Wednesday, May 14, 2008




The annual season-ending banquet of the NCRRS will be held on Saturday, June 7, at the Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa. Not sure of the time yet – Paul Berman has not gotten back to us.

Please let Mr. Berman know if you will be attending and how many will be in your party:


In my game this past Saturday I managed to prove myself an up-to-the-minute referee: I found an unplayable. The ball wasn’t coming. I announced which player had made it unplayable by color and number, and what infraction it was that he almost committed but for my hipness.

Talk about full circle: many of our referee readers will recall being taught to ‘set your stall’ by calling a penalty when the kickoff came down, and at the first scrum, ruck and lineout.

(Younger refs can’t imagine this – how could you invent a call and have any credibility afterwards? It helps to know that referees did not speak in this era, beyond perhaps saying, “Penalty.” The whistle went, the arm went, and the players ran back ten.

(A captain might later approach and ask what that was for. The ref would say, “Offside” or “Collapsing”, no more.)

We can all agree that that was absurd. Many of us thought so at the time, and were happy when this practice went out of fashion.

Then about ten years ago someone besides the coaches of losing teams started counting the number of penalties. These were evaluators, and they held the referee accountable for all penalties beyond a magic number.

Long aside:

I am reminded of my days with the peacekeeping forces in the Sinai desert.

One of our couriers had driven in to Cairo – six hours each way – to pick up the diplomatic pouch on the bi-weekly flight from Rome.

He killed an Egyptian pedestrian with his official vehicle, drunk while on duty and in uniform. Our command group assembled and looked for options how to deal with this – what if Egypt wanted to throw him into a deep dark hole? Would he be allowed counsel? What to tell his family?

We were informed that he had been released and should be back at our camp in a few hours. It seems there were an average of 30 pedestrian-versus-car deaths in Cairo per month and this was only the 20th that month. Hence, this was to be expected and there would be no point in punishing someone for doing something that was inevitable.

But what woes would have betided this soldier should ten more people have already been killed that month! He would have probably paid the price for all of them. As it was he had ‘only’ the Uniform Code of Military Justice to face for his acts.

Such it is the twenty-fifth penalty that the referee blows, or the thirty-first – depending on what the running average is for that particular competition: that is the one that shouldn’t have been given, the one that proves the ref’s no good, that he has ‘too many penalties’ in his games.

The ref may reasonably protest, “But I don’t determine how many penalties the players commit! I try to prevent them, but have to react when I see them.” He may ask in exasperation, “Should I ignore some altogether?”

And the answer these days is – yes, you should.

Most penalties occur at the tackle. So the preferred solution is to focus on this area for penalty reduction. This is done by the simple expedient of recognizing which player has committed a penalty infraction in making the ball unavailable, waving one’s hand and, presto-chango, the penalty becomes an ‘unplayable’.

The tool of immateriality can’t be employed here because the ball is, in fact, unplayable. The offense is per se material. The whistle is blown, the player at fault is identified and spoken to, and a scrum is awarded.

Let us hope at least that these ‘unplayables’ are meant to be counted towards that player’s tally of repeat infringements. Advantages-gained count towards repeats, immaterial infractions count (probably about one-half), and unplayables certainly should, otherwise these players are getting off scot-free.

This new paradigm is not something invented here in the USA and it’s not something we’ve been asked our opinion of. I’ll referee it, but I won’t like it. And I’ll be happy when fashions change and this flavor of the month is no longer on the menu.

I think not calling material infractions that have been committed is precisely as absurd as making up infractions.

And here’s why: haven’t these players been playing rugby week after week? Haven’t they had a series of refs who adjudicate according to the same Laws and the same guidelines? HAVEN’T THEY ALREADY HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO REALIZE WHAT CONSTITUTES A PENALTY ON THE GROUND? Why should the first 3/5/7 infringers be cut slack every Saturday?

Someone will referee a national club semi-final at the end of this month. He’ll give out a handful of free passes for killing the ball until he deems that the players have had a chance to ‘learn’ what they can and cannot do.

And then the very next day, in the final – the same ref will give some of the same players exemptions from the same Laws just because it’s early in the match.


MOTHER LODE 10 – Jesuit 8 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Touch Judges: Jim Crenshaw, Nick Priscott (NERFU)
Fourth Officials: Preston Gordon, Chris Tucker

The NorCal High School championship was played in front of a significant crowd at the end of the first day's play at the PCIT High School tournament at Stanford.

Both teams were physical and committed, but frequent substitutions and wholesale knock-ons slowed down the match considerably in the first half. (Even the players started joking about the knock-ons: one requested that I penalize anyone who knocks-on).

Jesuit led 0-3 at half. In the second half, both teams improved their handling and spun the ball wide to create more space. Mother Lode scored to lead 5-3 and Jesuit scored to lead 5-8, but Mother Lode scored once more to finish ahead 10-8. Much thanks to Jim Crenshaw and Nick Priscott for their assistance as TJ's.


Under 17:
Liberty 12 – Sacramento 29 Referee: Eric Rauscher

So I showed up Saturday morning to see if I could help out, and I ended up running four games of touch. Then I showed up Sunday morning, but since there were only a dozen or so games, I thought "maybe I won't end up doing anything, but that's okay." So I helped set up fields and bring out water, but someone asked "so do you ref, also, or do you just run touch?" and I said, "Yeah, I ref." so they said, "Well, okay. We're going to give you a game." So I ended up doing the U.17 championship.

Sacramento came out strong and quick in the first half, and scored two tries within ten minutes. Then Liberty came back in the last part of the game, converted a try, so the half-time score was close, 7-10. I was told that the halves were supposed to be twenty-five, and this caused some consternation, so I called the captains and suggested to them that if they wanted to play a longer second half they could, but we ended up playing a twenty-five minute second half also. Once again in the second half, Sacramento came out very strong, and scored three tries in ten minutes. And then once again, Liberty came back towards the end of the half and scored another try. So the final score turned out to be 12-29. But the game seemed closer than the score would indicate. Liberty played very well, and never gave up. I was also impressed with Sacramento's kicker, who slotted several difficult conversion kicks. All in all, I had a very enjoyable time doing the game. And the tournament was fun.

Sierra JC 15 – WILLAMETTE OLD BOYS 51 Referee: Bruce Carter
The Sierra JC only formed in March after the D2 college season was over, but already they’ve played half a dozen games by keenly going after fixtures.

The Willamette Old Boys/Barbarians are a group of guys who played high school rugby together and still assemble for an occasional run.

This match thus met the definition of a ‘friendly’ in every sense: not a league competition, not between rivals or near-neighbors, no history in the fixture at all.

And so it went: spin the ball, take it into contact, help the opponent to his feet.

The Barbarians scored at 8, 14 and 17 minutes and it looked like the interval might continue to decrease, such was their organization vis-à-vis the defense they faced. But Sierra had a meeting in the in-goal during the conversion and came out a better-prepared team.

After that they gave a pretty good account; the subsequent scoring only had them down 30-15.

It is a real joy to work with players who clearly love the game and in many instances are still in the first blush of that love. Let’s hope they now have it as bad as their ref.

No other reports were received. There were just over a dozen teams and as many refs.


Pacific Coast U23 women:

Pelicans –Loggers/Utah Referee: Pete Smith
No report received.

Grizzly Probables – Possibles Referee: John Pohlman
No report received.



NYAC – SF/Golden Gate Referee: Tim Luscombe
Boston RFC – Chicago Lions Referee: Ed Gardner
Belmont Shore – Boston Irish Wolfhounds Referee: Paul Bretz
Charlotte – Denver Barbarians Referee: Davey Ardrey Touch Judge: Matt Eason


This weekend in Austin, Texas most of the best teams in US rugby will be gathering to winnow the fields.

Northern California will be represented among the competitors by Hayward, the Olympic Club, the Sacramento Capitals and the Reno Zephyrs.

There will also be Pelicans on the pitch in the persons of referees Aruna Ranaweera, Pete Smith, Tony Redmond, and Don Pattalock.

Division One:
Pool A
Olympic Club – Aspen
Maryland – Palmer

Pool D
Las Vegas – White Plains
Los Angeles – Life

Pool C
Hayward – Austin
Mystic River – Pearl City

Pool B
Park City Haggis – South Side Irish
Long Island – Glendale

Division Two:
Pool A
Brandywine – Clinton Muddy River
Sacramento – North County Gurkhas

Pool D
Detroit Tradesmen – South Shore Anchors
New Orleans – Tulsa

Pool C
Riverside – Hartford
Charleston – Wisconsin

Pool B
Jacksonville – Albuquerque Aardvarks
Norfolk Blues – Red Mountain

Division Three:
Middlesex – Fort Worth
Eagle Rock – Michiana
Jersey Shore – Montgomery
Montclair – Reno


There are two separate playoff systems leading to national championships this year, one for single-school teams and the other for multi-school teams:

Single School Playoffs:
This will consist of a single game, to be played at Jesuit:
Jesuit – Christian Brothers Referee: Jim Crenshaw

Multi-school Playoffs:
These will be played Friday and Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Mother Lode – United
Lamorinda - Highland

(The Pacific Northwest has chosen not to participate in high school playoffs above the local level.)


These are taken from eRugbyNews:

Women D1:
1 Stanford
2 Penn State
3 Navy
4 Texas
6 Chico State
9 UC Davis
22 California

Women D2:
1 Shippensburg
2 UC Santa Cruz
3 Norwich
4 Delaware
22 Sacramento St.

Men D1:
1 California
2 St. Mary's
4 San Diego St.
12 UC Davis

Men D2:
1 Radford
2 Coast Guard
3 Salisbury
4 Utah Valley
9 Santa Clara
16 Cal Maritime

NorCal placed eleven college teams in the top one-hundred by this reckoning.


Those of you who remember poring over Google Earth when it was released, watching the hours fly past as you sat mesmerized, well – you are in for another treat!

Microsoft has released WorldWide Telescope. It’s free. As the universe is to the Earth, is it that much more fascinating. Stargaze into an endlessly deep and self-explanatory sky...

For the uber-nerds among us, those who know will want to find the Mandelbrot Planet and there they can lose themselves in endless self-symmetry.

Committee of Voyeurs
The referee no longer struggles alone.

Andrew Ormsby, Jim Crenshaw and David Williamson man the cameras on the terrace at the Doyle Family Rugby Clubhouse at Stanford.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris