The annual season-ending banquet of the NCRRS will be held on Saturday, June 7, at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa.
By popular demand, we will be returning to the restaurant that hosted us last year. Mark your calendar and make your plans!
AREN’T WE LUCKY?
One of your scribe’s old friends from East Coast days was at Stanford for the college finals. Among other envious comments he said, “You are lucky to live where there’s so much good rugby.”
Regular readers of Hail Pelicus will have encountered the rhetorical question ‘Aren’t we lucky?’ here often enough to consider it something of a tag line. But our friend’s comment engaged a train of thought.
On a personal level, I worked very hard to excel in medical school back in Georgia to earn acceptance into my first-choice residency program in San Francisco. And that was specifically because the Bay Area was where the good rugby was in the seventies. Everyone who read Rugby magazine knew that! And I’m sure I’m not the only one drawn to live in this area by the bouncing ball.
But more than that – ‘good rugby’ does not spring up out of the ground anew in Northern California simply because the calendar flips its pages. It’s not like living near Yosemite or Yellowstone or in Hawaii, where the primary attraction can be taken for granted.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
The fact that this remains the epicenter of ‘good rugby’ decade after decade is not as a result of some birthright. It is the result of endless work, unswerving dedication, sweat, hard miles and long hours on the part of thousands of players and hundreds of administrators.
Consider: Is Jack Clark ‘lucky’ to have coached his twentieth championship team? Have the many NorCal players at every level who have achieved the goal of playing on a team that won a national title just been ‘fortunate’?
While the Pelican Refs may indeed individually consider ourselves lucky to have so many good teams to referee, I do not believe it is a stretch to say that we and our predecessors have had something to do with this fortuitous state of affairs. In allowing players to attain their dreams by facilitating safe, fast and fair contests consistently throughout their careers, providing them the same level of officiating that they will face as they progress through the post-season, we have kept up our corner of the constantly-rising ziggurat of Northern California rugby.
Santa Monica 10 – SF/GOLDEN GATE 70 Referee: Paul Bretz
Golden Gate qualified for the playoffs by shellacking the Dolphins in SoCal this past weekend.
The two teams began the season on opposite tacks, Santa Monica going 3 – 0 and SFGG opening 0 – 2. But all that is forgotten now.
SFGG will be a wild-card team. They will play on the road May 17 but their opponent is yet to be determined.
HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFFS
MOTHER LODE 26 – Lamorinda 19 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
Touch Judge: Ray Schwartz, Ray Thompson
The first semi-final if the high school playoffs Friday night in El Dorado Hills between Mother Lode and Lamorinda was expected to be a very exciting match. In fact, it exceeded all expectations, with many exciting moments provided by both well coached and well disciplined teams.
Lamo came out of the gate charging, surprising ML with their intensity. ML seemed to be unaware that they, indeed, needed to tackle their opponents. Lamo's backs ran through a number of ML tackler's attempts and led to the first try of the match about 5 minutes in.
During the setup for the kick from the corner, the ML captain had a 'come to Jesus' meeting under the posts with his team. The kick was short and after the ensuing kickoff, ML seemed to have decided that tackling was an integral part of the game.
The effect was some big hits by both sides, with both sides testing the other's mettle. ML was being pressured about half way through the half, but an errant pass and some great open field running and passing gave ML its first try just a little outside of the right post. Conversion good, game on!
For the next few minutes ML's defense pressured Lamo, but Lamo kept possession and then broke free with some nifty open field running and passing of their own, to score and convert, taking back the lead.
The next 10 minutes provided many probes by both teams, but ML ran another try in just before halftime and converted to make it Mother Lode 14 Lamorinda 12 at the break.
The first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half was an intense affair with a couple of goal line stands, followed by forced turnovers and long possessions by both teams. ML prevailed first, with an unconverted try in the corner.
Lamo stepped up the pressure and after at least 3 held up in goals, ML committed an offside at the goal line. The very alert captain and #10 for Lamo quick-tapped at the mark and dove in under a couple of ML players for the try. The kick was good and we were tied up at 19 with about 5 minutes to go.
Both teams again showed great intensity, but with about a minute to go, ML prevailed scoring a converted try. We had about 10 seconds left in the match when the Lamo captain kicked off.
What followed in the next 5 minutes was the most intense and highest paced moments of the match. Lamo maintained possession and kept pressuring ML, a couple of times getting well within ML's 22, only to have some excellent defense by ML push them back out of the 22 towards mid-field. An errant pass by Lamo and a heads-up kick to touch by ML kept us from having to have a kick off to determine a winner.
An excellent match, well played match, with very few penalties and no cards, just wide open rugby!! Both sides should be very proud of their accomplishments this year!!!
Final score: Mother Lode 26, Lamorinda 19
Christian Brothers 8 – JESUIT 31 Referee: John Pohlman
Touch Judges: Phil Akroyd, Tom Franzoia
Let me start by poising a question: Why does Northern California High School Rugby only get one berth in the National Playoffs? In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to referee loads of high school games. Golden Gate, Lamorinda, Jesuit, Christian Brothers, Santa Rosa. I would bet any of these would make it to the national final eight. Jesuit did not even qualify for one of the top two spots in their conference, but looks to qualify for the nationals. By my count 40 of the players on Cal's 51 man roster come from the Northern California high school system. O.K. you got my point.
Eileen rode out with me to Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. We arrived around 3:00 for a 4:00pm kick-off. The field was getting its final touches. It looked like CB had put up new goal posts and lined a fully regulation field next to their football field. It temperature was heating up to around 80 at kick off.
The fans were three-deep surrounding the pitch. It was a great Catholic rivalry. Some called it David verses Goliath. Jesuit has about three times the enrollment of Christian Brothers. But CB had won the earlier match. I had refereed both teams’ semi-final match last week. It looked like a coin toss to me. Jesuit looked bigger and played a very structured game. CB had three deep-strike backs who believed they could score from anywhere.
I'd be missing the collegiate finals at Stanford for the first time in six years. But at kick off, three minutes early, there was no place I would rather be. Thirty players psyched to the max. Coaches, fans, relatives and school supporters lined the field. Two quality TJ's. As the American Express commercials says "priceless."
Jesuit won the toss and wanted the ball. Jesuit's tight five were bigger to a man that CB's. The Jesuit forwards controlled early possession and Captain and inside center Kellen Holmes finished off the first try ten minutes in.
Both my touch judges said there was a bit of scrappy, jersey tugging, pushing going on after the ball moved away. I pulled both captains aside and asked them to urge their players to be positive and stop the knickknack stuff after play.
Well at 23 minutes I saw my 26 year old English TJ Phil with his flag out. CB's #13 had been grabbed by his jersey after a play, he responded by pushing the Jesuit player. But then as he ran back to play he took a side step and stomped a Jesuit player on the ground. This was done in front of the Jesuit sideline and within a minute of me talking to the captains. Yellow Card.
Two minutes latter Captain Kellen finished off another try. Kellen scored three tries throughout the day. All with weaving steps which shifted would be tacklers allowing him to power through. But what really made these scores possible was the field position the Jesuit forwards worked so hard to gain.
#13 came back onto the field at 33 minutes and scored at 34 minutes. #13 James Jones had scored four tries last week against Santa Rosa. This time he chipped over a defender the ball bounced two inches from touch and three feet from the try line. It then bounced over the try line flag into goal where Jones beat the defenders to the ball.
Half time score Jesuit 14 Christian Bothers 5.
Jesuit's forwards were bigger than CB's but just as athletic. CB strength is in tackling and aggressiveness. Well they tackled very well. But CB's forwards could not counter ruck aggressively against the big large and athletic Jesuit front five. Jesuit started to dominate the lineouts. Forcing CB to go for goal or run penalties rather than kick for touch and lose a line-out.
The first twenty minutes of the second half saw CB attempt three penalties converting one. At twenty minutes in Jesuit just wore CB down for another score. Jesuit scored two more in the last ten minutes, with captain Kellen getting his third.
Final score: Jesuit 31 Christian Brother 8
Thanks for allowing me to run with two tremendous high schools. I also graduated from a Catholic grade school and Catholic High School. I appreciated the discipline needed to control your emotions in a high charged rivalry. Thanks to the fans for their positive energy. Thanks to the coaching staff for their control.
UPCOMING HIGH SCHOOL GAMES
The Northern California high school final:
Mother Lode – Jesuit Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
This will be played this Saturday at Stanford at 6:15 PM, as the featured match at the Pacific Coast High School Invitational Tournament.
Mother Lode has already qualified as the NorCal’s representative to the multi-school team playoffs.
Pacific Coast High School Invitational Tournament at Stanford
All day, both days.
Pacific Coast single-school championship game:
Christian Brothers – Jesuit Referee: Tony Redmond
These are the two top single-school teams in the Pacific Coast.
USA RUGBY COLLEGE CHAMPIONSHIPS
For the third year in a row, the finalists of D1 men and women were the same four teams: Cal, BYU, Stanford and Penn State. In fact, Stanford and Penn State have now met in the final four years in a row. As there has been a lot of turnover among the players on all of these squads, it is clear that coaching is the difference for these elite programs.
Friday - Division I semi-finals:
PENN STATE 41 – Brown 7 Referee: Chris Draper
Touch Judges: Matt Eason, John Coppinger
STANFORD 40 – Navy 20 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Touch Judges: Pete Smith, John Pohlman
CALIFORNIA 41 – St. Mary's 31 Referee: Dana Teagarden
Touch Judges: Mark Ormsby, John Coppinger
BYU 42 – Colorado 13 Referee: Ed Gardner
Touch Judges: Bruce Carter, Pete Smith
Saturday – Finals:
SHIPPENSBURG 47 – Minnesota-Duluth 0 Referee: Dana Teagarden
Touch Judges: Tony Redmond, Bruce Carter
RADFORD 25 – Utah Valley State 14 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Touch Judges: Jim Crenshaw, John Coppinger
STANFORD 15 – Penn State 10 Referee: Ed Gardner
Touch Judges: Jim Crenshaw, John Coppinger
This was the only close game of the weekend, and former Pelican Zinzan was fortunate to be the referee. He had a tiger by the tail.
Stanford brought out their band, their Tree, and their cheerleader/dancers for this one. It was loud and raucous throughout, like college sporting events should be.
Stanford scored two tries in the first half to go up 10-0. The second try was under the posts, so when the kick was taken the crowd assumed it was good. The roar was such that it was impossible to tell whether the referee’s whistle had gone. Certainly those of us who watch for such things didn’t see the TJs raise their flags. But two points went up on the scoreboard.
The perspicacious Zinzan noted this discrepancy at the next lineout and had it corrected.
This proved critical to the drama when Penn State came back in the second half to tie the game with about ten minutes left. Nobody wanted to face overtime on such a hot day, already playing their hearts out.
The intensity rose. The crowd was brought up out of the seats repeatedly with near-breaks and saving tackles by both teams.
Stanford worked the ball patiently downfield through intelligent kicking by their #10, multiple phases by their forwards, and smart containment and handling by their backs.
Finally the ball found the weekend’s star player, wing Jessica Watkins, who scored just as the clock rolled over to all zeroes.
CALIFORNIA 59 – Brigham Young University 7 Referee: Chris Draper
Touch Judges: Tony Redmond, Bruce Carter
Lady Pelicans U19 (trialists) vs. UC Davis Women
Pioneer Park, Davis, Sunday, 2pm
On the same weekend the Amazons travelled to the Pacific Northwest to take the Pacific Coast qualifier for the Girl's HS National Championships, the remaining NorCal Girls HS coaches and players were busy preparing for their post-season ahead.
Last weekend saw two matches played at TI's Job Corps Field. The Amazons played a final tune up game that day. This Sunday saw an open tryout camp held in the morning, followed by (4) 20-minute periods of spirited play vs. UC Davis (a National quarterfinalist), who fielded about 6 of their A Side players.
Throughout the first period, the Lady Pelicans held their own nicely giving up only one try, making plenty of big hits, and creating lots of turnover ball. But the floodgates opened in the next period, as subs were made and Davis was now fully warmed up. The last period saw some players swap teams and a few young ladies played new positions. Tonya, a former Davis High star and now at UCD, scored at least 4 tries on the day. But this was all about the youngsters.
Adrianne Rubiaco of Mother Lode (A U19 Lady Eagle who played at Budd Bay last year), Jennifer Sever of Alameda and Sarah Towne of Fortuna High all played outstanding rugby, and may make for a devastating back row combination in the weeks ahead. Jennifer played her first minutes ever at #8 and yet looked like a natural. Many other girls did quite well, and all played with increasing confidence and intensity as the match wore on. A growing experience for all.
The selfless effort put forward by coaches Tina Watts (Fortuna), Suzanne "Tank" Iwatate (Davis) and Rod Chance (Mother Lode) is matched only by Pelicanland's own Paul Berman, last year's Alameda coach, and this year stepping back in to serve as Director for this new Lady Pelicans program.
To everyone's best knowledge, there has never before been a Girls U19 select side, but with opportunities to compete ever-increasing, these stalwarts are doing their best to extend the season and create Elite Player Development pathways. Some Amazons may choose to join the three sides to be entered this weekend ahead at the 4th Annual www.pacificcoastinvitational.com, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, these ladies will be tested versus an Oregon Select Side, and Alex Goff's Budd Bay Steelheads, who will travel to Stanford with two full sides!
In the weeks ahead they play another trail match at St. Mary's, and then travel to Portland June 27-29 to compete in a large Select Side tourney. These young ladies, and their coaches, need all the love and support we can muster. Direct any donations toward program director Paul Berman at email@example.com.
They have to start from scratch, but by this time next year the Lady Pelicans U19s will have in place a well-worn and battle tested set of jerseys, a lot of wonderful memories, and probably more than a few youngsters who will go on to make the USA Rugby Age Grade Select squads.
Phil Akroyd’s Big Day:
Thought I’d send brief reports regarding past weekend games:
Sat 5/3 10.30am – All Star selection game held at Will Rogers Middle School.
Approximately 35 potential All Stars showed up early at Will Rogers Middle School to run drills in the early morning heat. The players took the extremely firm pitch in their stride and played a fast, open expansive game, resulting in an abundance of tries.
The overall atmosphere was of fun and enjoyment with many of the boys sharing jokes at scrums and taking the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and keep me running from end-to-end. As the game progressed, the teams became more balanced with a total of eight tries scored in the first half. The pace didn’t die down as a further seven tries were scored in the second half. Although the final score was irrelevant, it’s worth noting that 87 points were scored in total. Great stuff!
Sat 5/3 12.00pm – Sierra Junior College v. UC Davis II at Will Rogers Middle School.
I believe that this was Sierra’s seventh or eighth game since forming a team and as I took charge of their first ever game, it was interesting to see their progress. It was clear to see that they have progressed significantly, both in defense and attack, but still need to gain match experience. The Davis team included a few first-teamers and their player/coach, with their “old-heads” proving superior. Some creative backs moves also helped and they put four tries past Sierra in the first thirteen minutes, without repost. Sierra scored a try in each half but went in 32 – 5 down at half-time.
Davis held the gas-pedal down in the second-half and ran in a further five tries. Final score: UC Davis II 56-10 Sierra Junior College.
Sat 5/3 4.00pm – NCRFU Playoff Jesuit @ Christian Brothers
I had the privilege of TJing this game. I’m sure John Pohlman sent a full report but I wanted to say what an enjoyable game it was. Great weather, big spectator presence and two good teams. A fantastic way to end a full day of rugby.
Now looking forward to Stanford this weekend.
Señors 31 – Hayward Old Boys 31 Referee: Dave Heath
Bjorn had originally been assigned this game, but in a moment of madness had decided to play, so he asked me whether I could cover the game. So at the scheduled kick-off time of 10:30 on Saturday the game would have been 7-a-side, but by 10:45 the two sides were able to muster 30 hale (and some very hearty) players between them. The second old boys game was on the pitch at 12:00 so the two teams agreed two twenty minute halves with a bit added on 'if there was time'.
In near perfect conditions we had an excellent game. The first half saw 2 tries apiece, with SFGG shading it by a conversion to lead 14-12. The players were complaining that there was too much advantage being played, but it made for a fast flowing game that saw every-one grateful for the half-time whistle.
The 2nd half continued in the same vein, with another 6 tries being shared evenly between the two teams, except this time with Hayward taking the kicking honours by two conversions to one, making the final score a very creditable 31 all.
Bjorn played a sterling first half at hooker, and was the epitome of politeness and correctness. His absence was very noticeable in the 2nd period as he absented himself to ostensibly 'manage the bar'.
WHAT TO DO?
As the rugby season is over for most referees, except for watching the big dogs do the playoffs, how to utilize all of our free time?
You get to the Internet the same way you get to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice.
This is a fellow who must have nothing but time on his hands, but at least he has something to show for it:
THIS WEEK’S PHOTO
Frank and Clarice Merrill hosted the tournament officials from the college finals at their home on Friday night.
L to R: Ed Todd, Scott Wood, Tony and Deidre Redmond, Frank Merrill
For the Senate