Tuesday, July 24, 2007




Seven people signed up for a room after the Sevens conference at Treasure Island. We have four doubles at a hotel in Foster City, about halfway between Treasure Island and the matches at Palo Alto the next day.

Each room has two queen beds but also a sofa sleeper, so we have room for some others who may want to join.


Three NorCal teams went through to the Nationals at the sole PC Qualifier for 2007: Hayward, Golden Gate and the Olympic Club.

OPSB and Haggis made the trip to Palo Alto to try to qualify, while San Mateo, San Jose and Sacramento also competed.

With three teams advancing, the semi-finals were the key games. In these, Hayward beat the O Club 21 – 7 while Golden Gate, down 5 – 14 at the half, came back to defeat Haggis 19 – 14.

Don Pattalock, in his first season as a referee, was assigned the championship of the national qualifier. We can report that he did not make any mistakes whatsoever and there were no complaints about the job he did: the teams decided not to play.

As both were advancing, Hayward and Golden Gate flipped a coin to decide the two higher of the Pacific Coast seeds (#7 v. #9), Hayward winning.

However, the third place game had to be played for the #13 spot.

OLYMPIC CLUB 14 – Haggis 12 Referee: Pete Smith

This was an exciting, close game throughout.

Referees for the qualifier pool were: Pete Smith, Jim Crenshaw, Mike Gadoua, Don Pattalock, Aruna Ranaweera and John Meyers, here on exchange from the South.

All games were provided a team of five as well as an official scorekeeper.

Touch judges and in-goal judges were drawn from the pool refs as well as the refs on the ‘B’ pitch: Sam Reagle, Sandy Robertson, John Pohlman, John Coppinger, Bruce Bernstein, Isaac Caselis and Bruce Carter.

The scorekeepers/sin bin minders were Dixon Smith and Jake Rubin.

The final weekend of the 2007 Palo Alto Summer Sevens will be August 4, one week before the nationals will be held in Washington state. This will be the last chance for the NorCal teams to tune up.


2007 NAWIRA U19 rugby tournament
George Town, Cayman Islands
July 6-15, 2007

July 6 – Friday

I took a red-eye from San Francisco through Charlotte and Miami to get to Grand Cayman. En route, Cayman Airlines treated me to a view of the green (not red!) Cuban countryside. I was greeted at the George Town airport by Dave, a former Barbados coach, and Aaron Christie, a Jamaican referee who I had met as touch judge at the IRB San Diego sevens in February. All the NAWIRA (North America West Indies Rugby Association) officials stayed at the Comfort Suites hotel near Seven Mile beach, on the west coast of Grand Cayman. Air-conditioning? Check. Wireless internet? Check. HBO? All good.

In the afternoon, The Director of Officials, Roy Harvey (Canada) and Tournament Director Niall Brooks (British Virgin Islands) briefed the officials and outlined their expectations for the tournament. The four referees for the tournament were: Aaron Christie (Jamaica), Larry Mendez (Trinidad and Tobago), Alasdair Robertson (Caymans), and me (USA). The Cayman referee society provided touch judges and number 4/5 officials. USA and Canada take turns sending referees to NAWIRA events, so next month’s NAWIRA senior tournament will include a Canadian referee, but no one from the US. NAWIRA Tournament news, including official match reports are at: www.nawira.com

The winner of the 2007 NAWIRA U19 tournament will play in the 2008 U20 World Trophy, which is like a Tier B World Cup. USA and Canada have already received automatic bids to the U20 World Cup. The top team(s) from the 2008 U20 World trophy will play in the 2008 U20 World Cup. The U19 NAWIRA tournament featured two groups of three teams. Group A: Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados; Group B: Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico. Matches are 35-minute halves with no over-time.

In the evening, we visited the Cayman Rugby Club, which has a nice clubhouse and excellent field. All matches were played there. The original clubhouse was destroyed in 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, but has been rebuilt. They have a locker room with showers, large bar, and big screens with Setanta. Locals, mostly of British descent, show up at the clubhouse in the evening. I even ran into a few Americans who recalled their rugby glory days in the 1970's-80’s.

July 7 – Saturday

We watched most of the Australia versus South Africa Tri-Nations match on Mediazone. (What is that strange new outfit the Wallabies are wearing?)

Barbados 9 (0 tries), Trinidad & Tobago 5 (1 try)
Touch Judges: Alasdair Robertson (Caymans), Ben Cullen (Caymans)

I refereed the first game of the tournament, a contest between Trinidad and Barbados at 3pm in 90F degree heat and humidity. This was a very scrappy game with little continuity: lots of knock-ons. For all matches, the referees had open channel mics, so the touch judges could hear us at all times, which was very convenient. Additionally, the touch judges had transmitters that allowed them to talk to the referee if necessary. Unfortunately, someone mistakenly plugged in my open channel mic into the PA system for the first 5 minutes of my game, so I had to alter my communication style (talk less and lower volume) to avoid creating a cacophony! (Someone unplugged it soon after.) Trinidad played better rugby, but Barbados’ fly-half was able to land difficult long-range penalty kicks, which won the game. The end of the match was dramatic: leading 9-5, Barbados kicked a penalty with no time left on the clock. The ball hit the upright and bounced into the in-goal area where it rolled towards the corner-flag. The Trinidad winger scooped up the ball just before it went out and sprinted down the touchline towards the opposite goal-line. None of the Barbados players could catch him, but as the ball carrier passed halfway, I turned to see my touch judge with his flag up near the 22m. Match over: Barbados won, to Trinidad’s dismay. Overall, I found the style of play more choppy and unpredictable than what I am accustomed to in USA.

In the 5pm match refereed by Larry Mendez (Trinidad), Cayman beat Mexico 21-3.

July 8 - Sunday

At 11am, Roy Harvey held an officials’ meeting to discuss the previous days’ play. Feedback included peer reviews using a checklist designed by Roy. Video of matches were provided for those with PC access. Feedback for my match was positive, but I was asked to provide bigger secondary signals: not a problem.

In the evening, we checked out the famous Seven Mile beach just outside of the hotel. The water is very warm, just like Hawaii, and the beach is narrow. The beachfront was lined with tourists watching the sunset. Overall, Grand Cayman is a tiny island (population 40K), so "downtown" George Town is small. There are many 20-something Canadians living here: apparently it's too cold up north... However, the Cayman dollar is worth US$1.25, so food is expensive. My Caribbean counterparts recommended that I try Jerk Chicken, a local dish. At 11pm at night, the outside temperature was about 80F.

July 9 - Monday

I was touch judge for both matches. Aaron Christie (Jamaica) refereed the 3pm match, in which Guyana beat Barbados, 19-11. Alasdair Robertson (Caymans) refereed the 5pm match, in which debutants Mexico upset Jamaica, 3-0.

July 10 - Tuesday

Officials’ meeting at 11am.

July 11 - Wednesday

Alasdair Robertson (Caymans) refereed the 3pm match, in which Guyana beat Trinidad 31-14. Guyana qualified for the final as the dominant, unbeaten team in group A.

Jamaica 22 (4 tries), Caymans 9 (0 tries)
Touch judges: Larry Mendez (Trinidad), Mark Fagan (Caymans)

I refereed the regional grudge match at 5pm in front of a sizeable, vocal crowd. Jamaica was clearly jolted by their shock loss to Mexico on Monday, so they were hungry for a big win. Jamaica led 7-3 at half and was easily the more aggressive team: their speed out wide was impressive. The Caymans played a more conservative, pick-and-drive style of rugby with a fair amount of kicks for territory. In the end, Jamaica won 22-9. Jamaica needed to win by 11 to qualify for the final, but apparently, neither team properly understood this (some of them knew), so the wrong team (Caymans) celebrated after the final whistle! The organizers quickly announced that Jamaica had, in fact, qualified for the final from group B. This devastated the Cayman supporters, but they showed character by applauding the Jamaican team during its victory lap. I was quite tired after this match: lots of up and down running in the sun.

July 12/13 – Thursday/Friday

Officials’ meeting at 11am. Roy Harvey announced referee assignments for the finals on Saturday. (IRB rules require at least two days rest between the last pool match and the final.) The NAWIRA officials were quite pleased by the announcement that Rugby sevens is to be included in the 2011 Pan-Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

I later went sightseeing by car with Roy Harvey (Canada) and Niall Brooks (British Virgin Islands) around the coast of the island towards Rum Point. Geographically, Grand Cayman reminded me of the west coast of Sri Lanka at Negombo, which is a tourist area similar to the drier parts of Maui. Cayman sits atop a mountainous plateau in the middle of the Caribbean, so a few hundred yards from shore, the ocean floor drops vertically by about 6000 feet!

I went scuba diving off the west coast. Cayman is rated as one of the top scuba locations in the world: there are dive shops all over the island. The ocean floor is beautiful: lots of tropical fish 40 feet down. Warm water is key: no wetsuit required. (Another positive: no sharks.)

July 14 - Saturday

The Director of Rugby Canada, Pearce Higgins, flew in as match commissioner for the finals. The officials went over the tournament rules for a tied match, which would prove very important later in the day. The finals were advertised widely in local radio and newspapers.

We watched most of the New Zealand versus South Africa Tri-Nations match on Setanta at the Clubhouse. (Have the All Blacks peaked too early again?)

Aaron Christie (Jamaica) refereed the 5th place match at 1:30pm, in which Trinidad beat Mexico, 12-6. Larry Mendez (Trinidad) refereed the 3rd place match at 3pm, in which Caymans beat Barbados, 18-7.

Championship Match
Jamaica 14 (2 tries), Guyana 14 (2 tries)
Jamaica won 4-1 on penalty kicks
Touch Judges: Aaron Christie (Jamaica), Jeremy Channon (Caymans)
Assessor: Roy Harvey (Canada)

The much-anticipated final kicked off at 5pm in front of a large crowd of locals and players from the other four teams. Unbeaten Guyana was slightly favored over Jamaica, but the question on everyone’s minds was which Jamaican team would show up: the one that lost to underdog Mexico, or the one that eliminated the host Caymans? From the first whistle, it was clear that Jamaica was here to play and that Guyana had the talent to match. This was an entertaining match with lots of open field running and passing: clearly, the top two teams in the tournament were on the field. Jamaica led 7-0 at half, but would later rue not finishing two more try-scoring opportunities. Both teams tackled like there’s no tomorrow. Jamaica added another converted try to lead 14-0 midway through the second half. Guyana clawed back through their forwards and scored twice off penalty taps to tie 14-14 with 3 minutes left in the match. Both teams scrambled to break the stalemate, but at the final whistle, the score was tied!

As the large crowd waited in hushed anticipation, according to tournament rules, a 5-kick penalty place-kick shootout was held using a format similar to soccer. Both teams made their first kick. Jamaica made their next two, but Guyana missed both. With Jamaica leading 3-1, the fourth Jamaican kicker landed his kick to seal a famous Jamaican victory, 4-1 on penalty kicks. The jubilant Jamaican fans stormed the field as the Guyanese contingent fell to their knees in dismay. www.nawira.com

All teams were awarded NAWIRA medals, but the evening belonged to the Jamaicans who—I am told—partied late into the night. All six teams milled around to congratulate each other: it was a healthy display of sportsmanship by everyone involved. A large crowd of players and supporters stayed on at the Clubhouse. People seemed happy with the final match and Roy Harvey (Canada) said he would provide an official assessment report by mail. Video DVD of all matches will be provided eventually, courtesy Cayman RFU.

July 15 – Sunday

After bidding farewell to my NAWIRA friends, I flew back to USA and arrived in San Francisco at night: drove back to San Jose along 101. (I have to go to work on Monday? Yikes.) Overall, the NAWIRA trip was a fun, productive, educational experience: much thanks to USA Rugby for nominating me for this referee assignment.

Aruna Ranaweera
USA Rugby

July 18, 2007

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