Tuesday, April 14, 2009




Nate Housman has earned advancement to C2.

Congratulations to Nate, who will soon be finishing college and going to sea with the Merchant Marine. There are going to be some seaport sides benefiting from the unexpected arrival of a keen and capable young ref!


The special occasion of this year’s Pelican Banquet on June 13 will be a presentation of the Denis Shanagher award.

This is the most prestigious honor in USA Rugby refereeing. Denis was one of the founders of USA Rugby and one of the first top-flight American referees. He was also one of Northern California’s own.

The Shanagher Award is only given after someone has compiled a lifetime of achievements within our field that merit it.

Previous honorees are Keith Seaber, Ian Nixon, John Mellish, Don Morrison, Jim Russell, , Bryan Porter and Don Reardon. All of them will be attending our banquet save Mr. Mellish, who has departed this mortal coil.

Also attending will be two new honorees: Peter Watson, who will have received the award in May at the New England Society banquet, and Donal Walsh.

Other invitations are out to various referee luminaries, including you. Please join us to honor Donal on his night.

Let Bjorn Stumer know if you can attend. Society members’ meals will be covered; guests are $50.



Two big tournaments will be taking place April 25.

The latest version of the Harlotfest, featuring eight actual teams, will be held in Turlock. They plan on twelve abbreviated games on two pitches, running from 10 until 3.

Six refs would be perfect: four games each. Let us know if you would like to work this event.

Then, too, we’ll be providing most of the referees for the Pacific Coast High School Invitational on four pitches at San Jose State. This event will be Saturday and Sunday.

Let us know if you are interested in either of these post-season tournaments.


The Pelicanmobile pulled up at the corner of California Avenue and Avenue I on Treasure Island and there was nowhere to roost. This has never happened before!

Four games between two top high school programs will do that do a parking lot.

Freshmen: SF/Golden Gate 19 – LAMORINDA 40 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
The lovely TI venue, with a big crowd, unlined fields, blimps, squawky sidelines, the breathtaking SF and Bay views. This was the first of four high school matches-but the best of the three I watched. Boy, can these kids play- they were great!

SFGG sophomores 53 – Berkeley Rhinos 0 Referee: Craig Lusiani

Varsity: SFGG 22 – Lamorinda 15 Referee: George O'Neil
Videographer: Bruce Carter
The schedule made sense this year: the two best teams met in the final game of the season, both undefeated.

Gusting winds swept away every kick save the last one; the game was tied at 5, 10 and 15. A tie would not have been a surprise – except that seeding for the playoffs hinges upon who is first and who is second!

George managed to find a relativistic effect that slowed time in the second half. What seemed like a winning try in the fortieth-plus minute must have been in the thirty-fifth.

JV: SF/Golden Gate 22 – LAMORINDA 23 Referee: Bruce Carter
Assistant Referee: George O’Neil
On the heels of game that was a deadlock to the very end came this exciting encounter.

Early on, Lamo had a try and a penalty kick to Gate’s converted try. From there on out they traded unconverted tries for a see-saw battle that featured a constant refrain, “How much time is left, sir?”

The answer in terms of the regular rugby season is unfortunately, none at all. Lesser sports will be the only outlets for most of these players the next eight months.

But rugby referees – we go all year!

Skyhawk Final
SAN MATEO 19 – East Palo Alto 15 Referee: John Pohlman
San Mateo High School 19 East Palo Alto 15
Touch Judges: Rob Holder and Frank Merrill

Last weekend I got a Pacific Coast Assignment to referee at Stanford for the D2 Woman’s Playoffs. So doing a high school game this week to some might be a bit of a letdown.

But this was a high school playoff game for seeding between two very strong programs. Yes, San Mateo High School Warriors were hosting the East Palo Alto Razorbacks. I believe San Mateo coach Keala Keanaaina stated it best when he wrote me a follow up e-mail thanking me for my work. Coach Keala said “it is no easy task to referee a physical and intense championship match with such a documented history of cultural pride on the line.”

Back to the game and what a game. The warriors won the coin toss, scratch that they won the odd or even finger call, I’ll explain that later. OK San Mateo elected to kick off and EPA controlled ball possession for the first ten minutes. They were rewarded with a converted penalty seven minutes in. Both teams were tackling hard and playing high energy, disciplined rugby.

First half score Razorbacks 3 Warriors 0.

San Mateo came out inspired, with the wind at their back and ball possession to start the second half. The Warriors maintained possession leading to a penalty advantage. As I played the advantage EPA committed another penalty seven meters down field, which I stated. San Mateo was granted the penalty at the mark of the second infraction about seven meters up field. San Mateo captain Patrick Latu, for my money the best player in N. Cal. high school rugby, took a quick tap and scored from 40 meters out. Latu broke tackles, fended off defenders and out-sprinted the backs for the score.
Score San Mateo 7 EPA 3.

The Razorbacks kicked off and San Mateo again controlled possession. A penalty was awarded, this time from half way. The Warriors faked going for touch and spun the ball wide. Eventually Captain Latu got the ball in his hands finishing off another great run caring tacklers with him as he dotted down the try.
Score SM 12 EPA 3.

Four minutes later San Mateo scored their last try of the game bringing the score to SM 19 EPA 3.

To EPA’s credit there was no look of desperation. Razorback #10 William Holder, who will be on scholarship to play football at West Point (I would bet half the seniors on the field had football scholarships, thus the caliber of the players), asked how much time on the clock. Over 20 minute, 16 down, let’s play. And play they did. Ten minutes later the Razorbacks scored their first try of the game. I didn’t get the number of the player who scored but loads of phases, ball handled by at least half the team. SM 19 EPA 8.
Five minutes later Razorbacks wing R. Nosh finished another multi phase try.
Wow SM 19 EPA 15.

For the first time the Warriors came to the restart with different looks on their faces. The feeling was the Razorbacks were going to score again...if they had ball and time. EPA worked the ball down field only to be pushed into touch. Enough time for a line out. San Mateo won the line out and kicked directly in to touch. I blew the final whistle.

Relief and celebration were on the San Mateo player’s faces. The Razorbacks looked down, but with a confident look saying we will see you in a few weeks.

Final San Mateo 19 East Palo Alto 15.
Thanks to Frank and Rob for their help. Thanks to captains Patrick and Uli for a well disciplined game.

After talking with coaches, players and getting my Outback chicken sandwich, I walked to the car. I could not locate my cell phone. Looking everywhere I started to head back to the field. Before I could even close my door coaches Keala and EPA coach Dave Tupou were walking by in a friendly chat. I asked if either had heard of a lost phone. Dave dug in his pocket said one of his players found the phone and gave it to him. One of my silver dollars I use for the coin toss had also fallen out of my pocket. I hope whoever found my phone was rewarded with the silver dollar. If not, let me know who did find my phone and I will be happy to give you one. Now that’s some good karma.

Jesuit 20 – XAVIER 22 Referee: Tony Redmond
Assistant Referees: Ray Thompson, Danny Kaufman
I haven't had the chance to referee much high quality HS rugby since I have been in the US, but this deficiency was amply addressed on Saturday when Jesuit met Xavier (NYC) in Sacramento. Both teams had a strong track record of success over the years and it was quickly obvious that both were well-organized, well-led, and well coached. The game was played at a terrific tempo and only featured 11 penalties, which was a tribute to the way that both teams played. Jesuit started very strongly (possibly because Xavier were still slightly affected by the journey) and almost scored under the post after 3 minutes. However, the last pass was forward. Jesuit did manage to score a try after 10 minutes and a penalty after 18. In between, Xavier woke up to score a goal and then scored a try to lead 10-12 at the break. Jesuit again started strongly and scored another try 2 minutes into the 2nd half, but then had to take a back seat to the pressure exerted by the Xavier forwards, who ground out two tries to take a 13-22 lead with 8 minutes to go. The last period was all motion and Jesuit managed to get in at the corner with a minute left; the try was converted with a kick that split the uprights to leave the score at 20-22. Despite their best efforts, Jesuit couldn't win the ball to force another score and Xavier ran out winners of a tremendous game.

Monday, April 13
Elsie Allen – Xavier Referee: Joe Leisek

Wednesday, April 15
SFGG – Xavier Referee: Paul Bretz

Wednesday, April 8
Vacaville 0 – 46 Christian Brothers Referee: Phil Akroyd
This was a mid-week make up game that I conducted before heading down to the monthly ref meeting at Treasure Island.

Vacaville conceded two very early penalties for using their hands in the ruck and CB scored a try from the resultant infringements, with less than two minutes played.

The home team got back into the game quickly and played some very workmanlike rugby, but seemed incapable of putting in the critical line break. They held out CB for a further thirteen minutes, concede another try and then got back to threatening the CB line. CB scored again just before half time, posting a score of Vacaville 0 – 17 C.B at the break. Vacaville were still very much in the game.

The same format continued for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, but CB’s superior fitness seemed to win out as they ran in a total of five unanswered second half tries.

The score flatters CB as Vacaville played some great, physical rugby and at least deserved a try or two.


USF 72 – U. of the Pacific 14 Referee: Greg Lundell
Referee Coach: David Williamson

SAN JOSE STATE over their Alumni Referee: An assistant coach
On one of the slowest rugby weekends of the year we could not find a referee for this one...We hang our heads.

AMAZON HS girls 41 – Stanford frosh/soph 22 Referee: Phil Akroyd
Referee Coach: Kat Todd-Schwartz
Forecasting the winner of this game before kick-off was a challenge. The Amazons had the benefit of greater size, experience and a great winning record. The Stanford women were...well, Stanford women, although this was their F/S team and the visitors appeared well coached during warm up and were practicing set moves.

The idea of a close game disappeared after the first minute when the Amazon brute force smashed over for a try with less than a minute gone. Stanford were shell-shocked and took some time to get into the game, but they did after conceding their second unconverted try. Stanford remembered that one of their fastest players was out on the wing and they shipped the ball out to her twice in ten minutes, resulting in two 50 meter run ins, one of which was converted. Ten minutes to play in the first and Stanford had taken the lead by 10 – 12. Game on!!

The Amazons had a similar moment of enlightenment as experienced by the visitors and remembered that their best player was their number 13 who literally smashed her way through defending tacklers. One particularly memorable moment of contact was when she only had the Stanford full-back to beat. The 15 was set close to the ground, lining up the oncoming ball carrier, aiming to take the legs but 13 simply dropped the shoulder of her non-ball-carrying arm into the defender and rocked her back into the dirt. Ouch! Thirteen was also the kicker, who managed to injure herself while scoring and could not take the kicks for the rest of the game, for some reason, hence no conversions.

Half time: Amazons 20 – 12 Stanford

With the lead regained, the Burbank ladies never looked back but Stanford also never gave up and scored two tries in the second half to the Amazons’ three converted tries.

A good game with lots of flowing play and many phases and only ten penalties in the whole game.


Pacific Coast Women's Collegiate Championships
Steuber Family Rugby Stadium, Stanford University
Division 2

Friday, April 3
Sacramento State 15 Utah State 10 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referees: Mike King, Eric Rauscher

The first game of the tournament kicked off in front of a sparse crowd, and ended in front of a fairly boisterous crowd after a little more than 80 minutes of rugby and a thrilling finale. The two teams were very evenly matched and competitive and in fact were deadlocked at 10 with about 15 minutes to play. Finally, after some extra time that featured no dead-ball stoppages, Sac State's captain scored the try that won the D2 semi-final.

Saturday, April 4
Washington State 24 Sacramento State 5 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referees: Mike King, Sandy Robertson

The Division 2 final featured passages of rugby between injury stoppages. The may have been the longest game I have ever been involved in. Several players from each side were injured, hopefully not seriously enough to miss any national playoff action. Washington State was clearly the better team, though Sac State did not give in at all. Washington's backline featured the running skills of two sisters, who punched through the gainline frequently. Both ran straight up and straight at people, but also knew when to sidestep with agility. Very impressive performance and good luck to both teams in the nationals. In the something-I-have-never-seen-before category, a Sac State ballcarrier somehow wrapped the ball in her jersey, which was pulled off by a would-be tackler. Fortunately, this happened during advantage.

Throughout the weekend I really appreciated the help of Mike, Eric, and Sandy...all excellent guys to work with.

Division 1

Stanford 52 Chico State 5 Second Half Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referees: Mike King, Sandy Robertson

While relaxing and watching the end of the first half of Jim Crenshaw's Stanford-Chico State match, I saw AR Mike King trying to get my attention. I figured he needed something, maybe water, for the team of three. When I jogged down from the top of the stadium, I saw Bruce Carter talking with Jim. Bruce then turned to me and said, seriously: "We need you." I was being called in from the bullpen. The only problem was that I had already put my kit bag in the car, which was parked outside the football stadium. Fortunately, we were able to convince a skeptical Stanford student to loan me his bike, with Eric Rauscher as collateral. So off I went at speed, pumping the pedals to my car and back. A very quick change followed, and then a jog out onto the field, and we were ready for the second half.

I refereed 40 of Stanford's points. Chico battled valiantly, but Stanford turned up the power in the second half. They were able to consistently link up bewteen the midfield and the three-quarters, where they had all the speed in the world. They were also able to create some serious pressure on Chico's defense through the boot of center Melissa Smit and a well-timed chaser who put everyone onside quickly and bore down on the ball. Chico was able to maintain possession at times, but were going uphill for the nearly the entire 40 minutes. A very impressive performance by Stanford.

My goal in the half was to not embarrass Jim. Good luck to both teams.


Hi Bruce
Don't want to be seeing correcting you in the Saint Mary's game, but my son, Kyle Batten scored the winning try. He actually scored two: the opening and the winning. We were very proud of him.

Just thought you should know.

Proud Mom
With thanks


Last week George Will reviewed a book about umpiring by Bruce Weber, titled,
"As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires".

One sentence caught our bird’s-eye:

“Umpires, baseball's judicial branch, embody what any society always needs and what America, in its current financial disarray, craves -- regulated striving that, by preventing ordered competition from descending into chaos, enables excellence to prevail.”

That last dependent clause reveals why a referee has to be so active, and why when a high-level match has few penalties it’s not because it was easy, it’s because the referee was up to the challenge of working very, very hard.

Night Crew
We had a lovely photo of Tony Redmond after his talk at out society meeting last week – with forty in attendance! – with David Williamson and one of the jerseys Tony presented to our Society. But the computer ate it.

Here are some likely lads at Stanford watching Jim Crenshaw get injured while chasing college women on a perfect pitch April 4.

Left to Right: Scott Wood, Chris Brown (Vancouver Island), Roberto Santiago, Joe Leisek, Bjorn Stumer, John Pohlman, Stuart Willis (Virginia), Bruce Carter.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris