Wednesday, May 20, 2009




Joe Androvich has earned promotion to B2. Joe’s skills have been recognized by the PCRRS and his elevation announced by REO Matt Eason.

Congratulations to our formerly-struggling C2.


Aruna Ranaweera has been selected to attend an IRB training program for rising international referees at Stellenbosch, South Africa, in July. The program is called the TIP, an acronym that eludes us thus far.

George O’Neil has received a grant from the US Rugby Football Foundation to assist him in traveling to Canterbury, New Zealand, to referee for the next three months. The NCRRS will be helping out with his travel expenses as well, to the tune of an East Mids exchange airfare.


Doubtless you’ve seen a list of the ten ELVs that were adopted. What a worthless, backwards way to present information: we’ve all been refereeing them long enough that they aren’t ‘experimental’ to us; they are simply the way the game is played.

By not adopting three of the ELVs, what has happened is three Laws have been changed.

These are the ELVs that were NOT adopted. Stop refereeing them as of the next game you do, unless it is a playoff game from a season already underway as of May 23.

Experimental Law Variation 2
Law 17 - Maul
Removed reference to head and shoulders not being lower than hips. The reference is back in.

Experimental Law Variation 3
Law 17 - Maul
Players were able to defend a maul by pulling it down. Now they can’t.

Experimental Law Variation 6
Law 19 - Touch and Lineout
There is again a restriction on the number of players from the non-throwing team who can participate in the lineout.

Executive Summary: Back to the old maul laws and we have to count the players in the lineout again.

Please – don’t ever give a free kick for numbers. Just talk the players into compliance – the ball’s not even in play. Tell them they have too many guys and let them retire. Easiest whistle you’ll ever avoid.


I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
- Psalm 102:6

Faithful readers will recall that my game count is now up to 1,699. But I have not refereed as indiscriminately as such a sum might imply to skeptics.

When I was playing and entered my thirties, older teammates started talking about the joys of old boys rugby, looking forward to ‘masters’ events. I was only going to be drawn kicking and screaming into it, wanted no part of it. Real rugby for me, thank you.

My playing career and my refereeing career overlapped by ten years, but I like a fool I gave priority to playing. Then I broke my hand punching an opponent who was playing dirty, requiring surgery to repair the damage – none of which was to him.

With two pins sticking out of my hand and an external apparatus to support them, I couldn’t play for six weeks. The Reno and Las Vegas tournaments were coming up! Only one thing to be done: referee.

The Wild West Rugby Fest was a big event back then, four pitches going all day for two days. I arrived early on Saturday morning and reported for duty to the referee director, Dan Hickey.

Now, Dan knew me as a fellow who’d played eight games for five different teams on the Saturday at the Golden Gate tournament less than six months previously. When I said, “But I’m a ref now,” he looked at the device on my mangled hand and said, “Sure you are.”

I was thereby assigned ‘every game on field four’; the old boys field, mercifully narrow and short. Mercifully because we were out of season, at altitude, all of the players older than the ref, many of whom had not been able to find beds amid the distractions of Nevada the night just past.

The first lineout of the first match I had to eject a player for punching. He told me I hadn’t seen the first punch and no wonder: it had been thrown several years previously, when I was yet living in Georgia.

It was at that point that I saw old boys rugby for what is was: the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. A vast wasteland of former glory. I didn’t wish to embrace getting older! I took a Scarlett O’Hara-like vow: “As God is my witness I will never referee old boys again!”

So it was last week, more than twenty years later, that I found myself contemplating Saturday’s schedule. Mike Walker had asked for a ref for an old boys curtain-raiser at Rocca Field. The only refs I knew for certain were going to be there were the ARs for the super-league match, who would need to be preparing for that fixture, and the two fourth officials: Tom Zanarini and myself. Tom was serving as AR for the high school championship that morning and the timings weren’t right.

I said to my wife, “Should I ref an old boys game?”

She said, “Why not?”

I said, “Well, I’ve always avoided them. I don’t think I’ve done one since joining the society.”

Knowing me better than I know myself, she said: “Check your diary. I’ll bet you’ve done one somewhere.”

Sure enough: Aspen Ruggerfest, 1995. Over-35 final.

But, I objected strenuously, that is HARDLY the same thing. My old Monterey teammate Brian Vizard played for OMBAC in that game, a month after playing on their national championship-winning Sevens side.

So it was that I drove to Treasure Island Saturday morning to willingly referee my first real old boys game.

Señors 31 – BALD EAGLES 43 Referee: Bruce Carter
How can there be old boys whom I refereed in high school? One of those, Tory Galino, more than accounted for the difference in score, setting his backline free again and again.

Something new under the sportsmanship sun: the Señors did not feel moved to take conversion kicks, so Bald Eagle Captain Beau McSwain took one for them, neatly slotting an own-goal.

Then, too, there were calls that one of the Señors had obstructed. The ruling was, “Fred Forster cannot obstruct.” (Fred, by the way, is in his fortieth season of over-35 rugby.)

What a fun game! My perspective has certainly changed now that I’m older than most of the players rather than the other way around. Refereeing rugby – any rugby – is the key to unlocking what youth yet remains in these bones.

SF/GOLDEN GATE 48 – Dallas 13 Referee: Tim Luscombe
ARs: Charlie Haupt, Chris Tucker
Fourth Officials: Tom Zanarini, Bruce Carter
Referee Coach: David Williamson

If you haven’t seen Gate’s super league side this season, find your way to Rocca Field this Saturday, May 23, for their 3 PM semi-final with the Denver Barbarians.

This team features dynamic, threatening players front to back, left to right. They lead the league in scoring. The locks, the halfback pair, pace and power everywhere you look – well worth your Saturday.


Round of sixteen:
Olympic Club 7 – GLENDALE 8
OLYMPIC CLUB 48 – Houston AC 13

Round of sixteen:
EAST PALO ALTO 16 – St. Louis Bombers 5
EAST PALO ALTO 26 – Back Bay 11

Round of sixteen:
Mission 7 – FORT WORTH 13
MISSION 31 – Eagle Rock 12

East Palo Alto will play in the final four in Glendale, Colo., May 30-31.


It was win, place and show for the Sacramento Valley conference of the NCRFU. Jesuit brought home gold, Christian Brothers silver, and the Amazons the bronze.

JESUIT 50 – Charlotte Catholic 0

JESUIT 27 – Xavier 5

JESUIT 28 – Christian Brothers 0

Sacramento 5 – LAKEWOOD 8
Third place:
SACRAMENTO AMAZONS 56 – Maryville (Tenn) 0


Marin Highlanders 27 – SAN MATEO Warriors 30 Referee: Preston Gordon
ARs: Tom Zanarini, Mike King
Evaluator: Mike Malone
Referee Coach: Peter Buchanan (Queensland & Australia)
Redwood HS, Larkspur, 2009-05-16, 10 AM

On a very warm morning, these two teams met in the NorCal high school final. The semi-finals were by all accounts very good games, and it looked like this one would be another. Marin was warming up when I got there at 0900, and by the time San Mateo turned up at the pitch at 0940, there were a hundred or so supporters gathered on the Marin side.

Tom, Mike, and I quickly got the pre-match formalities out of the way with San Mateo, and we were ready to go at the scheduled kickoff time of 1000. One of the Marin coaches still wasn't quite happy with the San Mateo IDs and rosters, so we had to wait a few extra minutes, but we started soon after. I'd guess it was about 75 degrees (and probably about 85 by the end of the game).

San Mateo used their outside backs as their primary offensive weapon in the first part of the game, while Marin seemed to be better suited to a forwards' style. Those trends balanced out nicely as the match progressed, with all the players on the field getting into the action.

Tries were traded back and forth, and at the half it was 20-15 in favor of San Mateo, despite their lack of serious pre-game preparation time. San Mateo had scored 4 tries against 2 tries, a conversion, and a penalty goal for Marin.

I don't think this game ever got more than a try apart, and there were several lead changes. 2 knock-ons over the goal line (one caught nicely by Mike) and a couple of runs close to touch kept things interesting and the team of three on their toes.

San Mateo added another 2 additional tries in the second half (neither of them converted), whereas Marin added 2 more and a conversion, setting up the result at 30-27 to San Mateo. Marin had one last chance to get out of their 22 when a San Mateo flanker was penalized for coming off the scrum early, but unfortunately they made a forward pass - I had to wait a few seconds to call it so I could check with Tom to be sure - a little later in the progression that gave San Mateo a scrum put-in. They got the ball out of that scrum, and shortly thereafter kicked to touch as time expired, and took the title.

This was a very well-played game with almost zero foul play. Either side could have won it in the end, and I'd like to thank the coaches from both sides for staying cool throughout. Many thanks as well to Tom and Mike, who both did a great job on the touchline, and to the 2 gentlemen who came out to watch the referee.

[Editor’s Note: there is a profile on the San Mateo team in the latest issue of Rugby magazine, and now they’ve got a trophy to go with it!]


Just a query: Sevens, along with golf, are the real Scottish games that have spread around the world. Why then are they playing fifteens in the blazing heat?

DIABLO GAELS 38 – Stanislaus 0 Referee: Eric Rauscher
AR: Mike King
Scottish games, Livermore sunny and hot

Did I mention it was hot? It was hot. The game consisted of two 20 min halfs. The pitch was full sized, but little more than a fairly level field with lines and flags. No matter, the teams were ready to play and game on. Did I mention it was hot? Diablo came out with all pistons firing and scored three tries and two conversions in the first half. Stanislaus put up a good fight, but the Gaels seemed to have a bit more hustle and speed. The second half was a mirror of the first (except I think that the temperature went up). Stanislaus had a couple of cracks at scoring, but were never able to make it over.

By the end of the game we were all pretty hot and ready for a break. We retired to under the tents provided by the Gaels to get out of the heat.

It was hot.

Sunday, May 17
GRIZZLY Women 17 – Midwest Thunderbirds 0 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referee: Mike King Touch; Judge: TJ: Petrie Quigley-Kodzis
Steuber Family Stadium, Stanford University

A game scheduled to give both teams a warmup before the national tournament in Little Rock in two weeks' time. Several women's national team players on the field, extremely skilled and athletic players, and a good spirit of cameraderie amongst teammates and between opponents. The game was played at pace and at a high skill level, but also featured some handling errors brought on by lack of playing time together and (primarily) the intense heat. The Grizzlies scored a converted try in the first half and a converted try and penalty kick in the second half (second half try by Tina Nesberg). The Grizzlies were the better team on the day, but the Thunderbirds kept the game close...both sides ran the ball out wide and also played it tight in the forwards. Really enjoyable game. Best wishes to both teams as they meet again in two weeks. Thanks to Mike King for his excellent assistance as AR (and for the ride and conversation) and to TJ Petrie Quigley-Kodzis who was volunteered by Ellen Owens and who in fact did a great job as a touch judge.


Referees: John Coppinger, Rich Anderson

Under a blazing sun, SCUTS (Santa Clara University Touring Side) took on the SCU Alumni on the lovely Mission Campus last Saturday.

Traditionally, the SCU Alumni game has been played in conjunction with the class reunions and all-class picnic held every Spring; however, this Spring, the University decided to shift all class reunions and the picnic into the Fall. This shift seemed to have discouraged Alumni participation as only two alums from classes prior to the class of 2000 played, although, a number were on hand. With the temperature above 95 F, it may have been a good thing that the old folks didn't show or we might have had a few fatalities.

It was agreed to play three 15-minute periods b/c of the heat. The alumni tied the match just before the 15-minute mark in the third period. Not wanting to be shunned by my fellow alums and to owe a case of beers to the referees at the first 7s, I continued play until another 5+ minutes passed. At that point, the ball was kicked far out of play and I decided enough was enough b/c of the heat. No one really complained and all departed for shade and refreshments.

SCUTS will kick off their 2009-2010 season with a match against the Alumni in October on Homecoming Weekend, the new date of the class reunions. This probably means that last Saturday was the last of the Spring SCU Alumni games, a fixture that has been on my calendar since the mid-70s. Sigh.

I will bring the case of beer to 7s.



Joe Leisek has accepted shipment on ‘five large boxes’ and Tracy would like him to get rid of them.

The next chance most of us will get to see Joe will be at the Pelican Banquet June 13 in Walnut Creek. Free dinner, free kit; what’s not to like?

Let Bjorn Stumer know that you are going to be there!

Update from David Heath:

It's been a disappointing season for me, not only limping off the pitch in January, but also having not had the opportunity to attend any meetings or do any socialising. You will see from the address that I have moved to Hawaii - I've been tied up with the job for the last few months and now it has been confirmed and I'm here permanently. My family move out here in early June after school finishes.

I would like to just acknowledge how much admiration I have for the work and dedication you and all the other Pelicans put into the "job" - although it's not a job to you, is it? It's a passion, and I would have liked to have been able to participate and contribute more.

I'm still hoping to get back out onto the field of play with whistle in hand and a host of instructions in my head - body position, scanning, offside line, loud whistle, signal... Do you have a contact for refs in Hawaii?

I will continue to follow Pelican Refs with interest.

Best wishes,

Quarterfinal Crowd
George O’Neil, John Pohlman, Preston Gordon, Charlie Haupt (Eastern Rockies) and Mike Malone enjoy a rugby day at the SFGG clubhouse on Treasure Island.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris