Thursday, May 14, 2009




While serving as AR for an exciting, well-played and well-attended high school semi-final this past Saturday I received numerous compliments on the referee from along both touchlines. I passed them along after the final whistle, commenting that the Pelican flock is richly blessed with excellent blowers these days.

And the humble worthy in question said, “Well, we have so many good games to do.”


* Livermore Scottish Games: Needs two refs
There will be rugby games Saturday at 2, 3 and 4 PM as well as one on Sunday. Referees will receive parking passes, free admission, food and drink This is fun, festival rugby with spectators who are usually new to the sport.

* Tens RoundRobin at Stanford: Needs two refs
Beginning at 2 PM, games involving the Stanford and UCLA business schools, Stanford, and possibly one other team.


SAN FRANCISCO/GOLDEN GATE will host Dallas in a USA super-league quarterfinal this Saturday, 3 PM at Rocca Field.

OLYMPIC CLUB, EAST PALO ALTO and MISSION will play in the USA club rugby playoffs May 15-16 in divisions one, two and three respectively. All of these will be in Austin, Texas.

JESUIT and CHRISTIAN BROTHERS are the two Pacific Coast representatives to the USA single-school high school playoffs.

SACRAMENTO will represent the Pacific Coast at the Girls High School finals.

We believe both of the above HS events are this weekend but the USA website gives no information about either event. No idea where they are.

MARIN HIGHLANDERS will host SAN MATEO for the Northern California high school championship this Saturday, Redwood HS in Larkspur, 11 AM. Preston Gordon will referee. Let Preston know if you would like to be an AR.


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!


Chris White will be refereeing the match, and Greg Garner will be AR #1. These two gentlemen arrive at SFO a week before the match, on May 24, and will be staying at the Sainte Claire in San Jose.

If you would have some time during the last week in May and would like to entertain or show these referees around Pelicanland, please let us know.

If someone would like to drive them down to Monterey/Carmel on Thursday, May 28, your dutiful scribe would be happy to accompany and host (i.e, foot the bill) for a day’s seeing of the sights.


Friday, May 8
Mother Lode 22 – SAN MATEO 43 Referee: Joe Androvich
ARs: Chris Tucker, Ray Schwartz

Saturday, May 9
MARIN HIGHLANDERS 29 – East Palo Alto Razorbacks 22 Referee: Joe Leisek
ARs: Bruce Carter, Tom Zanarini

Redwood High School, Larkspur
The Highlanders, winners of the Redwood Empire Conference championship, hosted the EPA Razorbacks in a NorCal U19 semi-final. A lot of excitement in the air...especially for the referee, who had a great assignment and Bruce Carter and Tom Zanarini as ARs. Lots to look forward to.

As the Highlanders warmed up and the lacrosse teams finally vacated the all-weather turf football field, we lacked only one thing: the other team. Traffic had held up the visitor caravan in San Francisco. With a men's soccer game scheduled to follow the rugby, we had no choice but to kick off on time. To their credit, the EPA guys came to play (all 14 of them), and about 20 minutes after getting out of their cars, we were ready to kick off.

As the Razorbacks struggled to find any semblance of rhythm, the Highlanders ran rampant. Soon they had scored two tries and converted both. The visitors looked confused. The second Marin try was handed to them by EPA, who won a ruck about 22 meters from their own goal line...but who did not have anyone playing halfback. An opportunistic Marin player simply scooped up the ball and off-loaded in a tackle to a teammate near the touchline, who scampered into in-goal and touched the ball down.

It was that way for the first 25 minutes of the game. The Marin forwards did an excellent job recycling the ball and the backs were fast and physical, with their fullback putting very good tactical kicks behind the EPA backline to maintain the pressure. However, late in the half you could sense that the Razorbacks started to put it together. They never lost composure, in spite of the shellacking they were receiving.

The half ended at 24-5 to the hosts, who scored three converted tries and a penalty goal. But the visitors were no longer giving anything away.

Back they came in the second half. Marin seemed to play to preserve their lead, while the Razorbacks remained focused and began to show confidence and purpose, scoring once, then twice more in the waning moments of the half. They were now a converted try from evening the score.

(Each team had scored four tries. Had EPA scored another and made the conversion, they would have won the game outright, based on the first tie-breaker being most tries scored.)

Then with only seconds remaining, EPA was on another inexorable rumble to the goal line.

They crossed midfield, then the 10-meter line, then the 22-meter line. At that moment I prepared myself for only two possible outcomes: they would score or an error would prevent them from scoring. Marin was not going to stop them. The hosts scrambled to cover in defense, but the EPA backs and forwards were everywhere, passing, running through people in contact, running straight ahead. Nothing mysterious about it. Just hard-charging, skillful, physical rugby.

The season came down to one last pass.

About 10 meters from the Marin goal line, one of the EPA forwards flicked a pass to a teammate on his right and the overlap was on.

[After the game, Bruce said that sometimes your heart says yes but your whistle says no.]

The pass was forward. Tom and I immediately made eye contact. His nod confirmed it: Forward pass.

Marin was awarded a scrum and made the clearing kick to touch. The game was over.

Marin was jubilant, having earned an amazing victory. And after nearly overcoming a 19-point deficit, EPA were very gracious in defeat.

Congratulations to Marin head Coach Dave Cingolani and his staff, and to EPA Coach Dave Tupou. An exhilarating game and a pleasure to referee.

Thanks to Bruce and Tom for their help and for being such great colleagues.

NorCal High School Final, Saturday, May 16:

Marin – San Mateo Referee: Preston Gordon
Evaluator: Mike Malone
Assistant Referees: YOUR NAME HERE


Long-time readers will recall a book review we did of André Watson’s autobiography five years ago, relating a favorite example of how to deal with an over-heated player.

That example now has to take second place in the pantheon.* Joe Leisek topped it.

A player committed a borderline dangerous tackle Saturday, after having been penalized for one such previously. Joe spoke to his captain and asked him to bring the miscreant over.

The player in question approached, but stopped about a dozen feet away and stood with his fists and jaw clenched, chin and chest out, glaring knives at the ref.

The body languages were mutually incomprehensible. Joe looked like he had paused while taking a stroll to check the time of day.

Joe said, “Could you stand a little closer so we can talk?”

The air and the agro simultaneously left the player, as neat a demonstration of Proverbs 15:1 as can be imagined!


Report by John Coppinger:
PITS (Piedmont U-19) has been centered in the community of Piedmont for decades now drawing players from Piedmont High School, Bishop O'Dowd, and various other high schools in the Oakland area.

Ray Lehner, who teaches at O'Dowd, is pushing to start an O'Dowd program next year. In order to give the O'Dowd effort a boost, Mike Sagehorn and the De LaSalle team agreed to play an extra fixture at O'Dowd this past Saturday against Piedmont. I handled the Frosh/Soph match and Preston Gordon refereed the varsity match.

Frosh/Soph: PIEDMONT 19 – De La Salle 17 Ref: Coppinger
AR: Ed Barfels
At the kickoff of the Frosh/Soph match, the stands were full of folks and the bar-b-cue was smoking. De La Salle prevailed over Piedmont 19-17. It was a fun match played in good spirits and a number of the Piedmont players were former Little Leaguers who played with or against my son over the years. My thanks to Ed Barfels for acting as AR. Thanks also to the unknown TJ from Piedmont (a Frosh/Soph reserve) who politely listened and smiled as he was severely admonished by a De LaSalle supporter (an adult former player who should know better) when he failed to call (and overrule me on) what the supporter judged to be a forward pass by Piedmont (and it wasn't).

Beyond the one knucklehead, it was a beautiful day for rugby. I had to miss Preston's match, but I caught up w/ John Collum, Mike Sagehorn, John Hyland, Jerry Figone, and Preston at Crogan's, where Trailer was a generous host.

Also in attendance at the pitch were Pelicans Joe Saccomanno and Rob Hendrickson.

PIEDMONT 34 – De La Salle 10 Referee: Preston Gordon
Halftime 12-7
AR: Ed Barfels

On a sunny afternoon at Bishop O'Dowd high school in Oakland, PITS played their last match of the season. I arrived about halfway through the frosh/soph game which had John Coppinger in charge, and took a few pictures of the crowd that had gathered for the occasion. I'd estimate there were a couple hundred people in attendance, both PITS and De La Salle fans. Lots of parents, teammates, fellow students, girlfriends, etc. It's great to see that HS rugby is this well supported and certainly bodes well for the future!

After the pre-match chat, we kicked off at about 1520. Both teams were pretty well matched up size-wise, but it was clear shortly after the opening whistle that PITS was the better-drilled side. Their forwards controlled the scrums, and although a few had to be reset during the game, it was a fairly one-sided affair. In the backs, both teams threw the ball around quite a bit and each side had several really good runs. There was a bit of indiscriminate kicking, and more than the usual number of knock-ons for a warm, dry day, which seemed to favor PITS' control of the scrums too. The game was somewhat constrained by the (lack of) width of the football field, and the lack of proper rugby lines caused a bit of confusion on occasion, but we got on with it.

At halftime it was 12-7 if I recall correctly, and a great contest. There was only one occasion where I had to deal with a dangerous tackle with something other than my voice or whistle - thanks for that, guys. PITS ran away with the game in the last 20 minutes or so, even though many of their seniors were taken off to give next year's seniors a run. We finished at 34-10, a well-earned victory to PITS that perhaps flatters them a bit. De La Salle has several players of their own who looked dangerous all game too.

The sideline support was great throughout the day, and if anything, it grew. Someone was kind enough to operate the scoreboard and clock, which is a huge help to the fans - we need more of this in American rugby. PITS organized a great BBQ and feed after the game too. All in all it was an excellent way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Ed who stuck around to AR, and also to the gentleman whose name I didn't catch who had the flag on the other touchline.



Nick Ashton of the East Midlands, who visited these shores five years ago, has been named to the RFU National Panel of Referees.

Congratulations to Nick!


Misspent youth triumphs:


This writer’s favorite and most telling Watson witticism came during the 2001 Lions tour to Australia, during the first Test.

Things had gotten heated. He needed to speak to Lions’ #8 Scott Quinnell, one of the more famous personalities in world rugby, and asked Lions’ Captain Martin Johnson for his number eight.

Quinnell was within earshot and was instantly in André’s face, glaring down at him, beginning his defense before charges had been filed, body language shouting defiance.

André relaxed, lowered his shoulders, took a step back and said as innocently as if he were inquiring after the age of a toddler, “Are you number eight?”

Quinnell, taken aback, responded in barely audible tones. “Yes.”

André said, “Good”, and then ignored him entirely while talking about him in the third person to Johnson.

Fateful Lodging
Phil Akroyd refereed at the Pacific Coast Girls High School Championships May 2-3:

I’ve attached a photo...take a look. Paul Berman and I were billeted to the Gaia motel in Anderson on Saturday night which, by the way, is an excellent place to stay. We checked in after the game and headed to our room. As I was putting the key-card in the door, I noticed the name of room 207 – the location where two Pelicans would be nesting for the night. Coincidence or did Dave Pelton request this specific one???? I think it was a sign...literally and figuratively!


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris