Tuesday, January 29, 2008




Our newest member, Steve Coakley, has been promoted to C3 after having refereed a grand total of two matches in his young career.

Congratulations, Steve.


The NCRRS does everything it can to cover all of the club and college games played in the NCRFU. However, just like all referee societies in the world of which we are aware, we do not have enough members available on the average weekend to cover every game.

We try our best but we will not promise what we cannot provide.

It is common for a referee to do two games on a Saturday, or even three if the high schools are playing early morning. But such games obviously have to be in close proximity.

EVERY TEAM SHOULD HAVE A QUALIFIED REFEREE. The NCRFU has been consistent in supporting this policy for many years now and the Referee Society would like to reiterate it.

When you do not have an assigned referee, or the referee gets lost or gets injured, if you have a referee from your club the match can proceed and the results will count in the standings.

This person can be a player, a coach, a family member, friend or fan. If they have taken and passed the Level One refereeing course, have CIPP, and pay $10 a year to be members of the NCRRS, they are in fact a referee in good standing.

This is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that a referee no-show will not ruin your season.

Contact our recruitment officer, Rob Hendrickson, with the names of those who are interested in taking a course. Once we get enough who can travel to the same location for a day-long course, we’ll schedule one.

Teams really should have a qualified referee among their membership.


This happens every time they change the USA website. They announce something is available and it is not. And we fall for it every time.

The registration system did not allow referees to register last week. Now it does – we know because we ‘registered’ the Fact Checker under the fictitious name of Dick Nibbler, bogus credit card number and all.



A six am wakeup call pulled me from my slumbers to clear dark skies. The weather was predicting rain for the day so the RugbyHog stayed in the barn. I borrowed my wife’s Prius for the 3 hour drive up to Chico with 3 games on the docket.

CHICO STATE women 19 – UC Davis 10 Referee: Sam Davis

We kicked off at 10:30 Chico women and Davis women’s first sides. The field at Chico JH is not the best field in the world but it was a field that we could play on so it was a “good” field. Both teams moved the ball the first 10 mins with Chico scoring on a break away run touching down in the corner with 30 min left in the half. One min later Davis from the kick off drove to Chico’s 22 off sides on Chico gave Davis the opportunity to kick it became 5-3. Davis stayed in their end of the field for the 20 min attacking but not being able to score. From a multi phase play with 10 min left in the half Davis scored and converted under the post. The half ended Davis 10 Chico 5. The 2nd half was a different story Chico scored at the 35 min mark just left of the post and converted Chico played in their side of the field for the next 20 min scoring on a fine multi phase play that broke the center to score under the post. The Kicker converted again with the final score Chico 19, Davis 10

A drink of water and on to the next game

CHICO 24 – Shasta 10 Ref: Davis

Both teams came out to win this game Shasta controlled the first few scrums and were mauling very well. The first ten minutes we were up and down the whole field several times. An off side by Chico on the 22 gave Shasta 3 points. Chico came back five min later to put 7 on the board with a fine multi phase play that went to both sides of the field to score under the post. Shasta fought back getting close to scoring but Chico’s back field came up with the clearing kick that caught Shasta on it heals Chico drove down to the five meter line to scrum down off that scrum scored in the corner. With 9 min left in the half. 2 min later Chico touched it down closer to the post and converted. Shasta was not to be out done and scored with no time left in the half. Chico 19 – Shasta 10 The 2nd half was a battle up and down the field with Chico finally scoring with12 min left in the game final score Chico 24, Shasta 10

A drink of water a change of fields and off to the next game.

SANTA CRUZ Women 36 – Chiavis 0 Ref: Davis

(Chiavis stands for Chico & Davis Combined Side)

Both teams had a number of rookies with some of them this being their first game. Santa Cruz dominated the game by the scoreboard but the play on the field was very competitive. SC scored first with 25 min left in the half, 15 min later they put one under the post the final score of the half went to SC at 2 min. Both teams changed a number of players although it still was very spirited SC scored on three break away runs @ 22, 7,and 5 min marks. Final Score: Santa Cruz 36, Chiavis 0

Great hospitality I was able to get a very cold shower at the JH locker room, change my clothes have a burger with the ladies then off to the End Zone for another burger and beer with the men’s club. I got home about 10 so it was a great rugby day.


Please go to the Society Contacts page on the NCRRS website and make certain that your contact information is up to date:


If you are not there, or your information is not accurate, both the referee society and the various teams will not be able to reach you.

Thank you for taking a moment to check this. If something needs changed, let Scott Wood know:



Some fancy footwork and rapid recovery were necessary to secure appropriate level matches for two exchange referees from Minnesota this past weekend on no-notice.

Three matches at Stanford were laid on, one for each exchangee and one for their videographer. These were confirmed on Thursday morning.

Imagine the surprise of the visitors and the consternation of their hosts when all arrive to a dry pitch on a beautiful sunny morning, 66 degrees – and all three matches apparently having been canceled with no notice to anyone but the opponents.

Three referees volunteered to give up their own matches without a second thought: Pete Smith, Dave Pope and Roberto Santiago. It proved not to be necessary for Dave to forego his game, and our friends both got in a good run.

We are very proud that our society has such selfless members and are happy to recognize them by name.


Last week showed some glaring defects in our systems. We had, at the same time: Sam Davis doing three full games; several games played with no ref at all; the high school tournament in Sacramento having to press coaches into refereeing to cover almost a hundred game; probably six or eight available referees with no game at all.

When your game is canceled, even at the last minute, call Pete Smith or Bruce Carter. You will be directed to a game that needs a ref. Please, don’t ever assume that because your game got scrubbed there are no others. There are always rugby games that need refs, and more and more teams have discovered the wherewithal to play despite the elements.

Especially on a day like last Saturday, when it was warm and dry and games were canceled anyway.



CALIFORNIA 84 – UC Santa Cruz 3 Referee: Pete Smith
Touch Judge: Eric Rauscher


Cal Maritime – San Jose State CANCELED
This was not because of the weather; SJSU has just returned to classes this week and did not have numbers at training.


SFGG Super League 14 – HAYWARD 31 Referee: Tony Redmond

A bruising encounter at times where the greater physical impact of the Hayward pack eventually ground down the lighter SFGG team. The score was 14-14 at half time with the game bubbling up, which resulted in two yellow cards in the last three minutes of the half. The second half saw Hayward turn their forward dominance into scores and they eventually touched down three more times to run out comprehensive, if not easy, winners.

San Mateo 0 – OLYMPIC CLUB 26 Referee: Brad Dieringer (Minnesota)
Touch Judges: Roberto Santiago, Pete Smith
Assessor: Bryan Porter

Minnesota is understandably well out of season. Brad has been Nordic skiing to stay in shape and had planned on refereeing Stanford and Sac State.

On short notice he was given charge of two of the best men’s clubs in the country, San Mateo and the Olympic Club, with Bryan Porter there to observe.

On the bright side, he had no time for nervousness!

It was a pleasure to watch a referee do well with an unexpected opportunity.

The Olympic Club is working together well. They attack at pace and from many angles and seem to be in good early form to make another run at the nationals.

Seconds: San Mateo 7 – OLYMPIC CLUB 36 Referee: Leah Berard (Minnesota)
Touch Judges: Roberto Santiago, Brad Dieringer

If Brad was thrown into the deep end, his wife Leah was dropped far out at sea without any survival gear.

She is a new C2 whose highest-level men’s match prior to this was Midwestern D3.

By all reports she did a fine job and by the evidence on her face she enjoyed the experience.

These two will have a good story to tell in the future, how the Pelican Refs sand-bagged them on their assignments.

SACRAMENTO LIONS 29– Diablo Gaels 8 Referee: Don Pattalock
Touch Judge: Jim Crenshaw

Florin Reservoir (aka Danny Nunn Park) looked better than it actually was. The pitch was slippery everywhere where there wasn't standing water. Lions simply wore down the Gaels in tight. Neither team seemed overly excited about the less than coveted "NorCal Cup"; instead both are focusing on the second half of the season which will count towards the CR1 playoffs.

Seconds: Sacramento Lions – Diablo Gaels CANCELED

SEAHAWKS 60 – SF/Golden Gate 12 Referee: Dave Pope
Touch Judges: Pete Smith, Bruce Carter

The field was moved a couple of times. I was on, then off, then on again as the referee, and we had to change fields at halftime. Good thing, because we had a game of rugby. I'd like to thank the Hayward team for allowing the teams to use the Hayward fields.

In the game itself, the experienced Seahawk side proved too much for the young but game SFGG team. The Seahawks managed 10 tries, 6 converted to 2 tries, 1 converted for SFGG. Maybe the most notable incidents were one terrific pass and one terrible pass, both thrown by the same player, PelicanRefs own James Hinkin.

On the terrific pass, James was stopped about a meter from the line, in contact with several defenders and inches from hitting the ground for what seemed an inevitable ruck and recycle. Suddenly the ball appeared in the hands of an oncoming Seahawk who scored untouched, and mostly unnoticed. For the terrible pass, James attempted an off balance 30m skip pass that only managed to go about 20m straight into the hands of an SFGG center. The SFGG center then performed a perfectly executed kick and chase to score under the posts. Unfortunately for James, this pass was seen by everyone.

Seconds: Seahawks – SF/Golden Gate CANCELED

Fresno 5 – EAST PALO ALTO 45 Referee: Paul Bretz

EPA visited Fresno and provided them with lots of opportunities to tackle.

Unfortunately they failed and allowed EPA to score 45 points. EPA capitalized on turnover ball and spun the ball wide with abandon. EPA's scrum also did well taking 3 tight-heads in the first 3 scrums of the match.

Fresno did manage to find the try line once off of a lineout and rolling maul. Final score EPA 45, Fresno 5.

Seconds: Fresno 12 – EAST PALO ALTO 24 Ref: Bretz

EPA's seconds also won their match.

EPA has a young side and have bolstered their ranks with 5 former Mission players.

EPA could destroy the division 2 competition if they can find a way to play with composure and discipline. Too often they spun it wide and isolated players. Had Fresno's defense been more organized they could have capitalized on the choices EPA made.

Arroyo Grande 7 – SACRAMENTO 65 Referee: Tony Broom

Report by Mason Gunn:

Mr. Ranaweera was out due to injury so Arroyo found Tony Broom a SoCal ref that only lived an hour away to do the game. No B-side game due to field conditions although the weather and the field couldn’t have been in better shape (60 mph winds the night before helped dry it out). Arroyo had to make the call on Thursday and after getting their annual rainfall in the 4 previous days decided to err on the side of caution. 10 tries for Sac 1 for Arroyo no cards for either team. Tony gave the match card to Bo Kelly to give to me and said the winning team needs to send it in because they’re less likely to change it, where do you want me to send it?

[Editor’s Comment: Note incomplete redaction augments verisimilitude.]

Seconds: Arroyo Grande – Sacramento Capitals CANCELED

SANTA ROSA 20 – BA Baracus 7 Referee: Joe Leisek
Touch Judges: Bjorn Stumer, John Tomasin
For Pete's Sake Field, Santa Rosa

The first league match for both teams was played on a pitch that held up very strongly through torrential rains. No rain today, though, as the hosts started off well. A halftime score of two tries and one conversion, plus a penalty kick, was evidence of their performance. They would have had a third try had it not been nullified in favor of a penalty. The second half was a more defensive-oriented period. Overall, Santa Rosa proved very adept at creating opportunities out of broken play. Baracus ran and tackled hard, but could not make much headway against the host's tough backline defense.

Thanks to Bjorn and Doc for their excellent help.

Seconds: SANTA ROSA 24 – BA Baracus 17 Referee: Bjorn Stumer

The gods of Rugby smiled again and not a drop of rain fell on two matches hosted by Santa Rosa at their "For Pete's Sake" field. The Santa Rosa vs. Baracus A side matches were ably conducted by Joe Leisek, while I refereed the B-sides, two competitive teams hungry for work. At first it seemed that Santa Rosa would walk away with an easy one, but Baracus begged to differ fighting hard throughout the match and giving back all that Santa Rosa threw their way.

The soft pitch underfoot make ball handling hard, but did not preclude some fine runs by both sides. Had Baracus brought a few more players along the story might have been different; as it stood Santa Rosa put in four tries, two of which converted. Baracus was not far behind with three tries, one of which converted, and of which scored right before the final whistle. Final score: Santa Rosa B 24 - Baracus B 17.

Vacaville – Humboldt CANCELED

Vallejo – Reno CANCELED

Petaluma – Stanislaus CANCELED

Marin 11 – MISSION 32 Referee: Dan Wilson

Evaluator: Mike Malone

After many urgent, last minute emails between Marin and Mission on Friday trying to determine if and where the game was to be held, Marin finalized the all-weather field at Tamalpais High School. In what turned out to be a beautiful day, the field itself could not have been any better. Under partly cloudy skies, Marin kicked off and controlled things in the early stages of the game. Marin had an unconverted try in the fifth minute, and then a penalty kick in the ninth minute. Mission got on board with their own unconverted try in the twentieth minute. Neither team seemed to have the ability to stay onside at the rucks and mauls and Marin’s backs seemed to think that the ten-meter spacing at lineouts was a foreign concept. They each had a few line breaks but closer to the end of the first half, Mission started to put its maul to good use. Even though Marin added a penalty kick in the thirty-sixth minute, Mission spend the last three minutes inside Marin’s 22-meter line, pushing over an unconverted try in extra time. Half-time score, Marin 11 and Mission 10.

The second half started with a bang for Mission. In the 49th minute, they added a penalty kick, but then scored a converted try just a minute later after they took advantage of their overlap on the outside. Three minutes later, Missions winger was able to pick up loose ball and had a good 60-meter sprint for another converted try. Mission finished off the scoring in the 60th minute with an unconverted try from a maul by their number 5. While Mission showed that their pace and fitness was a big difference at times, their strategic kicking and poor ball handling or decision making with those kicks by Marin was the overall difference. Things started to get difficult for Mission in the last quarter due to repetitive high tackling which resulted in three yellow cards. For a three-minute span, Mission was down to 13 players on the pitch. Unfortunately for Marin, they could not get the game to be played in Mission’s side of the field even when a man up in the last quarter. Final score: Marin 11, Mission 32.

Thanks need to be sent out to Mike Malone for his half-time commentary and suggestions as well as realistic and practical comments and suggestions overall. Positioning suggestions immediately helped in the second half allowing flow to be more fluid.

BERKELEY 28 – Aptos 3 Referee: John Coppinger
Job Corps Pitch, Treasure Island

To everyone's surprise, there was no rain and the field, although slippery in spots, was generally free of standing water. (The northern portion of the field between the 22 and goal-line was flooded to an inch, may be two inches, of standing water, but no one drowned.) The only real complaint about the field was the lack of end-lines. I used the end of the grass as the end-line. Of course the first Berkeley try was scored on a turn-over and break-away-behind the sawdust bale covering the grate in the south in-goal [you can't make this stuff up] and Aptos was not happy with the try being awarded. Good news is that Fog are going to reseed this week and no one will use the field for 3 weeks. Hopefully, Fog will get grass from their efforts and they will remember to add the end-line.)

Aptos struggled with discipline giving up penalties at a rate of two to one and resulting in two yellow cards (one for professional foul and one for stamping), five of which were converted for points via penalty kicks.

Good day, fun all around.

Thanks to Rich Anderson for running touch.

Old FOGgies – Silverhawks Referee: ???

CHICO STATE 15 – UC Davis 7 Referee: Scott Wood

Location: Chico Jr. High School Gopher Jamboree Grounds
Weather: Threatening but no rain falling
Pitch conditions: Narrow, uneven, reminiscent of California's highways with its numerous subterranean rodent holes

This is always a highly contested and exciting match. Both teams are so evenly matched, albeit with different styles, that the outcome is rarely apparent until the final whistle. I am amazed at the number of times I hear or read that the result was an upset. Two weeks ago, UC Davis beat Chico State by five points. This outing resulted differently but by nearly the same margin.

The match featured inventive play by both sides but overall managed to stay between the 22s. Both teams suffered from penalties at tackles and rucks. Chico scored from a lineout ten meters from the goal line prior to going into the half leading 7-0. The second half opened with Chico in possession but Davis containing the home side to near midfield. An offside penalty by Davis' back line led to Chico's converted goal to bring its lead to 10-0. Davis was not deterred by the scoreline and mounted several valiant attempts coming within meters of scoring. Chico was able to turnover the ball and sped down the field scoring off a selfless act of passing to bring the lead to 15-0. With ten minutes remaining, Davis again attacked through its forwards and backs. The narrow pitch did not help the Aggies as they were forced to touch on several potential try-scoring runs. Five minutes to go and Chico ended up losing a man to the sin bin for repeated infringements. The overlap gave the visitors the necessary advantage to score off a nice scissor pass. The converted kick cut the Wildcats' lead to eight points. Davis remained on the attack until the final whistle.

Seconds: CHICO STATE 42 – UC Davis 20 Referee: Dan Lacko

Stanford 2 – Olympic Club 3 CANCELED

Stanford – Sac State CANCELED

Stanford women – Belmont Shore CANCELED

Humboldt State – USF Referee: ???

We also do not know who refereed this match. John Pohlman could not keep the appointment due to an injury and a replacement could not be found on a few days’ notice.

SANTA ROSA JC 31 – Diablo Gaels U23, 7 Referee: Preston Gordon
For Pete's Sake Field, Santa Rosa

Luckily the rain stopped early Saturday morning, so the pitch wasn't waterlogged, but just a little slippery underfoot. Diablo's full team only turned up about 10 minutes before kickoff, whereas SRJC was ready and warmed up much earlier.

There was lots of back-and-forth rucking, forward drives, and pick-and-goes in this game. In the 5th minute, one of the Diablo backs picked off a floating pass at about the halfway line and scored untouched. It took SRJC 10 more minutes to open their account, scoring a converted try from a forward move. They added two more converted tries and a penalty goal in the first half (halftime score 24-7, with one yellow card on each side).

The second half was more of the same, except that the ball was being chucked around in the backline a bit more. SRJC notched one more converted try in the 49th minute (an interception much like the one at the beginning of the game) but that was to be the end of the scoring.

The final 30 minutes were marred by sloppy play, knock-ons, and errant passes as the players got more tired. The pitch was getting a little bit torn up by then too, which didn't help much. Tempers flared on a couple of occasions towards the end but there was nothing more serious to deal with than a bit of handbags. Final score: 31-7 to SRJC.

UCSC – Santa Clara Referee: CANCELED

Seconds: UCSC – Santa Clara CANCELED

UNR women 5 – CALIFORNIA 38 Referee: Anna McMahan

It was a bright brisk day in Reno for the UNR vs Cal women's league match, and the turf field was clear and well set up. UNR had to start the match down one player, and quickly was reduced to 13 players by a serious knee injury. Despite their depleted roster, UNR played with heart, and both teams played with discipline. Cal dominated the game with three tries in each half, primarily scored through their speedy outside backs due to numbers overloads. UNR's cover defense played admirably, and their scrum dominated Cal's a few times in spite of fewer players in. UNR's only score came after a long phase of staunch goal-line defense by Cal, when the UNR scrumhalf scooped up a bobbled ball from the Cal scrum and scored.


Report from 24th Annual Kick Off Tournament
Granite Regional Park, City of Sacramento
January 26 & 27

by Ray Schwartz, Kick Off Tournament (KOT) Director,

Referee in Charge: Sam Reagle
Ref Coaching: Dave Williamson, Kat Todd-Schwartz, Sam Reagle, others
Visiting refs: Andrew Petti, Dion Roach, Cam Wilton (all Alberta), John Lawson & Dan Hattrup (ERRFU).

Pelican refs in attendance included Jim Roberts, JC van Staden, Chris Tucker, Matt Eason, Don Pattalock, Bryant Byrnes, Jackie Fink, Mike Villierme, Rod Chance, Steve Gray, Russ Wilkening, Jim Crenshaw, Bruce Carter and relative newcomers Chris Young, Mark Godfrey, Dave Heath, Phil Ulibarri, plus Jim Reed, who apparently did quite well, and Brian Schnack who reffed his first match ever, a muddy 25-minutes of girl-on-girl action!

Waves of rain wreaked havoc on plans for an enormous High School Rugby tournament, held over the weekend at Granite Park. 72 teams were expected to attend and play over 100 matches. KOT Event organizers met with City Parks people at Noon on Friday to receive a blessing to move ahead with the event. However, one of 5 fields was removed from availability. Two sides from San Francisco choose to not chance the weather and pulled out of Saturday’s competition. Competitions Director Ray Thompson stayed up half the night and carefully reworked the schedule.

Early arriving refs, including our three from Alberta, enjoyed dining Friday night at a neighborhood gem featuring fine Italian cuisine, Mamma Susanna’s, located near Sac State. Rain stopped failing at about midnight Friday.

Saturday’s sunrise was a brilliant omen, as the day turned out to be lovely, chilly at times, and certainly a bit muddy in spots. Two-time defending KOT champs Jesuit beat Mahu Latu and Murdo Nicholson’s new club San Mateo, 21-0, in the Finals of a thrilling Varsity Gold 8-team competition. Jesuit fields a second varsity side locally, and it was Jesuit II who beat a well-organized Santa Rosa side in the 8-team Varsity Silver Final. Marin Highlanders took the 6-team Varsity Bronze. A 6-team Varsity International competition played off into finals for Sunday. Saturday also featured some B Side (JV) games, one collegiate exhibition (Willamette v McGeorge), an Old Boys game (SOBs v Bald Eagles).

Age-Grade Eagle coaches Paul Barford and Salty Thompson were on hand to scout talent, encouraging them to attend the coming Skills Clinic at TI March 15/16. Eagle Mark Griffin of www.playrugbyusa.com led free clinics for Junior High and U12s. Eagle Chris Osentowski, recently named the USA Rugby West Coast High Performance Scrum Specialist, offered, in conjunction with local coach Ben Parker, hi-tech scrum coaching sessions. Several TV stations were on site filming features. Pat Guthrie of MediaZone brought Matt Brown up from LA to film the next installment of “Brownie’s Bunker.” A virtual village of food concessionaires, vendors and Universities hoping to recruit area ruggers rounded out the scene.

More rains fell Saturday night, as the Pelicans retired to Hoppy Brewing for the 3rd Annual KOT Referee’s Banquet. Conditions forced Parks and Event organizers to make some hard decisions early Sunday. Another field was removed from play, while the Championship Field was shortened and re-configured. Of course this meant the schedule needed to be modified again. Early Sunday morning was a scramble.

Many clubs in the scheduled B Side, Girls, Frosh/Soph and Junior High competitions had to give up one of their three scheduled matches, and so were unable to play to expected championships. Priority was give to clubs traveling in for the event from across Northern California. The sun cracked the sky twice, but waves of wind and chilly rain were more the norm. Spirits remained high as fun was shared by all in attendance.

Varsity International (VI) Finals saw Beaverton (Ore.) beat PITS for the Bowl, Edmonton Celtics beat locals Rio Rugby in a hard fought Plate Championship, while Christian Brothers defeated a challenging side from Kearns, Utah, 23-17, in a thrilling VI Cup Championship match. Kearns appeared to be capable of physically dominating play, but fielded no substitutes, as a well-coached Christian Brothers side broke through to score several tries, and held strong with a long goal line stand near the end of the match. Former rugger and San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl winner Dan Bunz, no stranger to goal line stands, was on hand to award CB’s Eric Litchenberger the VI MVP medal, hard-earned through his role in the game’s best defensive plays.

KOT Organizers, all local clubs, and indeed the entire Northern California rugby community are eternally grateful to City Parks for helping us get this event off. To have pulled the plug on the KOT would have saved the fields much “repairable stress” but would have proved a tragedy to organizers, as well as a disappointment to attending teams. The positive messages sent to parents and young athletes throughout the weekend were more than a fair trade for the patches of grass in need of being reworked.

A special thanks goes out to the Sacramento Area Managed Marriott Hotels who put up event referees, on the promise the KOT would put traveling sides into their beds. This worked out very well for all concerned!

Should anyone in Pelicanland like a dry copy of our referee-friendly, wonderfully reviewed KOT Program (64-page, full color, with centerfold pullout poster of the iRB “Try of the Year!”), please email your ship-to address to vanillagorillaray@sbcglobal.net

Minnesota Visitors
Pete Smith, Steve Coakley, Brad Derringer and Leah Berard from Minnesota, Bruce Carter, Roberto Santiago and Dave Pope smile for lensman Mike Strain at the Mt. Eden Park pitch in Hayward.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Tuesday, January 22, 2008




The registration process for USA Rugby has been redesigned and implemented. If you have not yet signed up for 2008, you can do so now:



February is little over a week away. We’ve heard from 21 refs, which means we haven’t heard from about forty others. UNLESS YOU SAY YOU ARE AVAILABLE ON A SPECIFIC SATURDAY WE CANNOT RISK ASSIGNING YOU A GAME. And we cannot make a schedule at all from 21 refs, especially since some of them responded to say that they were not available.

Please reply whether you can referee each of the following weekends, and whether you can travel to a distant game:

Feb 2 Yes/No Travel? Sunday, Feb 3: Two games in Reno
Feb 9 Yes/No Travel?
Feb 16 Yes/No Travel?
Feb 23 Yes/No Travel? Sunday, Feb 24: Two games in Moraga


This past weekend we watched three different referees give yellow cards and send the miscreants to stand on the dead-ball line.

We have to ask: why? The Lawbook certainly doesn’t say so.

Entertain an analogy for a moment. Another referee gave a free kick because a line-out player of the non-throwing team was standing farther from the touchline than any opponent. Other refs thought this was funny.

Both situations are equally ‘funny’, and for the same reason: they have no basis in Law. The referee made something up.

“Oh”, but you rejoin, “The Law used to say…” The Law used to say trys were three points. The Law used to say you could have a standing tackle. The farther you go back the more it ‘used to say’. It probably used to be written in Latin if you go back far enough (ah – those were the days!).

The point is: the Lawbook says nothing about where players should serve their ten minutes. It only says that they interval is ten minutes. There are no USA Guidelines concerning this for the simple reason that there are no USA Guidelines at all. It has been some years now since the players had to go stand in the corner, as it were.

When you have a fourth official, send players who receive yellow cards to that worthy. When you do not have a #4, just tell them to leave for ten minutes. They can go wherever they want as long as they stay out of trouble and they don’t play any rugby.


Wednesday, January 16:
CALIFORNIA 99 – Humboldt State 5 Referee: John Coppinger
Touch Judge: Eric Rauscher

OLYMPIC CLUB 48 – Hayward 19 Referee: Paul Bretz
O Club defeated Hayward 48-19 @ the famed Polo grounds in Golden Gate Park. Up until the 75th minute the score was 48-5. O Club dominated most every facet of the game, particularly fitness. O Club had a few new faces including a graduate from SDSU who had a good outing as the # 7.

Seconds: OLYMPIC CLUB 39 – Hayward 17 Referee: Sam Davis
It was another beautiful day on the Rugby HOG going to the Polo fields to ref O club 2nd vs. Hayward 2nd. Upon my arrival I noticed that Hayward did not look like they had a 2nd team. I looked a bit closer and confirmed that they had a couple of people for the 2nd team and the first team would be playing again. It was decided that they would do 3 – 30 min periods with free subs to get everyone to play it looked like O club had 25 guys to play. Hayward had about 4 fresh ones.

O club looked very strong as they kicked off making their first score at the 26 min mark in the corner. Hayward came back on a break and scored at the 22 min mark. O club put a try in both corners with rolling maul at the 20 & 18 min mark. Hayward came back with a nice breakaway to dot the ball under the post and converted the try with 10 min left. The last score of the half O club was off a multi phase play that scored with no time left. Half time score O club 20 Hayward 12 Hayward scored first in the second half on a miss pass by O club at 26 min the rest of the game O Club controlled the tempo dominating in ruck, maul, scrum and lineout. O club scored at the 18, 14, & 8 min mark converting two. Final score O club 39 – Hayward 17 the third period I did not keep score.

SAN MATEO 29 – Sacramento Lions 13 Referee: Chris Draper
Videographer: Bruce Carter

The new San Mateo high school team was on hand to watch, having played Woodside earlier in the day. Coach Mahu Latu, who himself played at the Grizzly level as a teenager, was rightly proud of this new side.

Chris Draper flew out from Texas for a game to help prepare for his assignment refereeing at the IRB Sevens in San Diego next month. He wanted the ‘fastest game available’. At the last minute, he got it.

Both teams spent time retreating and recovering balls that had somehow ended up on the ground behind them, disrupting the flow of the passing game to say the least. After a back-and-forth half, it was 10-all.

The Lions took the lead with a penalty kick midway through the second half and that seemed to shake the rust off of the home team, who scored a try from the restart. Then another try.

To top it off, with little time left a very ‘fast game’ ensued.

Sacramento were attacking inside San Mateo’s 22. A mishandled pass allowed San Mateo’s #11 to cherry-pick a hanging ball. There was an eighty-meter dash among five people: #11, three Lions in hot pursuit, and the referee, all reaching the goal-line together. The ball-carrier was tackled just short but his arms were just long enough, all five players together in a very tight frame.

Seconds: San Mateo – Sacramento Lions Referee: Bruce Carter
The Lions did not have a second side, but promised more numbers as the season progresses.

SFGG SL 48 – Diablo Gaels 10 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Referee Coach: David Williamson
Touch Judges: Roberto Santiago

55F degrees and partly cloudy: about right for a pre-season tune-up. SFGG started with a bang and led 26-0 at half. Both teams experimented with personnel and set-plays, but SFGG's overall execution was more structured and crisp. Trailing 36-0 midway through the second half, Diablo scored a nifty drop-goal and converted try to close within 36-10 before SFGG's adventurous backs decided to step back on the gas.

Much thanks to Roberto for helping as TJ and Dave Williamson for providing post-match feedback.

Sacramento Capitals – Provo Referee: Jim Crenshaw
No report received.

SANTA ROSA 22 – Reno Zephyrs 19 Referee: Steve Gray
Referee Coach Jake Rubin

Shasta – McGeorge No Referee Available

Mission 29 – VACAVILLE 48 Referee: Giles Wilson

Well, Saturday's a rugby day and so this turned out. Travel with HS team to Morgan Hill to play a Live Oak team who should be pretty competitive this year and then hustle to Palo Alto for Mission and Vacaville.

Arriving much closer to game time than is advisable and seeing the visitors warming up with a decent size crew; the home team seemed to number 7 at that point. A little while later and Mission were up to 11 and with 4 borrowed players we got going on a decent field - El Camino Park.

Mission got on the board first with a prodigious drop goal from Joe Domine but that was to be their sole score for the first half. Vacaville were lively and everyone handled well - they put together 4 first half tries converting two. Over the course of the half the Mission Fijian contingent meandered in and joined play on the field. They managed to make the game ebb and flow more but this was their warm up time.

In the second half Mission started to work their way back from the 24 - 3 deficit and did an impressive job for 20 minutes; working their way back with 3 converted tries against a lone Vacaville penalty to a 3 point gap at 27 - 24. The teams then swapped tries (Vacaville converted while Mission did not) before the back breaker - a set play saw a Vacaville flanker crash through the middle at half way and feed off to the larger prop who demonstrated a side step and impressive speed to make 30 meters; as he was being caught the other prop arrived in support and a good pass put him in easily from 20 m. It was now 41 - 29 and with a final converted try for Vacaville we finished at 48 - 29.

SF Fog 17 – VALLEJO 33 Referee: Rob Hendrickson

Vallejo is the real deal in this their first season. They used their kicking game effectively to keep the Fog backed up and to create turnover balls. With a little more discipline, their athletic abilities are going to make them a contender. Missing some of their veterans, the Fog found itself struggling and just a little off from their usual crisp passes, and therefore had problems getting past Vallejo's hard tackling.

UC DAVIS 44 – Nevada 12 Referee: Joe Androvich

Seconds: UC DAVIS 40 – Nevada 12 Referee: Chris Tucker
Referee Coach: Kat Todd-Schwartz

Two groups of fairly inexperienced ruggers formed up into a hard-fought and entertaining match. UCD had a few older heads who took the game in hand, with the defensive structure of the Nevada side too often lacking. 8 tries was the result, although some spirited play in the second half gave Nevada something positive to take away. UCD's 0 for 8 kicking performance by 3 different kickers gave this ref cause to reflect that maybe he still has something over the young guns...

CALIFORNIA 82 – Stanford 15 Referee: John Pohlman
Touch Judges: Eric Rauscher, Tom Zanarini

What a beautiful day for rugby. Driving up to Witter Field at University of California Berkley I reflected on how great it is to referee rugby in the San Francisco Bay area.

My first league game had Cal. hosting Stanford. Witter Field has to be one of the highlight pitches to run on. And the drive through Berkeley on a Saturday morning is at the least interesting.

The tradition of the Cal and Stanford rivalry. Division One Men's Rugby league match. What an honor.

The day was setting up perfectly. Fellow referees Eric Rauscher and Tom Zanarini had agreed to run touch. We all went down to the football field for boot check and coin toss at 12:30.

National Anthem, a few hundred fans, 1:00 O'clock kickoff.

Cal elected to kickoff. Cal won the ball and proceeded to start their drive to defend the National Championship. Cal looked like a high-power weed whacker, cutting everything down in its path on the way to the tryline. Cal scored their first of seven trys in the first half at 1 minute and 31 seconds.

Stanford gave a strong effort all day long. This looks like the best Stanford team I have seen.

Stanford slotted on a penalty in the first half. Half time score 45-3.

Cal received the second half kickoff and scored at 1 minute 31 seconds.

Stanford scored two second half trys.

Cal was simply overwhelming in all aspects of the game. Their forward and backs cleaned out rucks with numbers. Their back and forwards took turns finishing tries.

Final: 82 (fourteen tries)-15 (two tries)

I want to thank the players for playing the game in good sprit. No taunting or excessive celebration. Just class, discipline and toughness on both sides.

Seconds: CALIFORNIA 100 – Stanford 0 Referee: Tom Zanarini

Despite the score Stanford B's fought hard through the entire match, never backing down from the challenge. I'm looking very forward to Cal v. Stanford in 2010.

ST. MARY’S 46 – Chico State 11 Referee: Pete Smith
No report received. Score courtesy of eRugbyNews.com

Seconds: St. Mary's 21 – CHICO STATE 46 Referee: Bryant Byrnes

St. Mary's lovely field on a dry warm day: two fit, fast, and enthusiastic teams met the Object of the Game; ''...observing fair play and a sporting spirit, scored as many points as possible.'' They ran all day; a track meet/ marathon. (Also, thanks to Pete Smith for touch judging and good advice.)

At half it was 12 to 7 for Chico. And then the lads really opened it up for the final (and better) 40 minutes. With six minutes left, it was a Chico up by one point-26 to 27. Chico had a teaspoon more of gas in the tank at the end and scored twice to keep the win.

What we would like to see-the bull tethered to the bear. This is a variation on an old California tradition. Take the most loquacious coach from each team-say John Everett and Mitch Jagoe-and cuff them to each other. The resulting dialogue and bellows: priceless.

Sacramento State – Western Oregon CANCELED

U. of San Francisco 53 – SANTA ROSA JC 14 Referee: Cary Bertolone

My regularly scheduled game was USF against the visiting SRJC at 3:00 PM at the beautiful Negaesco Stadium in San Francisco. The USF coach mentioned he was lucky to have a full side as school hadn't started yet, etc.

For all of that and the fact that the USF team played one player down for 20 minutes of the first half (from two yellow cards-tackle in the air on kickoff and high tackle on non-ball carrier), USF hung in there and played valiantly throughout most of the game. The score was 26-7 at the half.

In the second half, SRJC found itself with only 13 players on the field for about 8 minutes (from two high tackles), but USF couldn't take advantage. SRJC was able to maintain a lot of possession and pound the ball in for a total score of 53-14.

DIABLO GAELS U23, 32 – UC Santa Cruz 11 Referee: Sandy Robertson

UCSC was able to keep the Gaels in check for a half--maintaining possession, making breaks and went into the break up 6-0. The 2nd half was a different story as the Gaels controlled the ball, got it wide and put 5 tries on the board.

SANTA CLARA 23 – Cal Maritime 18 Referee: Don Pattalock

The kicking was the difference in this match. CMA came out on fire and scored two trys within the first 12 minutes with the help of some suspect defense by SCU. SCU found their legs and managed a try before half-time. The second half was a mirror opposite of the first half; SCU had the possession and pressure early scoring 2 trys; CMA attacked hard in the last 15 minutes scoring one try from a tighthead steal. CMA left 2-3 trys on the pitch out wide when their handling let them down with space to burn. SCU kicked 2 penalties and 1 conversion while CMA managed only one penalty.

Seconds: Santa Clara University 0 – California Maritime Academy 15
Ref: Pattalock

Only one way to characterize this match: Handbags. The teams were more worried about pushing each other to show how tough they were rather than playing rugby.

High School jamboree, Will Rogers Middle School
Referees: Rod Chance, Mark Godfrey, Chris Young, Colin Wallace
Referee Coach: Sam Reagle

This was a fiasco, marred by disputatious team officials.


Stanford played mix-and-match with their roster Saturday, yielding a 1 – 2 record in the round-robin and eighth place out of twelve teams.

Sunday matters were put aright as they went through three knock-out games without ceding a single point.

Out-of-state teams were Oregon State, Western Washington and Colorado. SoCal was represented by UCSD, UCLA and UCSB.

The NorCal contingent was Stanford, two sides from Chico, Cal, Humboldt State. One team escapes memory at the moment…

Referees: Scott Wood, Bruce Bernstein, Bryant Byrnes, Steve Coakley, Preston Gordon, Sandy Robertson, JC Van Staden, Bjorn Stumer, and Matt Poteraj, an ERRRS referee visiting with his daughter, who plays for CU.

Referee Coaches: Mike Malone, David Williamson, Bruce Carter

If the name Coakley is new to you, it’s because Steve Coakley is new to us. Steve, his wife Tara and their due-in-March first baby recently moved here from Dubai.

Steve works for VISA and will be here for several years at least. He worked his first two games ever on Saturday and showed a lot of promise.

STANFORD 31 – California 0 Referee: Preston Gordon


SFGG 24 – Del Oro 15 Referee: Roberto Santiago

This was close game between two evenly matched sides. Del Oro took a 15-14 lead at 46:22 but the home team took the lead six minutes later and then scored an insurance try with two minutes left despite playing a man down for the last fifteen minutes. Overall the game was played at a high level though it was marred towards the end by some extracurricular activities.

JV game: SF/Golden Gate 12 – DEL ORO 20 Ref: Santiago

The game was spirited and well played. Both sides used heavy subs in each of the 20 minute periods. Both sides showed promise for the future of their clubs.

LIVE OAK 29 – Tri-Valley 0 Referee: Chris Fisher

Seconds: Live Oak 0 – TRI-VALLEY 5 Ref: Fisher

STANFORD FROSH 34 – Silicon Valley 5 Referee: Sandy Robertson

The Stanford group's greater experience and time together, coupled with player unavailability for Silicon Valley resulted in a match where Stanford dominated possession and was able to spin it wide and exploit overlaps, scoring 6 tries.

Stanford Invitational 2008
The NCRRS can always use more good referees. In fact, we kept a seat open just for you this weekend!

L to R: Preston Gordon, David Williamson, JC Van Staden and Sandy Robertson


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Tuesday, January 15, 2008




Why delay the good news? Congratulations to John.


We could certainly use a few more refs this Saturday, January 19. If you did not previously think you would be available but you would be able to do a game – as early as 10:30 AM or as late as 7:30 PM – PLEASE LET PETE SMITH KNOW:



Please reply whether you can referee each of the following weekends, and whether you can travel to a distant game:

Feb 2 Yes/No Travel? Sunday, Feb 3: Two games in Reno
Feb 9 Yes/No Travel?
Feb 16 Yes/No Travel?
Feb 23 Yes/No Travel? Sunday, Feb 24: Two games in Moraga


The podcasts are up from tackle presentations by Tony Redmond and Paul Bretz:


Our next meeting will be February 5.


Referees in most parts of North America in early January can only dream of what we are doing right now: refereeing rugby!

SEAHAWKS 15 – Diablo Gaels 8 Referee: John Pohlman

I started my day with a high school scrimmage at 9:30AM. And then finished it with a men's game at 7:00PM. Yes rugby season is officially here.

San Jose was to host the Provo Utah Steelers. The Steelers backed out last week. Diablo has been hit hard with the flu, which cancelled their game against the Seahawks last week. Thus set up the 7:00PM kick-off for Saturday night. It made sense when it was originally explained to me.

The field was in pretty good conditions. Well marked with goals posts and barrier ropes. The far side line & one end zone was a bit dark due to poor lighting.

Diablo has had a few injuries and allot of the flu bug. They had around 17 players. San Jose looked to have two full sides. Due to the numbers it was decided two 40 minutes halves. A friendly scrimmage. At least until the whistle blows.

San Jose started at 210 miles per hour. A pace no team could keep. Diablo's defense held the original swarm.

A Seahawks wing picked up a Diablo dropped pass thirteen minutes in for the first try of the game. James Hinkin, part-time referee, now playing scrum half slotted the kick.

The rest of the first half was controlled by San Jose. Big clean outs at the rucks produced lots of ball. The Diablo defense made tackle after tackle holding Hinkin and the hawks to one penalty to finish the first half.

Diablo Gaels coach Harry's half time speech, some special Gaels half time potion or maybe San Jose substituting some players caused Diablo to come out with the speed San Jose had started the game. The Gaels forwards took control. They cleaned every ball giving scrum half and captain John some excellent opportunities. The Gaels first scored on a penalty followed by a try at the 20 minute mark.

San Jose had missed an earlier penalty thus the score with 20 minutes left was San Jose 10 Diablo 8.

Well the friendly scrimmage was long gone. San Jose started making a few more substitutions and the game seemed to even out.

The tackles became more contested. No more nice clear outs with obvious clean ball.

San Jose's winger was put away for a try at the 24 minute mark.

Diablo fought hard. Controlling the ball for the last ten minutes. Most of which was in the Seahawks 22. Numerous San Jose penalties in injury time continued to give Diablo the opportunity to tie the score. But a Seahawk would make another game saving tackle.

In the end, San Jose coach Danny Latu brought down the Gaels #12. Danny popped up quickly, leaving the Diablo player thinking he hadn't been held in the tackle. The Gaels center was penalized for not releasing the ball prior to regaining his feet.

SFGG Dev XV 0 – CAL POLY SLO 27 Referee: Joe Androvich

Touch Judges: Eric Rauscher, Edward Barfels

Seconds: SFGG Dev XV 12 – Cal Poly SLO 12 Referee: Preston Gordon
Aside from one red and one yellow card, this was a good game and an even contest (as evidenced by the drawn scoreline). Both sides were enthusiastic and ran the ball at nearly every opportunity. Inexperience showed somewhat however, with lots of sideways running and many knock-ons. Cal Poly went into halftime up 5-0, but when the match restarted, SFGG had put several of their senior players into the game and scored an unconverted try in the first minute. They added another converted try not long thereafter, and looked like they were going to hold on for a win. Cal Poly had other ideas and snatched the draw at the death after their fly-half chipped over the SFGG backline and got the good bounce near the posts for a try.

The conversion tied the score and time was up.

MARIN 58 – Mendocino 0 Referee: Tom Zanarini

Marin reds defeated Mendocino Steam Donkeys 58-0 in a hard fought warm up match. It was a beautiful spring-like day with both sides blooding new members. Match was played in four 20 min. quarters to allow for instruction to new players and the unconditioned to catch their breath. Marin took advantage of their veteran back line but the Donkeys had superior strength in the scrum. Overall the spirits were high and it was a very enjoyable day of rugby. Both sides were gentlemen and very welcoming to this referee.

UC DAVIS 18 – Chico State 13 Referee: Joe Leisek

Touch Judge: Scott Wood
Referee Spectators: Donal Walsh, Steve Gray, David Heath
Russell IM Fields, UC Davis

Scott Wood e-mailed a couple of days before the match, saying his match had been canceled and that he might come run touch. He did, and I appreciated it very much. (He was also doing a bit of scouting, as he will referee soon these two teams in a rematch in Chico.) Don Walsh provided feedback at halftime and after the match, which I also appreciated. And he ran touch for David in the second side match! I mentioned to Scott that Don had refereed me on this very pitch several times...a few decades ago.

And there was a game. A very physical contest, to be sure. Davis scored first, just over six minutes after kickoff, taking advantage of a Chico handling mistake and chipping through to score a try. The first half ended 13-3, with the hosts scoring one more try and kicking a penalty. Chico scored their two tries in the second half, against UCD's one. Chico had most of the possession throughout the game, and showed some serious skills in the forwards. They retained the ball for extended periods and used the pick-and-go to great effect. It was very impressive to watch. But the Davis backline defense forced errors when Chico moved the ball away from the set pieces, then took advantage to score their points. The two teams appear to be fairly evenly matched and should put on a great rematch in Chico in two weeks.

Seconds: UC Davis 0 – CHICO STATE 41 Referee: Dave Heath

Chico based their game around a strong forward platform and powerful running around the fringes of rucks and mauls. In the first half this yielded them 4 unanswered tries. UC Davis came into the game more in the second half and scored two excellent goals with incisive back play to Chico's one goal.

A good competitive game played by two teams with a good attitude.

Sacramento State 20 – ST. MARY’S 70 Referee: Jim Crenshaw

Pretty good game, but the outcome was not in doubt after 20 minutes into it. The Gaels scored the first 3 converted tries before the Hornets got on the board with an unconverted try. The Gaels scored the next 3 converted tries before the Hornets scored an unconverted try just before halftime to make the score 42 to 10.

The second half was a little slower, with the Gaels scoring 4 converted tries to 2 unconverted tries for the Hornets.

Seconds: Sacramento State 29 – ST. MARY’S 42 Ref: Crenshaw

I also ref'd the second side match. It was 14 all at the half and was close up until the last 10 minutes, when the Gaels pulled away. Final score St Mary's Gaels 42 Sac State Hornets 29.

STANFORD 36 – Nevada 20 Referee: John Coppinger

Evaluator: David Williamson
Halftime: UNR 15, Stanford 12

UNR came out running and tackling hard putting Stanford on the back foot in the first half. Stanford's captain, a big lock, injured his shoulder on the opening kick-off and went off shortly after. Stanford had penalty problems and made poor decisions under pressure in his absence; however, Stanford scored an opportunistic try just before the half to close the gap.

In the second half, fatigue and lack of training together on UNR's side, combined with Stanford reducing the penalties and focusing on attacking instead of defending, resulted in Stanford winning going away. (UNR is on-break for another two weeks, while Stanford is coming off a week of training camp in San Diego.)

My thanks to Dave Williamson for coaching and Bruce Carter for videotaping my match.

Seconds: STANFORD 44 – Nevada 26 Referee: Bruce Carter

The boys from Reno not only haven’t seen green grass since well before their game in the snow against Chico State on Pearl Harbor Day, they didn’t have enough on the trip to fill out a second side. Thus, a number of cabin-fever sufferers had to play for 160 minutes on the fast expanse of the Steuber Family Stadium against a keen and well-drilled Stanford seconds, yclept the Franck XV.

Stanford engineered a lot of breaks. Let’s see: one try was frittered away by too-quick interpassing – no time for the original handler to be put on-side by the recipient and returnee of his pass – and another knocked-on across the try line.

Fair to say though that Reno’s very useful backrow-center-prop, Gary Nagel, was denied a try as he tip-toed down the touchline.

Diablo Gaels U23, 17 – SANTA CLARA 20 Referee: Bryant Byrnes

A pretty East Bay winter's day on a soggy field. Santa Clara spent much of the pre-season playing D1 teams and took advantage of space where they found it. The Gaels beefed up their numbers and played with a discipline that was not apparent when last observed. My compliments to both captains and coaching staffs.

It was – as obvious from the score – an evenly and (generally) well played early season match. The Broncos had some foot speed, while the Gaels had size. Santa Clara got their best try on a nifty line out play, while the Gaels rammed one over at full time.

Montgomery HS – Pittsburg Referee: Cary Bertolone
Referee Coach: Mike Malone
No report received.

Santa Rosa JC – Western Oregon CANCELED

SANTA ROSA – Berkeley Referee: Rob Hendrickson

Santa Rosa men played a friendly against Berkeley in the third match of the day at For Pete's Sake field under sunny skies and on a firm pitch. The first half was very close, with Berkeley coming literally only inches away from going into half time nearly tied. The second half, however, belonged to Santa Rosa, which scored 4 unanswered converted tries, most coming on breakaways.

Fog 0 – BARACUS 12 Referee: Sam Davis

It was a beautiful day heading to TI. Traffic was bad (rumor there was a jumper on the bay bridge) The Rugby Hog white lined to make it to the match on time.

Baracus and Fog, a ‘friendly’ scrimmage, was a hard hitting game that surprised me. The Fog came out and dominated the scrums and line outs a lot of hard hitting multi- phase play that was quite good. Both teams went up and down the field getting close but not crossing the goal line until there was 2 min and 40 sec left in the first half.

Baracus on the attack from a scrum on the 5 meter line pitched it out to the center who broke the tackle and touched it down. Fog came back hard the second half in Baracus red zone a number of times but were unable to cross over the line. With less than a min left in the game Baracus created a break when they broke a tackle at 10 meters out split the defender and scored.

It was a great game to ref and everyone had fun.

They did a third half to let everyone get some playing time in, which Baracus dominated.

Reno – Sacramento Capitals CANCELED


UC Berkeley 5 – UC SANTA CRUZ 25 Referee: Anna McMahan

Berkeley hosted Santa Cruz on a gorgeous day for three 25 minute periods. The game was played on Berkeley's all-weather turf field, which made for a smaller, odd-shaped pitch lined for soccer and lacrosse. Despite the lack of proper field markings and goal posts, the two teams came together for a fun friendly after participating in a skills clinic.

Set pieces and forward play were fairly evenly matched between the teams, but Berkeley had a difficult time containing Santa Cruz's midfield and back three.

Santa Cruz also employed a strategic kicking game that kept Berkeley in their own half. UCSC scored three tries in the first period, and one try each in the next two periods, while Berkeley's lone score came in the last period. No conversions were attempted due to lack of uprights.

High School:

Tri-Valley 2 tries – SILICON VALLEY 5 tries Referee: John Pohlman

Tri-Valley's high school side hosted Silicon Valley in Livermore for an early season scrimmage. We kicked off at 9:30 AM with clear skies and around 58 degrees.

This was Tri-Valley's first game after three practices. Silicon Valley has already played a touring side from Australia.

We played four 20 minutes periods. Silicon Valley was much in control for most of the game. They were better organized and it was obvious they had a lot more practices.

Both teams have good athletes and coaching. If the players get in shape and make practice they should progress.



UC Davis 7 – CHICO STATE 22 Referee: Scott Wood

TJ: Donal Walsh, UCD player, Alex Triantafyllou

This pre-season Sunday match started off as a foggy affair. Both teams were testing out various configurations and getting in some competitive playing time prior to the regular season.

We played six 20-minute chukkers with the teams switching sides at the 40th minute (I honestly cannot remember if we switched again at 80). Davis led Chico 7-5 after twenty minutes but then the visitors took advantage of the home team's relative inexperience and scored in each of the subsequent periods (albeit with a penalty goal in the final minutes).

Setting Sail
It was 66° with nary a cloud in sight over most of Northern California on Saturday. A large high-pressure cell has parked over the area and paid for a week in advance.

On the way to our match we saw a tree that had dead desiccated leaves, yet to fall off the twigs, with new white blossoms peeking out from between. Spring has sprung forward, interrupting the last fallings of fall.

We did have a week of ice on the windshields in the mornings in the Salinas Valley, a little unusual, but the strawberries are blossoming right now.

What a place to live! And winter rugby, too!

Here’s a fearless mariner, setting sail as the sun goes down, with his trusty Twickenham wind vane to guide him.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Sunday, January 06, 2008




Bjorn Stumer refereed the only two games played in NorCal Saturday. (A second ref was on for the second game but was informed that with the weather it probably wouldn’t come off.)

Mare Island:

Vallejo 0 – BERKELEY 32 Referee: Bjorn Stumer

Right after a hailstorm, the Gods of Rugby got busy and the rain stopped to allow Berkeley and Vallejo to enjoy an afternoon of Rugby at Mare Island. Berkeley was definitely the more polished and well drilled side but Vallejo, a brand new side comprised mainly of "at risk" youth, kept the hits coming fast and furious. The day belonged to Berkeley, often aided by the numerous penalties given away by a young and inexperienced Vallejo team, but each time they had the ball in hand in came a crunching tackle. Berkeley kept their composure though and played well, but much credit goes to Vallejo who are just on their second match. The pitch being soft underfoot is a bit of an understatement, but fun was had by all.

BERKELEY seconds 3 – Marin Reds 0 Ref: Stumer

The Marin Reds came out firing on all cylinders, ably led by long time Bay Area Rugby stalwart Mike Comstock, but action soon became rather static as all taken was given back between two sides of like strength and skills. The match was played in three 20-minutes halves, the first two of which had no score though Berkeley had a few opportunities to kick at goal but decided to run the ball instead. At the third half Berkeley had an easy penalty almost in front of Marin's posts. This time they went for the kick, thus sealing the score and winning the match. This was a hard fought match between two evenly matched teams. The larger numbers might have favored Berkeley who was able to substitute at will, but overall a great match enjoyed by all.


The January meeting of the NCRRS will be held Tuesday, January 8, from 7 to 9 PM at the SF/Golden Gate clubhouse on Treasure Island. Food will be provided for early arrivals beginning at six.

The topic this month will be Laws 14 and 15, Tackle/No Tackle. Presenters will be Tony Redmond, Paul Bretz and Dixon Smith.

Accurate refereeing of the tackle is what distinguishes the best rugby referees in the world from all others. This will be a valuable episode in the professional development of any referee.

As usual, the Referee Development Committee will meet from 6 to 7.


We have two referees dropping in for games over the next month who would appreciate a place to stay:

Chris Draper will be here January 18-20, and will referee in San Mateo on the 19th.

Joe Zevin will be here February 1-3, with a game TBD.

Let us know if you can help out.


Sent in by Bjorn Stumer:



Please check the Club Contacts (http://www.pelicanrefs.com/ClubContacts.htm) and notify Scott Wood of any changes:


Without current information, referees (and opponents) will have trouble getting in touch with you.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


This is fascinating. We beg your indulgence for such a long piece.

This game harkens back to the origins of our own sport in the mists of medieval Europe. Large groups of men would compete for a ball, either to possess it or to move it.

Those who recall their history of Rugby School will immediately think of the ‘wall game’, wherein the ball was kept against a wall and moved by main force to one end or the other to determine a winner.

Were he here to comment, Dave Jaquint would remind us that the Romans played harpastum, surviving descriptions of which seem to resemble this code of football.

This is from the Washington Post of January 2, 2008. The author is Eli Saslow. There are an interesting series of photographs to accompany the text which may be found here:


KIRKWALL, Scotland

William Thomson's family had played this sport for centuries, so he understood that he needed to choose between two strategies for the annual Christmas day ba' game.

The scrawny 17-year-old could fight for the ball in the center of the riotous scrum, where more than 300 men would function as a human juicer, turning his face red, then purple. He would be scratched, punched, kneed and bitten. His ribs might break. He could pass out unconscious.

Or, Thomson could follow convention for players his size and stay near the edge of the scrum, pushing the pile. This would work well unless the ball popped out and the mob changed direction. Cars, gravestones, houses, strollers, hotel lobbies -- all had been kicked, shoved or trampled in pursuit of the ball during previous games. Anticipating such a stampede, business and homeowners in town had nailed wooden planks across their doors and windows. "If you're on the edge of the scrum and it turns on you," one veteran player said, "then you might as well be dead."

This, Thomson decided, was his safest option.

He never considered not participating. The men in the Thomson family -- like the men in most families here -- have played this game since at least the mid-1600s. It is one of the oldest and most physical sports, and it's almost certainly the most simple. Half of the men in Kirkwall, called Doonies, try to push a small ball into the sea using any means necessary. The other half, called Uppies, work to push the ball to a wall one mile across town. The ba', which refers to both the game and the ball with which it is played, can last anywhere from four minutes to nine hours in freezing temperatures and hurricane-force winds.

The ba' is played nowhere else. It has persisted in Kirkwall because its basic tenets are congruent with life on these Orkney Islands in northern Scotland. If you're tough enough to survive in this old Viking territory, in a frostbitten town of around 6,000 bordered by whitecapped seas, then you don't worry about relaxing on Christmas and New Year's Day. You put on steel-toe boots and a rugby shirt and walk downtown to the almost 900-year-old St. Magnus Cathedral, ready for hell.

The Uppies and Doonies squeezed into a tight pack last Tuesday afternoon in front of the cathedral, where they waited for a former player, standing in front of a cross, to throw the ba' into the middle of the scrum. Thomson, a Doonie, stood on the edge as planned. He had wrapped duct tape around the bottom of his frayed jeans to ensure that nobody could rip them off. He had hastily patched two holes in the back of his rugby shirt, mending relics from one of last year's games.

The ba' flew over Thomson's head and disappeared into the chaos behind him. A few Uppies circled behind Thomson for a better angle to push the scrum into a side alley. Doonies circled behind those Uppies and tried to pull them away. Before Thomson realized what had happened, he was in the center of the pack, his arms trapped at his side.

For almost 30 minutes, the scrum deadlocked in the 15-foot-wide alley. Two hundred Uppies grunted and pushed in one direction; 115 Doonies held their ground. Thick steam rose from the pack, and Thomson couldn't find fresh air. He called out for space, but the screaming mob drowned his request. His eyes rolled backward and his head fell on his shoulder. A nearby Doonie slapped him across the cheek and poured water on his face, desperate to wake him. Thirty seconds passed before two spectators climbed down from the alley wall and stepped on the heads and shoulders of ba' players to reach Thomson. They pulled his limp body from the pile and carried him 100 yards away.

Once he awoke, Thomson asked his girlfriend what had happened. His ribs ached, but he felt otherwise okay. A few friends stopped by to check on him, and one offered a flask of whiskey.

"Thanks," Thomson said. "I need this to get my nerves back."

He took a swig and handed back the flask. Then he lifted himself up over a wall and dropped back into the riot.


Three days before the Christmas ba', Ian Smith diagrammed game strategies while sitting next to a coal fire in his house overlooking the town. At 60, Smith is one of the oldest men still participating in the ba'. He has played for 45 years, never missing the twice-annual game despite heart surgery, a hip replacement, nine broken ribs and two knee surgeries. A butcher and a lifelong Orcadian -- he refuses to call himself Scottish -- Smith identifies first and foremost as a Doonie.

When the ba' game was first played in Kirkwall, teams were divided by whether a player was born closer to the ocean (a Doonie) or the wall (an Uppie). A hospital opened in Kirkwall about 50 years ago and became the location for all births, so now family history determines the teams. Newcomers to the island usually move into recent housing developments near the wall and declare themselves Uppies, which has created an imbalance. With almost twice as many men, the Uppies have won 15 of the last 16 ba's.

Smith promised friends he would hold off on retirement until after the next Doonie win, a vow that further stretches the conventions of good sense with each passing year. Arthritis has begun to seize his already weathered hands, making it impossible for him to clench them into fists. Because Smith believes his body has started to shrink, he grumbles when asked his height. "I'm five-feet-and-who-gives-a-damn," he said. "Mind your own bloody business."

For this year's Christmas ba' (after a week of recuperation, the game also is played on New Year's Day), Smith had solicited help from his two sons in hopes of finally pushing the ba' into the ocean. Kevin, 27, had traveled from Edinburgh to play in the game, his first trip home in a year. Sean, 25, had agreed to participate in the ba' for the first time since he lost consciousness in the middle of a 2003 scrum. The brothers had decided to play mainly because they wanted to cash in on their father's retirement promise before a ba' left him seriously disabled.

"What they don't know is that even if the ba' goes down, I'll probably keep playing," Smith said. "What's life in the Orkneys without a ba'?"

Past ba's on display in the Kirkwall Museum. (Jonathan Newton – The Washington Post)

Librarians have traced the Kirkwall ba' back to the 1650s, but several local legends place its origins even earlier. Many Uppies believe the ba' is the descendant of a game played by Vikings here in the ninth century. Smith and most Orcadians swear the ba' began in the 1400s, when a Kirkwall leader beheaded a neighboring tyrant and residents kicked and shoved his skull across town.

Ba' players have preserved the game by steadfastly refusing to modernize it. There is no set of written rules, no official organization, no record-keeping of any kind. Even the four-pound, black-and-brown-striped ba's still are made specifically for each game by a rotation of local craftsmen. To survive the scrum, a ba' must withstand the equivalent pressure of a two-ton weight. The craftsmen stuff Portuguese cork into London leather and spend three days stitching the ba' together with 50 yards of eight-cord flax.

Neither Uppies nor Doonies wear uniforms or distinguishing marks of any kind. Players are supposed to recognize their teammates because their fathers played together, and their grandfathers before that. If anyone should get confused about who's who in the midst of the 300-person tangle of arms, legs and faces, he's wise to keep it to himself. Leaders on both teams said confusing an Uppie with a Doonie often warrants banishment from the next ba' game.

The railing gives way during the Christmas 1969 ba' in Kirkwall, dumping spectators and participants into the frigid waters of the harbor.

Since local newspapers began writing about the ba' in the late 1800s, the historical record indicates the game has existed predominantly in isolation and in peace. A 10-person crew of voluntary paramedics and an unwritten code of sportsmanship have limited ba'-related fatalities to one, in 1903. There always has been a boys' ba' for children 15 and younger at 10:30 a.m. on Christmas and New Year's Day, followed by a men's ba' at 1 p.m. An experimental attempt to start a women's ba' in the 1940s lasted only two years because of meager participation.

Once every decade or so, an uppity mainlander from Scotland moves across the eight-mile Pentland Firth and throws a fit about liability, brutality and pointlessness. But the Uppies and Doonies ignore the protests and show up at St. Magnus Cathedral to continue playing, because that in itself is the point.

Smith obsesses over each game for three months in advance, and he continued to contemplate strategy at his house until almost 10 p.m. His two sons returned home from the pub and sat down on a couch opposite their father. Sean, the family baby who weighs only 135 pounds, rubbed his forehead against his palm. He'd been wanting to confess something, he said, and the night's quaff had fortified his confidence.

"You know, da'," he said, "still not quite sure I'm playing this year."

"Hell you're not!" Kevin said, punching his brother in the shoulder. "What, you scared? Come on!"

"Naw, I'm too small," Sean said. "I could get killed in there."

"Ahh, it's not about size, never has been," Smith said. "If I taught you boys one thing about the ba', it's that nothing matters but heart and effort. Don't make a damn difference if you're seven foot tall or four foot. You're a Smith, so you'll play. And you'll play Doonie."


The sun -- or something vaguely like it -- filtered through a thick sea fog and rose over Kirkwall at 9 on Christmas morning, illuminating the epicenter of this 70-island archipelago that sits closer to the Arctic Circle than to London. It would set again in less than seven hours, leaving the town's residents in the eerie darkness that accompanies their extreme geographic isolation.

The day's ba' forecast called for temperatures in the high 30s and "a bit of a breeze," a term Orcadians use for all gusts under 100 mph. A "bit of a breeze" translates: Yes, you might have to tack sideways to make progress while walking up the sidewalk. Yes, the halogen streetlights probably would shake and rattle in their foundations. Yes, the whistling gales might lift mist off the sea and spray it across the islands, bathing the Orkneys in salty foam.

Kirkwall, though, had been built in the likeness of a fortress, capable of withstanding a bit of a breeze and more. The brown and gray walls of its single-story buildings were constructed with stone and covered with roofs of poured concrete. Streets curve radically like corkscrews to block the wind. On the day of the ba', wooden planks three inches thick cover each door and window, a precaution mandated by the town council before every ba'. The adornments made Kirkwall look particularly sinister, less like a town than a collection of war bunkers hunched against the sea.

An hour before the beginning of the ba', the streets remained still and silent, as they had since the end of October. Most residents here are fishermen and livestock farmers whose work goes dark during the winter. From early December until the end of February, these islands enter into a hibernation. Residents stay at home or, if they're feeling brave, trudge to one of the well-lit local pubs to escape the darkness.

The harsh winters prevent trees and most other plants from growing on the islands, but Kirkwall continues to lure newcomers by offering a rare portal into history. The town has shunned chain restaurants, stoplights and stop signs. Crime is rare, and the unemployment rate is lower than 1 percent. Many of the islands' greatest relics -- 5,000-year-old burial grounds, Viking graffiti marks -- remain unlocked and unguarded. A half-dozen sunken battleships from World War I and World War II fill the harbor, casting shadows across the water when the tide ebbs.

Past and present smudge together in Kirkwall, and never more so than on this Christmas day. As the giant clock on St. Magnus Cathedral neared 1 p.m., hundreds of spectators gathered along the cobblestone main street. Two hundred Uppies strutted down the street from the north; 115 Doonies approached from the south. They met in front of the church and glared at each other like opposing street gangs. Then the church bell chimed to signal 1 p.m., and the ba' descended into the pack.


The ba' traveled less than 100 yards in the game's first hour, with Uppies and Doonies pushing in opposite directions to create a near standstill. The only significant movement came once every five minutes or so, when spectators climbed over the pile and pulled unconscious players -- first William Thomson, then a half-dozen others -- out to safety. Participants stopped moving altogether for 30 seconds early in the game to allow paramedics to strap one man onto a stretcher.

Players always have expected to return home with bite marks, gashes, bruised hands and black eyes, but the rate of serious injuries has doubled in recent games. Kirkwall's population has grown by more than 1,000 in the last decade, and the size of the ba' scrum -- and the pressure at its center -- has correspondingly metastasized. New players unfamiliar with the game's tradition of picking up fallen athletes are now just as likely to trample them, veterans said.

"Some of these young boys take 'by any means necessary' a bit too far," Smith said. "Used to be we'd beat each other for a while but never throw that final punch. Now, they'd kill you if they had to. We've got too many players and too many people crowding around to watch. It's almost too big."

Instead of trying to push the expanded scrum toward a goal with sheer force, Uppie and Doonie leaders now rely on strategy and trickery to move the ba'. As the deadlock continued on Christmas, Smith climbed a wall for an aerial view of the action. He spotted the ba' in the center of the scrum, held by two Doonies. With a succession of winks and hand movements, Smith instructed the Doonies to surreptitiously hand the ba' backward, from one teammate to the next, in the opposite direction of their goal. When the ba' finally reached the last Doonie, the player sprinted off. He made it four blocks toward the water before a dozen Uppies caught him.

Spectators -- and most players -- almost never know who holds the ba', and that mystery increases the frenzy. It's not unusual for a lesser player to participate in five or six ba's without ever seeing the namesake of the game, much less touching it. The ba' spends considerable time hidden under players' shirts, and participants rarely throw or kick it. Rather, the team in possession typically hands the ba' around discreetly, like a stolen jewel.

As the sun faded on Christmas, three Uppies left the scrum and climbed onto the slanted roof of an Indian restaurant. Two of them grabbed the third Uppie's ankles and dangled him from the roof, so that he was suspended upside down over the scrum. A teammate on the ground handed up the ba', and the Uppie pulled himself back onto the roof.

"Ba's up there, boys," Smith yelled, pointing frantically at the roof. "Come on! Get him."

A pack of Doonies hurriedly climbed above the Indian restaurant, where one player's foot broke through the shingled roof. He pulled himself back onto solid ground, caught up to the ba' holder and tackled him. Two Doonies kicked the ba' loose and threw it back into the scrum, but an Uppie caught the ba' and eventually sprinted away amid the chaos. He made it within a few blocks of the Uppie goal before the rest of the pack caught up.

Fifteen minutes later, at about 5 p.m., 200 Uppies shoved the remainder of the way to their goal and pressed the ba' against the wall for victory. As dictated by tradition, a handful of experienced Uppies stood at the wall and continued to fight over the ba', a process that determines the game's individual winner. Ian Gorn, 36, eventually emerged with the ba', and teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders They carried him in the direction of a local pub, where Gorn gulped down a beer. Then he walked to his downtown apartment, where, as the ba's individual winner, it was his responsibility to host an immediate, all-night party for all 300 sweat-soaked ba' participants.

Gorn hugged his wife as he walked in his front door and grabbed another beer from the hundreds stacked on his dining room table, donated to the winner by a local grocery store. He set the ba' down for display on a counter in his living room. His two sons, ages 7 and 12, reached up to grab it. Then they fell onto the floor in a tussle for possession.

Muddy Fun
Pelican Bjorn Stumer flanked by Lani Akaoula and Ben Whiskey, respectively Captain and Coach of the newly formed Vallejo Rugby Club, a side comprised mainly of at risk youth.

[Editor’s Note: Everyone who takes up the oval ball is at risk: at risk of falling irredeemably in love and forsaking all other sports.]


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris