Tuesday, December 05, 2006




We are privileged to drive the well-engineered and scenic thoroughfares of California as we follow the bouncing ball. While technology, much of it created right here, offers us a wealth of content such as music on demand, podcasts, educational or literary CDs, or a chance to communicate with anyone via telephone while traveling, we can also entertain ourselves simply by looking out the window.

California comprises an incredible range of climate zones and eco-systems, deserts to tundra, mountains to swamps. The physical beauty of our home is astounding and never grows old.

There are a number of distinct regions within California, and they do not as a rule blend into each other. Transitions are often abrupt and undeniable.

We are especially enamored of some of these transitions that we experience as we pursue our rugby jones.

The City by the Bay

Who cannot remember driving into San Francisco for the first time? If this happened when you were of cognizant, memory-forming years, you recall with awe. Coming from the north, there’s the mind-blowing vista as emerge from the Waldo Tunnel and alight onto the nonpareil Golden Gate Bridge.

From the east, those who engineered the Bay Bridge were thoughtful enough to route in-bound traffic onto the upper deck, where bay views and an imposing, enlarging skyline greets visitors.

Even coming overland, up the peninsula on Highway 101, there are those first glimpses of distant high-rises, the first tendrils of fog dipping over the coastal hills, the increasing density of structures that informs even the casual wayfarer that something big is around the corner.

The Southland

Other transitions depend less on man-made artifacts. The trip to Southern California, for example.

Motoring down Interstate 5, after driving for hours through the lushest fecundity on the face of this planet, the irrigated miracle miles of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, there’s no denying that things are changing as you ascend the Grapevine. The terrain becomes a moonscape. Productive agriculture is merely a memory. A new state of mind lies just ahead: Southern California.

No less dramatic is the change if your route to La-La Land lies down 101. After passing through Santa Maria and the smaller tourist towns of northern Santa Barbara County, the divided highway dives through a rocky cleft and there, overlooking the broad Pacific and the Channel Islands, you take a hard left and find yourself on a coastal drive in the Land of Dreams.

The Central Valley

Another that brings smiles every time: crossing the Pacheco Pass on Highway 152, from the Santa Clara Valley to the Central Valley. On one side is the Casa de Fruta, orchard and horse country, fog and costal oaks. The road wends its way uphill and then does a long, coasting descent that semi-circumnavigates the San Luis Reservoir and slopes into the arid, irrigated, wonder world on the downhill side.

Steinbeck Country

Traveling down Highway 101, about ten miles south of Gilroy the road suddenly plunges down a chute through a mile-long density of stately eucalyptus trees. In the summer, the temperature can drop twenty degrees in this one mile as you transition from sunshine to fogbank.

You are changing as you drive down this stretch: from the greater Bay Area to the Central Coast; from one climate zone to another; from San Benito County to Monterey County; even, as you emerge from the trees, from the North American Plate to the Pacific Plate, crossing the San Andreas Fault.

Your Favorite Here

We have no doubt that readers will have their own favorite passages as they drive to Redding, Reno, or other points of the rugby compass. Which brings us to Saturday, December 2, 2006…


They were digging out from under snow across much of the nation. They might have been howling at the Moon in Cambodia for all the effect it had on the morning’s preparations in Pelicanland.

Rugby shorts – Check. No other pants needed.
Three short sleeve refereeing shirts, different colors – Check. No other top needed.
Sunblock – Check. Just had a couple more actinic keratoses frozen off the radar dome and need to minimize the afternoon’s photon storm.

The weather report was calling for 72° in San Luis Obispo. We didn’t know that it was going to be off by ten degrees, but it mattered not for the meteorologist had underestimated the intensity of old Sol’s winter vacations in California. It easily topped eighty.

But first the drive down, the prologue to a Rugby Day.

The Pelicanmobile was gassed and sassy – with its new “I’M WILD ABOUT PELICANS” license plate holder. The CD changer was booted up with the latest Teaching Company offerings in our never-ending quest to learn everything there is to know.

A quick Google outlined the Starbucks along the route, now more numerous even in remote sections of the El Camino Real than the missions the road originally linked.

And what a day it was! The Coastal and Gabilan Ranges that delineate the Salinas Valley, the World’s Salad Bowl, supported an inverted bowl of purest Pelican Blue. The first rainstorm of the season a few days earlier had scrubbed the sky, rendering it translucent to the degree that individual trees could be discerned on hillsides miles distant.

Tiring of improving our mind, we switched on the FM radio and scanned the dial for Christmas music. Several hours of seasonal tidings in early December are always welcome to our ears, simultaneously evoking echoes of Christmases past and increasing the anticipation of the Christmas most imminently to be, the nearest bright bead on a memorable string that stretches the length of our sentient life, bundling together our fondest memories of childhood, parenthood and grandparenthood.

The Salinas Valley rolled past as elevation increased, slowly so as to escape notice, marked only by the fact that the Salinas River flowed in the opposite direction as the freeway braided itself back and forth by bridge from bank to bank.

Past the renewable gold of produce. Past the black gold produced by the bucking donkeys of the pump jacks. Past Camp Roberts, home of the California National Guard, astride the Monterey – San Luis Obispo County line. Past the vineyards, past the new houses, past many of the mission bells on crooked staffs that commemorate the King’s Highway.

Past all of these, the transition: from the Cuesta Pass, a sudden and almost vertiginous drop from the spine of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Highway 101 uncoils in great sweeping loops as brakes overheat, ears equilibrate, and the scenery changes as if on a stage between acts.

And then you are in the lovely college town of San Luis Obispo!


Our newest society member, Andy Doukas, recently passed the Level One course and paid his NCRRS dues. Andy plays for Arroyo Grande, but has been involved with the Cal Poly team. He is the refereeing resource for teams in that area.

So it was that the annual Lin Price Memorial Match between two SoCal teams had a NorCal referee: Andy invited one down!

We have no greater pleasure than honoring those who have given so much to our game over the years.

Linn Price was an integral part of both Cal Poly and the local men’s club. Although he died in 1980, he has not been forgotten:

Some of those who played with him were on hand to reflect on a fine rugby man.

Earlier in the morning, the Cal Poly women’s team had played UCLA. The women’s team is not far enough along in certifying themselves as a club sport on campus, and this game had to be played at the Riverbottom Field in Arroyo Grande. Tony Broom, former Cal Poly men’s coach, refereed this one.

CAL POLY 59 – San Luis Obispo 7 Referee: Bruce Carter
Touch Judges: Andy Doukas, Steve Nishibata

Paul Cappellano, a long-time stalwart of Central Coast rugby, was heard to say after the match, “I’ve said I’m going to keep playing in this game until we win it.”

The first fifteen minutes it looked as though the club side might pull this one off – the Cal Poly side was entering the rucks one by one and not very effectively. Then, too, the usual pre-season early-game spate of penalties until everyone got used to having a referee led to a stop and start game that did not exactly play to the collegians’ strength.

But the rest of the game did. They rolled.

Cal Poly, despite having a center off playing for the Griffins in the National All-Star Championships, has at least three backs who never succumb to the first attempted tackle. They power into contact, they step, they drive and they move their torsos in such a way as to minimize purchase.

These guys are awesome.

The final try of the game belonged to the men. The referee, speculating on an advantage in their favor, allowed a couple phases of backward ball retention deep in their own end because the cover defense was disorganized and tired.

The futures market for advantages suddenly soared as two short passes committed the last two defenders within easy range and sprung a runner loose. However, the runner was a tighthead prop and he had sixty meters to go, chased every step of the way by a #7!

Although his gas ran out five meters shy, his momentum was more than sufficient for five points.

Seconds: CAL POLY 62 – San Luis Obispo 5 Referee: Andy Doukas
Touch Judges: Steve Nishibata, Bruce Carter

Another exhibition by Cal Poly’s ruggers, who reportedly have seventy-plus at training.


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.

See you there!


We have some outlying games that need referees this Saturday.

To wit: Redding, Mendocino, Chico and San Luis Obispo.

Let us know if you’d like a run.


We have vetted the process and found it to be simplicity itself, at least for renewals.

You can now register with USA Rugby for 2007 participation. The amount is $55. This will be tax-deductible if you are a member of the referee society:

You can complete payment on-line. You’ll need to print out the waiver, sign it, and get it to our Treasurer, Jim Crenshaw.

Jim will be at the society meeting Wednesday, December 6, or you can mail it to him at:

Delta Supply
1248 E. Oak Avenue #D
Woodland, CA 95776


Mike Malone taught the TJ courses to five students, none of whom are currently members of the NCRRS.

Two of them expressed as interest in running touch at the Hayward tournament this coming Saturday. We are looking forward to working with Chris Arnold and Eric Rauscher, and hope they enjoy it as much as the rest of us do!


SFGG U-23 – Cal Maritime Referee: Don Pattalock
This match was enjoyable to ref as both sides are well coached and disciplined. All the players listened at the breakdowns and the game flowed from start to finish. SFGG U23 showed exceptional skills and were clearly the better side on the day.

They should be in a league and competing for a National Championship. Collegiate DII, Men’s DII/III would all be appropriate for this team.

PS What can you say about the fantastic referee quarters at the SFGG clubhouse? It is a joy to work is such a professional setting.

MARIN 24 – Aptos 0 Referee: Joe Leisek
Marin City Community Field, Marin City

A pre-season match played in four 20-minute periods, with uncontested scrums, in brilliantly sunny conditions (sun screen in December!).

Aptos is in a rebuilding phase. Scrumhalf and Captain Kevin Miske spent most of the game coaching on the field in a very positive, encouraging style. Marin had more experience and organization, scoring a try and a penalty kick in the first half, and two converted tries in the second half.

An enjoyable day.

UOP Alumni 6 – STANISLAUS 42 Referee: Chris Parkhouse

Call it the art of coarse pre-season rugby.

They played 20 mins each way with uncontested scrums on a coned pitch with no goal posts. The game was well matched for 15 mins and then old age and lack of practice began to tell. Harlots ran in three quick tries to go into half time with an 18 - 0 lead. UOP scored a quick try at the beginning of the second half but that was the only time they managed to cross the try line. Harlots ran in another 4 tries to earn a comfortable victory.

RENO 32 – Santa Rosa 20 Referee: Dylan Gill
Warm and sunny in Reno. For a warm up game both teams treated this like a playoff.

Redding 5 – SANTA ROSA JC 22 Referee: Ray Schwartz
Santa Rosa JC 22 – Redding Highlanders 5
Foothill High, Palo Cedro
Referee: Ray Schwartz

The long, annoying drive up I-5 yielded only one egret sighting, this after a promise of bountiful waterfowl. Visibility was good, with the Sutter Buttes shimmering in the center of the vast valley. Some mountaintops stood dotted with snow. As Redding drew closer, Mt. Shasta stood massive and brilliant white, while the snow capped ridges to the East were clearly seen to be the ridges of an ancient and massive volcanic crater, Mt. Lassen National Park. Turning east off 5, onto State Hwy 44, and then up Deschutes Road a few blocks to the High School didn’t do enough to help me unwind.

The temperature read 66 degrees on the Foothill High greeting board, as I pulled into the school. Then the quote of the day: “Don’t tell me how rocky the sea is. Just bring in the ship! BE ACCOUNTABLE!” Words to live by, indeed.

Had a nice hello with John Tomasin, who was there to watch his young son playing 9/10 for the JC. He introduced me to his mom, sister, and young cousin. They live just around the corner. John had played one year with the old Shasta –Trinity side, in 1976, the year after graduating college and before med school.

I was told that the JC traveled a bit light, not much of the A Side, but 20 + players, all young, fit and skilled. Redding had better numbers, but several rookies and one or two who would play their first game on the day.

Brilliant sunshine and a cool day on mostly hard dirt mixed with some grass, we kicked off, and the tension of the long ride whittled away. The first half was played with a high spirit. It was great to see former Elsie Allen Captain Josh Imong back out ruckin’ around, though I teased that he must have been spending too much time at his favorite burrito shop.

The JC got on the board first and converted, then each side traded tries, as the half ended 12-5. Redding’s scrum could dominate the JC, and their centers looked to be able dominate, but never could breakthrough. The JC boys were just too well schooled and played hard. They brought some bad habits (I took exception to bridging and shoulder charges), but they corrected these flaws as soon as I pointed them out.

The second half saw a different tempo. Redding played down, and the JC boys seemed to play down to them. Santa Rosa truly dominated, but only scored when Redding suffered a mental lapse, knocking the ball on in their try zone. Pomo, a big strong runner for the JC broke through everyone, trotting under the posts, only to knock on rather than cleanly dot down. A few minutes later Bali, the JC Captain nearly scored, but came up an inch short. Redding put a few strong moments together here and there (they have a new hooker, a South Africa pharmacist, who was a fun addition to the mix).

From a little knock on by the JC, as Redding was probing just inside the JC’s 22, I called a scrum down to Redding. To everyone’s amusement, Redding’s Andreas Mittry tapped and took off for the try zone. I didn’t reblow my whistle, I was laughing too hard. He was the last to join the scrum, as it formed on the mark I had never moved an inch from.

The JC closed out the Highlanders convincingly enough, but really should have blown them away. The match formerly ended, thank yous were offered, but then (2) more 10-minute periods were played to get the rookies a sweat. And Redding had some greenhorns.

Out of the High School, we all turned up Deschutes Road about 4 miles to Hwy 299, just East to Dry Creek Station. This was truly beautiful country. Wow! And the food, drink and stories shared were nice indeed. I enjoyed chatting with Pete Ray, the Redding contact who told me at the age of 44 he was talked into trying rugby! He is an 8-year veteran today! The new Redding rugger, the SA druggist had scored the only try for his, and his first for the club. He thoroughly enjoyed his size 15E high top boot chug! The JC boys were all still keen to learn more about the game. They spent the last 20 or so minutes grilling me about this and that on the game and how to best improve. It was truly refreshing.

The mostly downhill drive was much easier to take, and though interminably long, the ride was made amusing by my getting to read “Exit 653, Jelly’s Ferry” a second time in the day!


Stanford men –ALUMNI Referee: Jim Crenshaw
Touch Judge: Dixon Smith, Sandy Robertson

I left Sacramento at 6:30 on a very crisp and clear Sunday morning for the Stanford Alumni game. I arrived to find Jonathan Griffin working in the Stanford clubhouse. He informed me the game had been moved from a 10 am start to a 12:30 pm kick off. Dixon and Christine Smith showed up around 9:30 and a little while later, Sandy Robertson arrived. Sandy started the woman's alumni game at 11 am, but I'll let him tell you about that one.

I was afforded the luxury on two excellent touch judges in Dixon Smith and Sandy Robertson, who both did an excellent job of keeping me out of trouble - Thanks Guys!!!!

We kicked off the men's match at 12:30, with a keen, young and fit Stanford side playing against the obviously older more experienced alumni side. The age of the alumni side ranged from new graduates to some who probably graduated in the 60's. Old age and treachery managed to win the day, but the youngster's will and fitness kept them in the game. Trys were scored by both teams in the first 30 minute period, with many long runs stifled inside their opponent's 22 and then repeated at the other end of the pitch. The alumni's kickers had been in this situation before and used as much time to kick as the law allows, so that their compadres could catch their breath and had a couple more opportunities than youngsters. The second 30 minute period proved to be an even match and an even score, with both sides exploiting the weaknesses of the other. The third and last period was a 20 minute affair, with all rookies playing for Stanford against a very experienced alumni side. Big fun was had by all on a warm spectacular day, with the combined total score of 93 keeping your reporter on his toes the whole game.

It was great to see Chris O'Brien helping coach Stanford.
I also saw a number of old friends, including Mike and Dave Yancy, Chip Howard, Denis Shanagher and Tom Pullens among the many Stanford alums.

Stanford 17 – ALUMNAE 51 Referee: Sandy Robertson
Great respecters of tradition, the Alumnae were hard to find as game time approached; player 15 was pulling jersey over head as the ball was kicked off.

The students who were at the pitch in force well in advance, raced to a 17-0 lead at the end of the first period. Periods 2 & 3 were a different story, as the alumnae, bolstered by reinforcements ran in 9 tries against the reserves.


Aruna Ranaweera was invited to referee at a tournament this past weekend.

Kevin McCaslin has taken up the reins of referee development. He invited a number of ‘focus group’ refs, young up-and-comers, to work under his tutelage.

There could be no better, more positive role model for our future national panelists.

Here is Aruna’s report:

Dec 2-3
Scottsdale, AZ

At Kevin McCaslin's invitation, a number of referees from around the country gathered in Arizona to officiate at the annual Wild West Tournament. This was a useful opportunity for some of the "younger development-level" referees (like me) to meet their peers and compare notes. Kevin McCaslin, Jerry McLemore, and John Curry were on-hand to provide referee coaching.

The tournament was played at an impressive new sports facility which featured 8 full-size rugby fields, each with a peculiar dry grass that was obviously well-suited to Arizona's arid climate. The 20-or-so rugby teams in attendance were primarily Division II (LARC, Red Mountain, Tempe) and Division III, but there were a number of social teams as well. All matches except the final were 20-minute halves, running time.

I refereed three matches on Saturday: Red Mountain beat Huntington Beach 13-3, Vandals B beat Landsharks 18-14, and Scottsdale beat Highwaymen 55-0. On Sunday, I refereed one of the mens semifinals, in which Tempe beat Vandals 29-10, that is, 5 tries to 2. Red Mountain beat Tempe in the final, refereed by Mitch Damm (Texas).

Overall, I think this was a fun, educational experience for all of the referees. It was pretty neat to see the different styles of refereeing on display. Kevin McCaslin and his family did an excellent job as hosts.


John Coppinger:

Ray and I did not win the prize for who came the furthest as there were referees from NZ (an American women named Erika Wolf [ewinnz@gmail.com] from Otago, who is an allocator of Otago referees and who encourages NCRFURRS referees to contact her for gigs in Otago), Scotland, England and Spain present.

My family (my wife, Liz, son, Jack, and I) flew out the Tuesday to spend the holiday in Mamaroneck (20 minutes north of NYC).

It poured Thanksgiving Day, but the rest of the weekend was glorious.

Jem McDowell of NY Met RRS was the referee in charge and scheduled some 30+ referees to handle 190 or so matches. I was assigned four matches, three of which were men's college division games and the last of which was a women club match b/w a team from Montreal and a team from Toronto.

The college matches were played on one of the outer pitches and it measured no more than 45 meters by 70 meters, which was fine since all the sides (including the side that ultimately took the division cup) played 15s w/ multiple players committing to every ruck and maul. Kicking ahead and chasing was the favored tactic. Attached is a photo taken in one of my games taken by my wife. Red won the scrum and the ball was passed out to #15, who, despite being marked by one man and having his un-marked scrum half in support, decided to kick one ahead. He did...into my man zone...but I managed to sound the whistle (through inhalation) to stop play for referee obstruction. (This amused my son to no end.)

The college results:

Stony Brook Men 5 (F) Central Conn State Hooligans II 0
SUNY Brockport Doggies 33 UNH White (II) 0
Ottawa Lancers 36 Green Mountain College 12
Central Conn State Hooligans I 26 Green Mountain College 14

I also did the first half of the SUNY Brockport Doggies/Stony Brook match after being pressed into action by the NYRFC organizers in their zeal to keep the tournament somewhat on schedule. This explanation did not satisfy the assigned referee who showed up half way through the first period and took over at half. (He gave the cold shoulder the rest of the day and muttered in Polish a lot.) The end result:

SUNY Brockport Doggies 28 Stony Brook Men 5

The women's match wasn't much better as it was a series of rucks and mauls that wound up being 10-5 for the team for Toronto:

Pumas 10 Squirrels Gone Wild 5

I was then assigned the Plate Final of the Mens Over 40s featuring Morris (NJ) and the Village Lions. The Lions had beaten Morris 31-0 in pool play for the Lions' only win. Morris had managed to score only 19 points in its three matches--all losses. It took a great deal of persuasion from the Lions and the referee to coax Morris on to the sand (but full size) pitch. Despite their reluctance to play, Morris put on a good effort, but the bounce of the ball was such that Village duplicated their pool effort running out 31-0 winners.

I retired to the tent to remove my boots when Jem came running up to ask if I wanted another match, it turned out to be the Plate Semi-Final of the Mens Social:

PLATE SEMI Ottawa Fire Dept 0 Nomades 40

The Nomades are from Montreal and I heard one of them say (in French) "Thank-you sir...but you are an idiot." A first in my refereeing career, which I will treasure.

The assigned referee for the next match failed to turn up and the NYRFC organizers again asked me to handle the match. With fear that I was again displacing my Polish friend (who thankfully didn't show), I agreed and did the Brockport Robots/Brockport Robots Cup Semi. Being a Cup-Semi, the players were anxious and questioning calls, but all in all the best match I handled all day as the players had pace, some skill, and a commitment to play 7s.

CUP SEMI Brockport Robots 21 Brockport Robots 14

Kat T-S was a great coach during these matches (but if I'd have carded everyone Kat thought should be carded, it might have been 2 on 2 for a while).

Brockport went on to lose in the finals.

Everyone (except my family [8 adults and 7 kids], who went to Chinatown for dinner), wandered over to the Premier field for the finals.

I remember that Canadian teams seemed to win everything, except the Women’s Final, which I thought was the best match of the day, with the ball and the players just flying around the pitch. To Kat's disappointment, NYRFC won out over the Town of Mount Royal.

CUP FINAL New York Women 27 TMR Women (Yang) 17

A good post-match function at Connolly's and then up at 8 on Sunday morning to go sailing on the Long Island Sound with the family.

Thanks to the Society for the exchange. It was god fun.

Ray Schwartz:

40th Annual New York 7s
Saturday after Thanksgiving
Randall’s Island

Kat and I have made this trip three times now, but this was my first ever Society Exchange. I was friends and an old teammate to Tom Tani, the former Met-NY Ref Society Pres, but I’m now told he has moved on, following his kids into more mundane activities. Jem McDowell would be the head ref.

We caught the red eye out on Jet Blue and struggled to sleep. Took a rental car from JFK into Midtown where we eventually made our way to a tour of MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art. I enjoy art, in all its forms, and have been to the Getty, the Philadelphia, Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, each several times, to name just a few. But after seeing MoMA, I have to ask myself, “What have I been waiting for?” This collection of modern works was vast and stunning. In fact, we found it so stunning that we never got beyond the 4th and 5th floor, before Kat faded and we took off for New Jersey.

I enjoyed a new and higher understanding of Conceptual Art, for one. The audio assisted tour was of interest, and quite helpful at times. The Museum and its collection represented, to me, a laboratory of learning, a place where the most challenging and difficult art of our time can be measured against the achievements of the immediate past.

Vast collections of Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Dali, van Gogh, Cezanne, Rousseau, Chagall, Klimt, Monet (who knew Water Lilies is over 56’ long?), kept hitting me like relentless waves. The building’s architecture only enhanced every experience. More modern Warhol, Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns proved equally worthy, until I stood blown away by the power and skill of Jackson Pollack’s masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism, “One.”

I had no idea I’d enjoy this piece, or even his work at all. But as this is such a famous painting, I stood by and gave it a chance, inspecting it from all angles, including with my eyeballs just inches from the 9’ x 17.5’ canvas. From an ant’s eye view, if marching across the canvas, the ridges of paint appeared to create waves of mountains and valleys. Eventually, I struggled to leave the room it graced, it being truly difficult to draw oneself away from the painting’s magnetic pull. From MoMA’s Highlights, “Moving around an expanse of canvas laid on the floor, Pollock would fling and pour ropes of paint across the surface…. The way the paint lies on the canvas can suggest speed and force, and the image as a whole is dense and lush – yet its details have a lacelike filigree, a delicacy, a lyricism.”

Nice to be reminded that Kurt Varnedoe had been the Museum’s Director for nearly 20 years. The former NY rugger’s brother Gordon was the B.A.T.S. first President! Never did make it to the 2nd and 3rd floor, where vast works of Frank Lloyd Wright, and numerous others, await our return.

Our gourmet spread at Thanksgiving was worth the 14 hours of sleep I needed to catch up. I raked leaves for my sister in a constant drizzle (leaves and drizzle being things I see little of back home!), as she baked and toiled over the feast to come. Time spent with my mother and brother was too short. Didn’t overeat this year; no nap was needed.

Friday was spent shopping in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square area (I snuck off for a hoagie), and then back to Sout’ Jersey for a cheesesteak, before taking in the exciting new Daniel Craig version of James Bond. Early to bed, with the bags packed and by the door, before the head hit the pillows.

We left my sister’s home in Moorestown at 7:30am, pulling up to the 12 pitches at Randall’s Island just before 9. Games started at 8:20. New York Rugby Club has a great handle on just how to run this size of a tourney, but one field was too soggy, and so matches got shifted around. John Coppinger was already busy, as I kitted up and trotted out to handle White Plains v Morris Old Boys.

Surprisingly the even older White Plains ruggers easily prevailed, controlling possession for near all 14 minutes of play. The Morris guys complaining that, “They actually practice!” Funny how I had played 6 years back in the Met Union before moving to Nor Cal, but from this first game forward, I was routinely reminded that I am best know (in some circles) as, “Hey, you’re a Clown!”

The day was pretty darn nice, cool but sunny. Kat would go off with clipboard and keep herself busy coaching refs along. I was flabbergasted how they didn’t seem to treat 7s any differently than the 15s game out in New York. This might be understandable, as they have just completed about 10 weeks of continuous 15-a-side play, but most refereeing I saw wouldn’t have even been good for 15s. Extremely long advantages, no sense of urgency….

Fields were varying degrees of awful, featuring rocks, glass, an occasional boulder, and even some grass. Some pitches were full sized, while others were shockingly small, as in 50 x 80 meters. Even though there were 200 sides, and tons of games needing to be played, many fields fell way behind schedule, as most refs didn’t seem to care, were never in a hurry, and in fact, seemed to take long notes, rather than get play underway.

There was a Premier Division somewhere, but I got stuck handling 2 men’s, followed by 2 women’s collegiate matches. Players were mostly teenagers. I made the most of it. I then ran touch for Jem, who was handling a high-spirited Social Division match, only to observe a huge brawl break out within minutes, forcing Jem to hand out 3 red cards.

I ran touch for a few lower playoff games, but every match seemed to be a blowout. I didn’t notice a Hero’s Division this year. They have had many top police and firefighting sides compete in the past.

I enjoyed running across Ray Peterson, Managing Director for USA 7s, and shared a long chat with him, gaining much insight into their 5-year contract, and master plan for world domination! Don’t hold your breath, but the 7s Rugby World Cup has got to be played somewhere in 2009. Why not San Diego?! Also had a very nice chat with longtime New Jersey/New York ref Peter Simpson, who remembered me well from my playing days back home. I remembered Peter as a steady, reliable ref, then, and like Dixon Smith, hasn’t seemed to age since the day I met him!

New for this year, the championship games would be played on a field turf facility, and under lights. Thank goodness it was not too windy and chilly. We made our way over, and I finally saw some top rugby. I knew it was here somewhere! I watched the NYAC lose a close one to some Angry Canadians.

The sun set, but lights were slow to come on. With hundreds of people around the pitch, I found it odd that they did not bother to set up a scoreboard and time clock, especially in this otherwise modern day and age. Then I noticed one was built in and available, but ignored.

No one asked me to run touch, though I had offered, so I found the beer, and enjoyed watching, and catching up with some old friends. NY beat Town of Mount Royal (TMR) in a well-played women’s final. And two unknown (to me) Canadian sides faced off in the Men’s Final. The hotel, its showers, and the lobby bar were all adequate. Coppinger joined us for the cab ride to the after-party at Connolly’s Irish Pub, which was right across the street from MoMA, and was fun stuff for hours. Kat’s TMR buddies finally showed up late, but proceeded to help make certain she’d wake up with a hangover.

Sunday in Manhattan was relaxed, with a nice stroll in Central Park, followed by our enjoying the stunning Christmas displays of Bergdorf Goodman and other retailers on 5th Street. Back to JFK for an insufferably long flight home. Thanks go out to our Society for setting this up. Clearly the Met-Union needed help. Jem explained that they hadn’t had enough coverage the year before, and several incidents occurred in matches without regular referees. They wanted more than enough good refs there this time, with the hope that better refs would bring up the level of play. Hope that I helped! Scored a sweet dri-fit tourney polo!


Here’s the wording of the law we will all be struggling with, to one degree or another:

“The referee will call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch and using their outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “pause”. Following a pause the referee will then call “engage”. The front rows may then engage. The “engage” call is not a command but an indication that the front rows may come together when ready.”


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

Referee Level 1: January 21 (tentative), 2007, Sacramento, Matt Eason

Please let the instructor know if you are interested in any of these. Late registrants and even walk-ins can generally be accommodated, but the proper course materials may not be available if you don’t let us know in advance.

Two Beautiful Birds

A purloined but nonetheless beautiful scene.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris