Tuesday, June 24, 2008




This is the granddaddy of them all – the longest running USA sevens tournament, having begun in 1972 – and with the wealth of rugby talent in Northern California it features some of the best Sevens played anywhere in the land.

Palo Alto also offers the occasion for the referee society to socialize. We’ll have a tent and some coolers. Bring a chair, some comestibles and potables for the picnic, and prepare to enjoy the competition and the camaraderie.

For new referees, this is the best chance our annual calendar offers to have a series of games with friendly, helpful eyes watching from the sidelines. Do a game, get some feedback, watch a more experienced ref handle the same situations, do another game: the best way to scale a steep learning curve.

For those referees who are not yet perfect at the tackle, Sevens affords you the opportunity to work on this basic aspect of our game. There aren’t going to be piles of bodies – the miscreants will be there for you to see and you’ll find your perception getting sharper, your anticipation honing itself as well.

For those who haven’t refereed sevens before, give it a try! We’ll let you in on a secret: not all of the matches are played at blistering pace. There are matches to suit your gear ratio.

And if you’d just like to spend a Saturday in the sun with rugby folk and have a picnic, come on down! Bring the wife and kids – there’s lots for them to do in the area during the day before it’s time to eat (Great America, movies, Stanford Mall).

We’ll be at Cubberley, on Middlefield just off San Antonio. Plan for 9 AM kickoffs. And please let us know if you will be attending!


NorCal Old Boys 30 – NEVADA OLD BOYS 45 Referee: Nikola Talemo
Dunsmuir, Calif.

On a hot and windy day drive with triple digits from Sonoma County upward North, to start of our Summer of rugby, my wife and I made the drive to Dunsmuir for five scenic hours.

Kick off was 5pm and we arrived around 4 to find 20 or so old young pretenders warming up and grazing the lovely grassed pitch. NorCal had 17 guys and Nevada had only 4 guys and a young lady. They ended up filling up two teams with 10 players and we played old boys rugby for 4-10min quarters. We agreed for uncontested scrums because our old young lady from Nevada was hooking whom I found out later to be the daughter of a former Pelican who was their inside center.

It was a feast of rugby and the enthusiasm showed by the two opposing 60yr old wingers was enough history lesson for me. A lot of passing and tries were scored by both teams with no conversions since we didn’t have any goalposts. In the last 10min they saw that I was a normal ref and asked if I was having any fun. They insisted I pull on an old boy jersey to experience old boys’ rugby. I touched the ball six times and scored four tries and that made me drink out of my size 13 boot. We made the camp and the fun started, they brought kava through their Reno Island connection and I made ‘em all Kava-doped that night. So much rugby to any new pelican to experience old boys style. Ain’t nothin’ better than playin’ in the jungles…


CAMPBELL MARAUDERS 29 – Tri Valley 0 Referee: Anna McMahan
It was already 90 degrees when we kicked off just a minute after the 9:00am horn blew to start the Campbell Highland Games. I was running late, so Tom Zanarini, who organized the refs for the tournament, kindly did a boot check while I got myself ready. The game consisted of one 30 minute period, which was quite long enough for most of the players on the field, and the ref.

The Marauders won quite handily, as the score suggests. They had more players and more organization than Tri Valley, and the ability to bring in fresh legs made a big difference in the heat. The first four Marauder tries were scored through breaks in the defense after multiphase play during regulation time. The last try was scored after the horn had blown, but the game was still on until the ball was made dead. Which it was eventually, by a Marauder in the try zone.

Possession favored the Marauders, who were able to get more go-forward ball from their breakdowns, but Tri Valley put up some solid defense for parts of the game. TV defensive disorganization eventually let the Marauders break through the line, and they had the support players to run in tries. Discipline was great, and both teams seemed to be out to have a good time.

CAMPBELL MARAUDERS 48 – Stanislaus/Monterey combined 0
Referee: Anna McMahan
By the time the 10:00 rolled around the temp had crept up to 96, in the shade. For someone who hadn't reffed in two months, and generally runs at a comfortable pace in cooler weather, chasing down 8 Marauder tries in 30 minutes was tough. Stanislaus was scheduled to play the Marauders immediately after their 9:30 match, and due to lack of numbers combined with Monterey for the 10:00 game.

Most of the combined team players had just finished a game, and they couldn't match the fresh legs of the Marauders team.

The Marauders were able to distribute the ball well, and their backs made some great slashing runs through the combined team defense. The game had few knock-ons, though a couple of forward passes happened while the teams tried to spread the ball to their speedy outside backs. The combined side had quite a creative scrum arrangement, in that their fullback would run up to play hooker any time we packed down for a scrum. Despite the heat and the score, both teams played positive rugby for all 30 minutes, and made for an enjoyable match.

Report by Bruce Bernstein:
Had a good time. There were 4 teams. Marauders had a good 25 players, while the 3 other teams looked like they each had a little more than 10--which as the day went on the Marauders played against a combined Stanislaus/Aptos/Monterey side.

MARAUDERS 60 – Combined Forces 5
The Marauders steam-rolled the other teams present.
Tom Zanarini reffed the first half which was 30-5 & I reffed the second when another 6 tries were scored.

I also reffed an earlier match Tri Valley (a HS team) which gave the Mauraders a run for their money losing only 22-7. It might have been hot, but I could swear there was a breeze, clouds, rain & thunder showers in the distance, & a nice spread in an air conditioned room for all the judges (which we were).


It was 110 when they kicked off. The Teachers, a team from exceedingly temperate Bermuda, said it best: “We knew it would be hot, but not THIS hot!”

The tournament has shrunk from its glory days, now being contested on five pitches instead of ten. But play continues in Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks divisions, there being only one entry for the Jokers (old boys) in 2008.

The only NorCal team was the Clowns, who were also the old boys team. They played in the Kings division, finishing their pool 3-0 before losing in the quarterfinal.

NorCal was of course represented by a number of players on various teams, including Kamal Mokeddem of the Olympic Club who played in the final for his alma mater, MIT, and Rikus Pretorius, the recent Cal grad who played for OMBAC.

Pete Smith refereed the Aces final and Mike Gadoua got the Jacks. El Siete, Pat McNally, was on hand to provide expert feedback and support for all the refs.

June 13, 14, 15 2008
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Exchangee: Don Pattalock

It didn’t take long to accept this exchange when it was offered: Toronto + Churchill Cup + good rugby to referee = no brainer! I arrived on Friday evening and was picked up by Byron Wood, who would provide my coaching report on Sunday, and whisked off to a little British pub for some dinner and a pint (or 2). My billet for the weekend, JC Gilbert, met Byron and I at the pub where we proceeded to discuss all the intricacies of rugby smattered with light discussions about the waitress. JC lives in Berrie, so after a little drive, we settled into the couch to watch a couple of summer internationals.

Saturday we headed out to Fletcher’s Field, in Markham for the Churchill Cup. England Saxons v Ireland A and Argentina v Canada. The pitch was heaving with 6,000+ rugby fans. JC, Byron and I settled at the top of the grandstand next to the tournament officials, which included Tony Spreadbury and Ed Morrison. Two great games, lots of discussions and a good time had by all.

Sunday, JC and I headed up to Simco lake for a look around before we headed back to Fletcher’s Field for our matches. Back at Fletcher’s, there are 6 pitches, a club house with several changing rooms along with two referee changing rooms with showers. My match had the Toronto Saracens v Oshawa Vikings. The Saracens had recently been relegated down a division and Oshawa had been promoted a division. The game was well contested, but Oshawa had too much possession and speed for the home team and ran away with the match 39-12. A quick shower, and Byron and I were on our way to the airport for my return home.

Thanks to Steve Scott for arranging the Ontario side, Bjorn and Bruce for the NorCal side.

Lucky Sevens Refs
Here are most of the referees who worked the Midnight Sevens this past weekend, well past midnight:

Standing, left to right: Pete Smith, Donny Slager, Jason Harper, Dave Thomas, Bill Caulfield, Sean O’Connell, Cullen Lowe, Mike Evergin
Not standing, left to right: LuAnn Campbell, Gary Patterson, DeLyn Barclay, Pat McNally, Bruce Carter, Mike Gadoua, Bruce Brown


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Tuesday, June 17, 2008




The most fun you can have on two feet, Summer Sevens begins soon.

This weekend will find at least four Pelicans in Las Vegas for the Midnight Sevens. The NorCal season begins at Cubberley in Palo Alto the next weekend.

Palo Alto Summer Sevens
June 28
July 12
July 26

For those of you who are new to the society, this event provides our society with a chance to picnic! Bring a chair, a cooler, and some food to share. We tend to shy away from standard picnic fare – exotic/unusual is fine. The idea is to inspire envy in others as they see how much fun it is to hang out with the Pelican Refs.

The Pacific Coast qualifier for the nationals will also be held on July 26, either at Cubberley or Treasure Island.

USA Sevens club championships will be hosted by SF/Golden Gate at Rocca Field on August 9.

We’ll need to fill out the teams of five for these last two events, which means we need to practice our Sevens touch-judging and in-goal-judging at Palo Alto. This is quite different from merely running touch for mob rugby. If you would like to work the nationals, you’ll have a chance to demonstrate your merit over the next two months.


The Grizzlies, coached by Jonathan Griffin and Chris O’Brien of Stanford, won the all-star championships in Glendale, Colorado, this past weekend.

Congratulations to Pete Smith for his appointment to referee the final, and his further appointments as a touch judge for the NA4 games in British Columbia next month.


Keith Seaber is one of the leading lights of American rugby. A member of the committee that founded USARFU, he went on to serve in many different executive capacities, including national referee chairman.

Keith is a recipient of the highest honor bestowed in USA rugby refereeing, which is named after one of NorCal’s own, the Denis Shanagher Award. He’s also had the best job in USA Rugby, directing the Sevens program.

You can imagine our delight to find that Keith reads Hail, Pelicus!

“Please pass on my congratulations to Bryan Porter for being the first recipient of the award bearing his name. I think the award is a good and necessary one and it is natural and right that my old friend and fellow member of the Denis Shanagher Award club, Bryan, should be the first to receive it.

“I enjoy reading your website, Hail Pelicus; keep up the good work. Incidentally, I agree with Bryan's comments that the NCRFU Referees Society is the best in the country.

“Best regards
Keith Seaber”


The Gospel according to John, Chapter 10, verse 1 and 2 (International Standard Version):

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

Thanks to Brother Brian Gildea for his Sunday diligence in bringing this to our notice.


It’s not for nothing that the annual competition involving the USA, Canada and England is named after a man voted as The Greatest Briton by listeners to the BBC, over such competition as Newton, Nelson and Shakespeare.

Once when attending a gridiron football game in the United States, Winston Churchill was asked what he thought of the sport.

“Actually is it somewhat like rugby,” he said. “But why do you have all these committee meetings?”

Sevens Number Ones
Here are two versions of Sevens Number Ones, modeled by Mike Gadoua and Nikola Talemo.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Wednesday, June 11, 2008




The Bull Valley Inn in Port Costa ably and affably hosted our end-of-the-season banquet for the second year on Saturday evening. Thirty-five Pelicans and their consorts attended.

We were joined by two new Pelicans: Nikolai Talemo, with his wife Wanda, and Heath Hathaway. They were warmly welcomed to the flock.

Pete Smith presented the awards:

Bryan Porter Award

This one is new. It honors dedication to helping our member referees improve their craft, an endeavor to which Bryan has devoted a number of decades. Entire generations of referees here and farther afield owe critical aspects of their progress to his keen eye and understanding. The initial honoree is, of course, Bryan Porter.

In part, Bryan had this to say:

“The notice of the award comes as a surprise and I am suitably grateful. I am glad that the efforts of all our assessors will now have some recognition. I guess as the oldest I have to be first but the Society is well served by all its volunteers in this area… In truth there have been many rewards to offset the lonely weekends standing on a sideline in pouring rain with only a touch judge for company. My basic philosophy is still to produce a referee who will be a better ref on the next weekend and equally to help those who aspire to bigger and better things in their development. It is a small thing but I have been fortunate in having the NorCal referees to work with, still the best in the U.S.A. I draw great satisfaction in being part of their progress.”

Touch Judge of the Year

Another first-time presentation. With the growth of touch judging in importance and visibility, we’d like to recognize those who dedicate themselves to refereeing along the touchline. Eric Rauscher is the first recipient.

Pelican of the Year

The intrepid winner of this award proves his worth by going the extra hundreds of miles to cover games when others can’t or won’t. In doing a game in Arroyo Grande on no-notice, JC Van Staden earned these wings.

Rookie of the Year

This was a very good year for hatchlings in the Pelican nest. We were blessed to have a number of capable new referees, and Tom Zanarini was recognized as the farthest flyer in the new flock.

Most Improved

Only one of us started the year having barely gotten his feet wet as a referee and finished having refereed the premier American club rugby game, San Mateo – Hayward. That would be Chris Tucker.

Ambassador of the Year

From Hong Kong to Texas to Ontario (Canada) to Albuquerque, and other places we’ve lost track of, the society was well-represented by Don Pattalock.

Scriptoris Award

For enlivening these pages with some entertaining write-ups and witty insights, John Pohlman deserved thanks and recognition.

And to all our readers: no-one appreciates an audience as much I enjoy sharing my love of the game with friends, those old and new and as yet unmet.


The rich get richer as our newest exchange partner will be the Northeast for the Can-Am tournament. This will be the 35th running of the event.

This event is held in early August in the Saranac Lake/Lake Placid area of upstate New York. It is the premier large fifteen-a-side tournament remaining in the US, conducted on ten pitches spread out among some gorgeous country.

Top teams from eastern Canada are in mid-season form for this one. East Coast and Midwestern US teams are only a couple of weeks from beginning their seasons at this point. There are some great cross-border rivalries that get played out.

Roberto Santiago will be our first exchangee.


We heard that the New Zealand – Ireland game last week close and worth watching. So we sat down Monday night after 13 hours at work to download it and have a look.

Imagine our surprise: the Mediazone subscription expired in October 2007 and Setanta soon thereafter. Which means we haven’t found the time to sit and watch a single rugby game at home since the World Cup ended.

This is a real shame, when rugby takes up all your time so that you don’t get to watch any rugby.


HEMA is a Dutch department store chain, albeit British-owned. The Dutch are not necessarily known for their sense of humor. At least not until now.

Visit their website. It’s in Dutch but you’ll get it – give it time to load and sit back.


Award Winners
Meet a distinguished flock of Pelicans: Most Improved Chris Tucker and Pelican Of the Year JC Van Staden are standing while Rookie of the Year Tom Zanarini and Touch Judge of the Year Eric Rauscher are sitting alongside a faithful bird who brought his own rugby ball.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Thursday, June 05, 2008



NORTH BAY SEVENS TOURNEY: The First Taste of Sevens Blood
Report by Septenae:

On a warm morning on the last day of May, Baracus scored one try more than Marin Sevens to claim the Cup of the North Bay Sevens Tourney.

And later in the day (“South Pacific time”) Lautoka beat Suva and Coral Coast beat the local Sparta side. No injuries, no conversions, only tries.


There have been eleven national championships awarded by USA Rugby so in the past month. NCRFU teams won four of them and the PCRFU six overall.

High School team: JESUIT
Men’s College D1: CALIFORNIA
Women’s College D1: STANFORD
Men’s Club D3: RENO

High School Club: Highland (Utah)
Men’s Club D2: Red Mountain (Arizona)


The Pelican Refs are in the process of developing a referee-specific fitness training program, involving the services of a professional trainer.

We are looking for someone who is serious about getting to the top of the game, willing to commit and devote the time necessary. If you would like to be the guinea pig, please let us know.


Pacific Coast Pelican U23, 5 – TONGA U20, 24 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
No report received.

Actually the home team featured players (mostly islanders) from clubs (SFGG, EPA, Hayward, Mission, San Mateo) in Pelican-land. The team was coached by John Tyler and Tasi Mounga. Since they wore Grizzly jerseys the team was called the Pacific Coast Pelicans.

NorCal Tongan Select 5 – TONGA U20 49 Referee: Pete Smith
Touch Judges: John Pohlman, Eugene Baker
No report received.


This Saturday in Port Costa, a lovely little burg with a charming restaurant:

Drinks 5:30, dinner 6:30, camaraderie all evening.

RSVP to Paul Berman if you will be attending with the number in your party and menu choices:

Prime Rib
Smoked Chicken
Grilled Halibut
Pasta with Prawns in Marinara
Vegetarian Pasta


Officiating rugby the last week of May usually means alumni games or USA rugby finals. But I had the pleasure of being #7 for the Tonga Under 20's versus NorCal Tongan Select. By the way, the #7 official does things the 4, 5 and 6 don't get to. With the crew of Jim Crenshaw in the middle and two Pacific Coast referees flown in the touch judge. Add Pete Smith and Tony Latu running 4 and 5, I got a great view of the game. I'll leave that game to Jim.

On Friday evening at Golden Gate’s Treasure Island field these two teams faced off for the rematch. Pete Smith was refereeing and Eugene and I were TJ's.

Tonga U-20's 49 NorCal Tongan Select 5

This game was scheduled to start at 5:00 PM and started around 5:30. The U-20's have an intense warm-up of around 30 minutes. The Select were getting organized.

The U-20's scored tries at 6, 12, 15, 22, 28 and 38 minute marks. They rucked faster ball than I have seen all season. Their backs ran angles with miss passes and change of pace. Good stuff.

The Select played hard and controlled possession for good stretches. Only to turn the ball over under the pressure of relentless tackling by the U-20's.

Second half saw the benches being emptied. U-20's 15 Select 5.

Final U-20's 49 Select 5.

This was some very entertaining rugby to watch. The 200-plus mostly Polynesian fans got a treat. Thanks.

Saturday saw the FOG hosting a mini tournament. They were trying to duplicate the format for the Bingham Cup. This was the final warm-up and going away party in preparation of their trip to Dublin Ireland.

Games started at 11:00 and were played on the hour.

Pete Smith called the first two, James Hinkin was in the middle for the next two. I did the last two.


The Fog are off to Dublin, Ireland, for the Bingham Cup. Roll Fog!

Fog Ladies – UC Santa Cruz Referee: Pete Smith
No report received.

SF Fog - Berkeley Ref: Smith
No report received.

Fog B 0 – STANISLAUS 46 Referee: James Hinkin
The Fog B team was full of players who tried hard but the speed and size of the more experienced Harlot team was the telling difference. The Harlots were able to use their own ball effectively and were quicker to react to turnover ball. Several mazy runs from the #10 caught the city youngsters flat-footed and unsure. Final score: 46-0

FOG A 31 – Stanislaus 14 Ref: Hinkin
The Fog A team took the field in preparation for their Ireland tour with their sights on the Bingham Cup. With Modesto having played essentially a first half against the Fog B side the question was whether the fresh legs of the Foggers would trump the warmed up Harlots. This was an exciting, physical match with the Fog rushing out to an early lead. The Harlots had difficulty with the swerving runs of the Fog wingers on both set pieces and counter attacks and were unable to establish forward dominance where they had a size advantage. About 10 minutes into the half they Harlots replaced a rookie front rower with an experienced trenchman, thus removing the need for uncontested scrums, and the play started to balance more. The Fog were able to hold on to a substantial lead at the half, though, going into the break at 26-0.

The second half was a much more back and forth affair with both sides attacking with all they had. The Harlots had the upper hand in this half, scoring twice to the Fog’s once, but not enough to offset the damage from the first 20 minutes.

Fog 0 – BERKLEY 32 Ref: Pohlman
Berkley was too strong for the Fog seconds winning 32-0.

BERKELEY 19 – Stanislaus 17 Ref: Pohlman
My last game saw Stanislaus playing Berkley. This was a completive game with Stanislaus leading 12-5 at half time.

Berkley lost a front row before half. This led to uncontested scrums for the second half.

With one minute left the score was Stanislaus 17 Berkley 12. Berkley won the scrum advanced a couple of phases only to turn the ball over in the tackle. Stanislaus decided to play the ball rather than end the game by putting the ball in touch.

Yeah you guessed it; Berkley incepted a pass, scored and converted the try.

Final Berkley 19 Stanislaus 17.

The post party had a great barbeque and raffle. Good luck FOG in the Bingham Cup. Any chance you get to contribute to an event which honors a hero such as Mark Bingham is a blessing.


Jesuit. We penciled this one in last week, before they kicked off.

When a single-school team has won titles against all-comers teams, you know they will clean up after the competition is restricted.


JESUIT 39 – St. Joseph’s Preparatory 0
JESUIT 29 – St. Thomas 12
JESUIT 22 – La Salette 5

In the multi-school playoffs, two teams from the same city met for the title, with Highland defeating Utah United.

Infinity Park
Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado, has to be experienced to be believed.

You’re probably read that this is the only rugby stadium funded by a municipality in the USA. (Just for perspective – almost every stadium in which professional sports are played in this country was built by public dollars.) But what strikes the first-time visitor is the degree to which this is apparent on-site: City Hall is adjacent to the pitch. The tunnel that the teams run out of leads from the basement of that building. Meals, water and sunblock for the refs were available in the city council meeting chambers/courtroom.

We’ve been rightfully proud – even boastful in these pages – of the rugby facilities built in Northern California over the past couple of decades. Now Glendale and the Eastern Rockies have a wonderful, fully-realized rugby complex to help raise the level of USA rugby another notch.

Your photographer could not talk his way onto the roof of city hall, which would have given a full-field perspective. This photo shows several features of the place.

Note the large video screen in the scoreboard – the area showing the USA Rugby logo in the photo. There are five permanent camera placements and yes, they re-run plays from all the angles. When the ref hears a collective groan a little while after a controversial call he knows he got it wrong!

A neat feature of the pitch is the berm which you can see alongside. This does several things: it discourages people from standing along the touchline, it serves to elevate the first row of seating, and it acts as a highly-efficient ball-returner, facilitating quick throw-ins.

The far side of the field has the same type of seating running the entire length, with a restaurant/bar centerfield, and under construction is a building that will contain meeting rooms and changing rooms.

The end from which the photo was taken is City Hall. There is a terrace with shops

Land has been acquired to put in a second pitch across the street, which can be used as a warm-up field or for tournaments. There is even talk of keeping one of a series of apartment buildings that now occupy that land as a dormitory for visiting teams/player assemblies/extended national team camps/etc.

If you are going to be in Denver, make it a point to stop by Infinity Park in Glendale. If you can get there for rugby, even better!


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris