has set up a taskforce led by Alan Sharpley to review and develop the best possible competition model that will support the goals of the new strategic plan and make rugby the best experience in American sport by meeting the varying needs of youth, high school, college and men's and women's adult rugby.

"The current USA Rugby competitions model is not producing all that it might in challenging and developing American rugby players in a strategic and high performance sense," Alan Sharpley said. "There is no coordinated competition policy that promotes player advancement through the different tiers of rugby, and there needed to be a process for evaluating the competitions structure."

The taskforce, whose members include Danita Knox, Jen Joyce, Keith Englebrecht, Rick Humm, Kristin Richeimer, Alan Solomons, Ed Todd, Michael Sagehorn, Morgan Buckley and Bob Karetsky, has met twice since the appointment of the new board in July and will be making its final report in March 2007.

In an attempt to hear from as many people as possible before the next competitions review meeting in December, the taskforce has requested that USA Rugby members fill out a brief questionnaire, found online at http://www.usarugby.org/about/2006CompetitionSurvey.doc

and email their responses to Jen Gray at jgray@usarugby.org by November 30.

"We will be taking account of the member's views at the December meeting, and will be meeting again at the end of January to develop proposals based on our review and feedback to date," Morgan Buckley, USA Rugby's consultant for the competitions review process, said. "In order to create the right competitions model, which will generate an environment for real high performance rugby, in addition to developing sustainable pathways at each level of the game and meeting the needs of the many recreational players across the U.S., it is essential that we collect as much feedback as possible, in the short amount of time that we have."

USA RUGBY, founded in 1975, is the national governing body for rugby and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organization is responsible for the development of boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club athletic programs, and ultimately, the seven national teams representing the United States in international competition.


We trust that all referees keep up with the latest Rulings from the IRB. These have the effect of Law.

In terms of civil and criminal law, IRB Rulings are equivalent to case law that has been upheld by the appropriate appellate courts, having the same authority as statutory law.

Here are the Rulings for November. Note especially the first one, regarding flying wedges, formations of players running down the field, one of whom has the ball:



Touch Judging Levels 1-2-3: December 2, San Francisco; Mike Malone

Referee Level 1: January 6, 2007, San Francisco, Dixon Smith, Giles Wilson

Please let the instructor know if you are interested in any of these. Late registrants and even walk-ins can generally be accommodated.

English-Style Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving in the original land of the Pilgrims:

Clockwise from near left: Michelle and Laurie Pearson, Sue Felstead, Tammy Cowan, Scott Wood, Murray Felstead, Elaine and Ian Baggott.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris