Friday, June 26, 2009




Or, get ready for rugby in the Olympic Games. Have a look at this promotional video from the IRB:


Palo Alto Summer Sevens at Greer Park (Oregon Expressway and 101)

FogFest at Treasure Island

Far NorCal Sevens and NorCal OBs versus Nevada OBs, in Dunsmuir

Elite Rugby day camps hosted by SFGG at Rocca Field, Thursday-Sunday
Featured matches:
The Classic Eagles will be hosting the Classic Canadians for two games at Rocca Field on Saturday June 27, 2009 with a curtain raiser at approximately 3:00 pm with the Main Event at 4:30 pm on Treasure Island. The Classic's lead by evergreen center Juan Grobler and Co. will be taking on some of the finest former Canadian National Team players including Eddie Evans (54 caps); Ryan Banks (34 caps) and Quentin Fyffe (22 caps) for two games of exciting action. This is a North versus South rivalry that is not to be missed! The clubhouse and field side bar will be open for all your food and beverage needs. Come on out to support the USA Classic Eagles!!!

[Perplexed Editor's Note: Not sure why this release focuses on the opposition.]


Just in time for last season, the 2009 law books have arrived from the IRB. Makes us long for the days we when published them ourselves…

Jim Crenshaw has them. He’ll be refereeing in Dunsmuir this weekend. You can pick yours up there.

By Chris Tucker

Whistle? Check.
Passport? Check.

Law book? Check. Spanish version? Well, I checked it, and ‘el knock-on’ suggests a pattern that is followed nearly throughout. “Ventaja” being the biggest exception I saw (advantage, for the uninitiated.) “Crouch, touch, pause, engage?” Maybe I’ll get that by my next trip – it’s the cadence that matters, not the words. There was one useful thing that is not in the lawbook, but more on that later.

Collected from the airport by Remy, the can-do heart of the Mexican Rugby Federation – I asked him what he did for them; it seemed everything from getting the national squad to the right place at the right time, to setting up the pitches to playing bodyguard for visiting IRB dignitaries. Remy plays hooker, and remarked on how young I was to be a referee. I told him I was old by comparison to the whipper-snapper generation that’s coming up fast!

Saturday, bright and early, and Miguel (also known as Michele via a Francophone grandmother) picked me up at the hotel with Thomas (an AR for the game) and a bunch of the Mexican U19 squad, fresh back from SoCal where they beat up on all concerned. This gave great opportunity to invite them to NorCal, where the best rugby is played! (One of them, Pascale, was press-ganged into TJ duty, in which he acquitted himself well.)

The 3 hour drive to Celaya (reigning national champs) is an hour an a half just to get out of Mexico City, a city of 20-25 million people, depending who you ask. Thereafter it resembles the Central Valley, endless, flat farmland. After a quick stop at the roadside barbeque (think Fijian cuisine and you’re close) joint, we arrived at the pitch at the local University. Tents and seats lined one touchline, and three camera points were on the other side for the webcast. I was about to be (in?)famous!

Mexico Division 1 Championship
AR: Thomas Wavelet
TJ: Pascale Nadaud
4th: Miguel Carner

So the thing I didn’t know how to translate? Heads or tails. I said “call the toss,” and he did. But I have no idea what he said – the opposing captain had to translate for me, and I wore a sheepish smile as they settled on which end, and who would “Salida.”

Refereeing in English in Mexico is an interesting experience. Roughly half the protagonists are funny-talkers like myself, most with good experience in established rugby nations. The rest are locals, all of whom speak some English, but not all of whom can process “6 white, roll!” fast enough. At least I think that was going on. The contest was fierce, but fair, and the account was opened quickly by the hosts, touching down after only 5 minutes. A penalty (the first of many) for failing to roll allowed Mao, the Wallaby captain, to slot an easy 3 in response 4 minutes later.

A smartly taken drop goal (with penalty advantage) pushed Celaya into the lead, and they began to control the game, although they had 2 training-ground chances they failed to finish. At least until just before the half. Thereafter things went downhill for them. Mao, the Wallaby #10 was a dynamic runner, setting up both their tries, the first in stoppage time in the first half, the second with barely 30 seconds on the watch after the half. At this point, the Celaya team started to come unhinged.

I’ve watched this happen before, when teams stop playing, and start bitching, and can get into a death-spiral where they focus on the refereeing instead of the game. 2 penalties for back-chat, plus once when they simply stopped playing waiting for a call that wasn’t going to come (I had a clear view of the “offence”, a rucking player coming through the gate, and playing the ball with his foot as the scrum-half attempted to play it with his hands – play on in my book.) It got to the point where I drew the captain in and their #12, and gave the old “one more peep out of this guy, and he’s off) speech. Not one ruck later, and he’s M-Fing me to high heaven. By all account he spent his 10 minutes doing the same thing to the #4, and when he came back on came within a whisker of turning straight back round with a red when he took issue with me again.

But by then it was nearly over, and the Wallabies regained possession and launched the ball into the second deck (figuratively) to win a well-earned victory. Chatting with the players over a beer after the game, I began to get the impression that there is normally quite a lot of chit-chat in the games. As I pointed out to a few of the refs, it’s nothing a couple of cards won’t solve in pretty short order. No need to accept crap from people who have never read the lawbook.

Dinner was hosted by Thomas at his house in a rather nice quarter of town, albeit one my taxi driver couldn’t find. There I met the rest of the FMRU that I hadn’t already (including the citing officer, who heard about the Celaya #12) and enjoyed some excellent hospitality (another consistent theme of the trip.)

Mexican Division 2 Championships
Wallabies 5 - TASMANIA 37
ARs: Camilo Falcon, Nicolas Utrilla
4th: Armando Ramirez

Sunday brought the Division 2 championships, between the Wallabies 2nd side and Tasmania, another local side. Played at the National University on a converted gridiron pitch (widened, but with the goal posts on the dead-ball line) with a beautiful bowl built out of the local volcanic rock. Mexico City is at 2200m (7300ft for those who think in base 5280) which as always tests your fitness, particularly after a game at 35 degrees (95 in old money) the previous day. The worst of it was that my lungs were still suffering the smog 5 hours later as we landed, perhaps appropriately, at LAX. But none of this stopped the fun.

The game was not as close as the previous day, and there was no doubt as to the eventual winner. 3 yellow cards against Tasmania (one for a 3rd offence defending the goal-line, one for a late tackle, and one for persistent failure to retreat 10m) did not help the Wallaby side, who conceded 2 tries while a man up. Happily they did get the score they deserved, touching down with 5 minutes to go with advantage on for another 10m offence. This one I was particularly happy that the try was scored, as binning players, particularly 2 for the same offence, always makes me think I should have done better in the game management department.

Sadly I had to turn tail and run to the airport, so after some swift farewells and an exchange of gifts, I made my way back to California in time for some tearfully-dull meetings on Monday morning. Yes, life would look a lot better if I were able to stay and see more of the city. But the Pan-America games beckon in 2 years, with sevens on the agenda...

I highly recommend this trip to anyone who gets the chance to go. The Mexican Rugby Federation are fantastic hosts, and it’s a whole lot of fun refereeing in a country where you don’t always speak the same language, but have to make your point anyway (not like our local teams, who do speak English really!!) They even put up a big sign on the highway to welcome me – a big orange sign with a Pelican on it advertising MEGA.

By George O’Neil

It was a raining and cold one this week with Burnside hosting University. The two division three clubs were forward dominated with Burnside holding the edge as shown in the 29-0 score line. The score is a bit deceiving as Burnside scored three late tries to take the commanding lead. The first 10 minutes and the last 20 were full of scoring but he middle 60 minutes was a wet period full of knock-ons and kicking.

This game challenged me in a much different way than last week’s high-speed high school clash. For one it was older men, meaning my age, so they thought they knew everything. I controlled that for the most part the boys were good sports and I did as much more preventive talk as I could. The also captains did a great job of controlling their teams. Second it was a slower game with more physicality, too, than last week’s game. Both teams challenged me at the ruck and maul in a large way. I set a precedent with the first five rucks and they teams responded very well to my preventive measures. My penalty count was maybe 13 in the first half and about the same in the second. I was not watched, but I don’t blame him for coming out it as about 4 degrees Celsius at the start with a steady rain falling for about 65 minutes of the game. Overall I was happy with the game and my performance and look forward to next week with two games on the schedule.

On a side note. After my game I watched Syeduem Vs Burnside a top of the table Division one game. Both teams had Canterbury NPC players on it. With Syeduem having basically the entire front row and All Black Ross Filipo on the bench. Syedeum had academy wing and a centre on the beach. It was interesting to see professional players playing in true grass roots rugby. I also caught up with Volney Rouse and Jim Barrett who have joined the Linwood Rugby Club for the rest of the season. Having just arrived on Friday they didn’t play this week but are training with the team and look to break into the division one squad in time for the playoffs. I will keep you posted of their progress. Also, Saturday I got to see two of the referees I have been training with on Wednesday nights TV as one was a Assistant Referee in the Italy V Australia game and the other was an Assistant Referee for the Loins Vs Springbok game, very cool.


Dear Friends,

Before anything else, please receive our best wishes from Mexico.

Just a few lines to express our gratitude to Mr. Chris Tucker from the Rugby Referees Society of Northern California, the Famous Pelicans.

Chris came to Mexico last Friday. On Saturday he refereed our National Final, between Universidad de Celaya and Wallabies "A". His refereeing was indeed impressive and his perfect control of the game helped raise the technical level of the match. He was helped on the touches by Thomas Wavelet and Pascal Nadaud.

On Sunday, Chris, who is in a superb physical condition (Triathlon helps...), was able to ref his second XV's final in two days. It was the Walter Irvine's Tournament Final (Metropolitan Championship) Between Tazmania and Wallabies "B". He was helped on the Touchline by Camilo Falcon and Nicolas Utrilla. Once again, in a 35C temperature and at 2,300 meters of altitude, his performance was outstanding, bringing the teams to play at a better level than usual.

Chris thinks he is too old to have an international career. I disagree vehemently with him. As with Mike Geach, Graeme Bullen, Chris Draper, Jim Wolfinger and others that have come to our country, it was an honour to have Mr. Tucker here.

Thank you very much Chris for coming to Mexico and allowing us to exploit you in such a shameless manner...

Thank you also to our lifelong friend James Wolfinger, from the Texas Rugby Referees Society, who, as each year, helped us find a rising star of US refereeing and made the connection with Bruce from the Pelicans. Bruce thank you very much also.

Finally, thank you as always to the USA Rugby who is always there to lend us a hand, be it at official level, club level or match officials level. We hope we can reciprocate one day...

I attach some pictures of Chris's activity in Celaya and Mexico City.

Best Regards,

Miguel Carner
Federacion Mexicana de Rugby

Team of Three-and-a-Half
Halftime finds Chris Tucker seeking shade to confab with his assistants.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris




A flight of five Pelicans departs for the Midnight Sevens this coming Saturday.

This tournament is a three-fer: a unique expression of the love of our sport in America’s Playground, a SoCal qualifier for the national championship tournament, and the second stop on the new Sevens Cup Series.

The Cup Series will culminate with a $10,000 final to be played at the San Diego Sevens.

Happy whistling to our quintet of blowers.


Cape Fear will be another stop for the Cup Series and the NCRRS will be represented by Paul

Bretz. We believe this will be Paul’s first NorCal exchange since he went to England five years ago.

If it’s been five years since you’ve been on exchange, let us know. That ain’t right


Five Pelicans won’t begin to cover it on June 27:

* Palo Alto summer sevens (9AM): three pitches, nine or more refs needed

* Far NorCal Sevens (3 PM) and NorCal Old Boys v. Nevada Old Boys (5 PM), all in Dunsmuir

(Shasta): two refs should do the trick. It is spectacular this time of year in far Northern

California and the days are at their longest.

* FogFest on Treasure Island (9:30 AM): two pitches, six refs needed

* Classic Eagles v. Classic Canada at Rocca Field (3 and 4:30): we need a ref for the seconds and ARs for both. Unless two dozen volunteers materialize, these will need to be folks who also referee at the FogFest.

Let’s see: if our ciphering is still accurate, that’s nineteen refs to scrape by. So far we’ve counted six wings up: Roberto Santiago, Craig Lusiani, Bjorn Stumer, Chris Tucker, Eric Rauscher and one right here.

If you are someone else and would be able to help a lot of keen ruggers get games, please let us know and if you have a preference for event, which ones.


Scott’s Seafood in Walnut Creek ably and amicably hosted our gathering this past Saturday evening, with hors d'oeuvre circulating among the conviviality of a most happy hour.

We were somewhat embarrassed that only two of the seven Pelican Award winners were present, but the only solution would seem to be to tell the winners in advance. Let’s just say that we might be the only society in the US that can fill up a large banquet room with fewer than half of our active members in attendance.

Donal Walsh was presented with the Shanagher Award and inducted into the USA R&L Committee’s Hall of Fame. Five (of the eight) previous recipients attended.

Donal’s gracious remarks included thank-yous to a referee he studied the Laws with in England, to Denis Shanagher, and to Bryan Porter, among others.

Bruce Carter’s speech inducting Donal is reproduced below.


Rookie of the Year – George O’Neil
Assistant Referee of the Year – Chris Tucker
Most Improved – Scott Wood
Ambassador of the Society – John Coppinger
Pelican of the Year – Mike King
Scriptoris Award – Bryant Byrnes
Bryan Porter Award – David Williamson


June 8: I am here in New Zealand the Wells family has graciously taken me in. I am meeting with Lyndon 10 am my time. Thank you once again for this opportunity. I will keep you up dated of the progress.

June 13: For my first game they gave me a a CLU/Burnside Vs Christchurch Boys High school the game that might be comparable to a Lamo Vs Hayward game. CLU was a mixed side with little coaching that wanted to box instead of play rugby. The Boys High team were faster and well drill as reflected in the score line of 50 - 0 to Boys High. The biggest difference I have noticed are the basic skills, such as passing a catching, only one forward pass and maybe 5 knock-ons mostly in the tackle. Also the knowledge of the game all I had to do was do a primary signal and they all got it, no questions. I have one ref coach that is watching me at all my games he got to see most of the game yesterday. His biggest comment was my lack of aggression or not being assertive at the breakdown, its a bit different then back home. There are not guys on the ground but they are coming from the side and generally trying to cheat at the break down. For the most part I sorted that out as the game went on but it lead to a few scuffles off the ball, the score line and the lack of wrapping in the tackle by CLU did not help but I sorted that out by issuing a Yellow Card to their number 13. Overall I'm happy with the game a look to use it a a building block. I was a bit nerves before the game but think I got that out of my system. Going forward I look to improve on my, for lack of better word, aggression at the breakdown and asserting my presence. I have speed training this week and should have two games and a training session with the academy referees on Wednesday. I have attached my game summary, its an online form down here that s checked with both coach's sending in a game summary sheet as well. Also i found a job a bar, good fun. More to follow.


Did you know about this:

After seeing SFGG on ESPN, and now this, I am convinced that we are going mainstream.

[Editor’s Note: The rugby movie has since been titled: Invictus. This short poem by William Ernest Henley gave our language two phrases: “bloody but unbowed” and “I am the master of my fate:/ I am the captain of my soul.”]


“It's hard for me to find the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed the last ten years as a part of the best referee society in the country. I have learned so much from you and Pete and Paul and Dixon and Mike and so many others over the years. I'm not hanging up my cleats; I'm just taking them and a pelican or two on the road for about a year. Teresa and I have bought an RV and are becoming Full-Timers while we tour up thru Canada and down the eastern seaboard to catch fall colors before heading south for the winter.

“I hope to catch some games wherever I can along the way. I'm going to miss absolutely everyone.

“My email on the road is:

“Humbly scribed,
Pelicus Scrumtius”


USA Rugby R&L Hall of Fame induction speech for Donal Walsh
By Bruce Carter

The caliber of a professional is best judged by peers, not by clients, customers, patients or patrons. Only fellow initiates know the dedication required to excel, understand the state of the art in order to be able to recognize when it’s been bettered, and have the perspective to appreciate lasting contributions.

Tonight we gather as refereeing professionals, guests of the pantheon here assembled, to lend approbation to an increase in their number.

Denis Shanagher
Denis was the first Chairman of USA Rugby’s Referee and Laws (R&L) Committee. He was also an international referee (A-panel). When USA Rugby was founded in 1975 USA Rugby was starting from ground zero. It had no money, no certification courses, and no resources outside the individual assets of its membership. As Chairman of the R&L Committee Denis worked hard to share the limited resources he had available. He organized the first ever national conference for referees held in Golden, Colorado. That conference introduced concepts and solutions to the administrators of the referee societies for the Local Area Unions. It shared expertise on how to referee the game. It began the process of a national process to improve refereeing and referee administration. Denis’ use of local resources to help national development is best exemplified by his using the premier tournament in America (The Monterey Tournament) to bring in evaluators and referees of national interest and let them experience some of the best rugby in America.

Nominated to referee USA – New Zealand in 1980, he stepped aside when his son was named to the Eagles, earning his first Cap.

Denis died in the mid-80’s. In 1990 the R&L Committee established the Denis Shanagher Award in order to recognize individuals who have made prominent and enduring contributions to referee development and administration at the national level. Initially the Nominating Committee was small – the chairman of the R&L Committee and the chairman of the (referee) selection committee.

Recipients of the award became members of the Nominating Committee. Once the committee had sufficient numbers to be self-sustaining, the ex officio memberships lapsed.

The selection committee is now exclusively comprised of prior award winners and it operates as a special subcommittee within the R&L Committee. The award is not an annual award; it is not given unless and until someone merits selection.

There have been worthy contributors to the advancement of refereeing at the national level in USA Rugby who might easily have merited selection, but who suffered untimely deaths. One criterion is that the recipient has to be alive to enjoy the honor of being selected. In that, it is refereeing’s Nobel Prize.

Here are some of the accomplishments of previous recipients:

Keith Seaber
• A Panel in the days prior to USA Rugby’s formation
• Founding organizer of USA Rugby
• Director of Midwest referees
• Responsible for the formation of the R&L Committee and its first chairman

Ian Nixon
• International referee (A-panel)
• Refereed the Eagles v. All Blacks
• President of USA Rugby
• Director of Rugby East referees
• Member of the board of directors for USA Rugby

John Mellish
• B-panel referee
• Director of Rugby East referees
• One of the original four national evaluators
• Tirelessly and effectively served as national evaluator for 25 years

Bryan Porter
• B-1 referee (on the short list to make A panel)
• Stepped aside from active refereeing to become the first chairman of the R&L Committee’s Evaluation Committee
• Successfully eliminated parochialism of the four territories in USA Rugby to establish a national program
• Developed and enforced standards for national and international referees that were respected all over the oval planet
• Maintained the tradition set by Denis Shanagher to maximize local resources for the benefit of national evaluators and referees
• IRB evaluator

Don Morrison
• International referee (A panel)
• Refereed USA – South Africa
• Chairman of the USA R&L Committee
• Chairman of the USA Evaluation Committee
• The first Referee Development Officer for USA Rugby
• IRB trainer
• IRB evaluator

Don Reordan
• Recognized as the best referee in the history of USA Rugby
• International referee (A panel)
• Longest tenured A-panel referee in USA history (18 years)
• IRB World Cup referee in 1987 and 1991
• Appointed by Australia to referee ACT v. All Blacks

Jim Russell
• International referee (A panel)
• Only A-panel referee to earn his way back onto the panel after being dropped – hope for us all
• Chairman of the USA R&L Committee
• Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Member of the USA Evaluation Committee
• IRB evaluator

Perhaps a few words about ‘organization’ are in order here.

Organization might consist of mere coordination. In well-founded institutions with plenty of volunteers and sufficient funds, it may entail communicating, keeping track of events, matching names to them and following up. But the modern-day spreadsheet jockey, in the ease of his labors, lounges on the shoulders of the giants here assembled.

They were pioneers; they made their way with no cleared paths ahead of them, ‘organizing’ out of nothing. The trellises that now guide and sustain an American referee’s growth had not yet been built.

Then too, there weren’t the Internet, or cell phones, or faxes – or even telephone answering machines – when these worthies began their work. Letters were written, calls were made repeatedly; it was not a time for immediate communication gratification. Theirs was a labor of the love of the game.

An honor is never diminished for being shared.

2009 is a red-letter year. We have two Denis Shanagher Award recipients:

Peter Watson
• B-1 referee (on the short list to make A-panel)
• Director of Northeast referees
• Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Member of the USA Referee Training Committee
• Member of the USA Evaluation Committee
• Co-director of the Development Referee Program

Peter was honored at the New England Society’s dinner recently and we welcome our old friend back to Northern California.

Rugby football in Northern California began in the nineteenth century. It experienced eras of great popularity before WWI, during the twenties when this area provided the players to the Olympic teams, and then a new dawn was marked by the advent of the Monterey Tournament in the mid-fifties.

With a few areas such as California, Boston and New York City having tended the flame for almost a century, a rugby wildfire sparked in the sixties, jumping the firebreaks in the seventies. By 1980 there were essentially as many adult teams as there are now in the USA.

College rugby has continued to spread apace.

The current blaze in youth rugby is the child – well, the children – of that previous outbreak.

Time to extinguish a metaphor.

Such growth could not occur without concurrent improvements in referee numbers, organization and abilities.

Today’s referees take for granted that they can find the Laws on-line or in a convenient boot-bag sized publication. This was not the case those first hundred years.

The IRB published the Laws of the Game of Rugby Football along with various Notes on the Laws that had accumulated over the years at the back of the book, in no particular order. Most referees had never systematically read all of the Laws – they weren’t easy to untangle.

The Laws didn’t reference the Notes where they appertained – you had to flip back and forth to discover whether there were any germane addenda. Loose ends abounded.

This Gordian knot was cut, for all the rugby-refereeing world, by Donal Walsh.

Donal Walsh
• First Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Designed and developed a format for the Laws of the game that included a handbook for USA Rugby
• Notes, penalties and annotations were placed within the pertinent Law; using color-coded sections. This format, original to the world, was soon copied universally.

Donal was a prophet of the word, bringing the Laws to the people who needed them, a Biblical act to help lead referees out of the wilderness.

And so we think of Matthew chapter xiii, verse 57: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.”

Hmmm. It would appear that Donal’s prophet days are about to be over.

Mark Twain wrote:

“It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.”

But best of all it is to earn, to have, and to hold one’s honors and to enjoy the esteem of one’s comrades and colleagues on the occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen, Donal Walsh.


Eric Rauscher reacts to the picture of the safety protocol-corner flag:
“Just a note on the photo. I taped that protocol to the post several months ago before I did a Rhinos game. I am surprised it has lasted this long.”

Donal Walsh & Peers
Bryan Porter, Keith Seaber, Donal, Peter Watson, Don Reardon and Don Morrison, six of the nine gentlemen who have won the Denis Shanagher Award, grace our banquet by their attendance.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Thursday, June 11, 2009




Travel plans for our selectee for exchange to the Cape Fear Sevens has fallen through. If you would like to go, raise your hand. It matters not if you’ve been before.

This is the oldest summer Sevens on the East Coast and certainly the oldest two-day Sevens tournament in the world this is played outside of Hong Kong.

It will be played on July 4-5. Visiting Pelicans have always been very well treated. This year the tournament will also serve as one of the stops of the 2009 Sevens Cup Series.

The Series will attract the best teams from around the country. Five tournaments are involved, with prize money and points to be earned at each of them. The points leaders play at the IRB San Diego Sevens in February for $10,000.

To get to and from Wilmington, NC, you will need a four-day weekend. Let us know if you’d like to go!


This was sent along by Rod Chance, who reports that he will be accompanying the team to Glendale, Colo, to play in the USA girls’ LAU championships June 27-28.

The scores are un-edited. It would appear that the same NorCal team played one opponent four times and the other opponent once.

In any event, they were never tested and should do well later this month!

Saturday June 6
U19 Pelican 15 – U19 Oregon 0
U19 Pelican 49 – U17 Oregon 0
U19 Pelican 19 – U19 Oregon 0

Sunday, June 7
U19 Pelican 37 – U19 All-Stars Oregon12
U19 Pelican 45 – U19 All-Stars Oregon 5


Join us as we honor USA rugby refereeing’s most accomplished on June 13. Donal Walsh will be the newest recipient of the Denis Shanagher Award.

Make sure the tux is back from the dry cleaners. Find a portable mascot to have in your pocket. Learn a new song or joke to have handy. Bring all your memories and be ready to upload some more. Oh – and let Bjorn Stumer know your choice of entrĂ©e:

• Herb-crusted seasonal halibut, caper lemon butter sauce
• Spice-crusted roast prime rib, au jus, horseradish cream sauce

Pelican Society Banquet and USA Rugby Referee Hall of Fame Induction
Scott Seafood, Walnut Creek
Saturday, June 13, 6 PM for 7 PM
Society members: free. Guests: $50.
Reply to:


Dan Payne has most recently been Director of Competitions for USA Rugby, as well as head coach of San Diego State. Prior to that he was a world-cup Eagle, and soon he’ll be the full-time coach at Life University.

We approached Dan at the Grizzly Shield to talk about Atlanta living.

He was most gracious in his comments about us. Paraphrasing here, “We always knew that when an event was going to be played in Northern California we didn’t have to worry about anything related to refereeing, TJs, number fours. You guys have a real good spirit and you are the best.”

We were almost sorry to root so heavily against Life only a few hours later in the Super League final.


This is fascinating. Watch the video first, if you haven’t seen the match:

Bear in mind that these are the two most experienced Test referees in the world. If they can get it wrong, so can we.

First, a slap on the wrist to referees around the world from Paddy O’Brien and then the deliberations of the Judicial Officer on the case:

To: Referees
Citing Commissioners
Judicial Officers
Non-legal Judicial Committee Members
From: Paddy O’Brien, IRB Referee Manager
Tim Gresson, IRB Judicial Panel Chairman

Date: 8 June 2009

Subject: Dangerous Tackles

In 2007, the IRB Council approved a Laws Designated Members Ruling which essentially made it clear that tackles involving a player being lifted off the ground and tipped horizontally and were then either forced or dropped to the ground are illegal and constitute dangerous play.

At a subsequent IRB High Performance Referee Seminar at Lensbury referees were advised that for these types of tackles they were to start at red card as a sanction and work backwards.

Unfortunately these types of tackles are still being made and the purpose of this memorandum is to emphasize that they must be dealt with severely by referees and all those involved in the off-field disciplinary process.

Attached is a recent decision of the Judicial Officer Jannie Lubbe SC, in which the differences between the application of the red card test by referees and judicial personnel is highlighted.

In our view, this decision correctly highlights that the lifting of players in the tackle and then either forcing or dropping them to the ground is dangerous and must be dealt with severely.

To summarise, the possible scenarios when a tackler horizontally lifts a player off the ground:
_ The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
_ The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
_ For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

Referees and Citing Commissioners should not make their decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player. Their decision should be based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4 (e)) of the circumstances of the tackle.

Judicial Officer: J Lubbe SC
In attendance: Tewis de Bruyn (Player)
Gerrie Swart (Legal representative of the Player from Irish Inc.)
Colleen Schutte (PA of Mr Swart)
Schubel O’Reilly (Presenter)

Date of hearing: 12 May 2009
Place of hearing: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein

This hearing was convened following the match played between the Bulls and the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, on Saturday 9 May 2009. The Player was cited for breach of Law 10.4(e) in that he performed a dangerous tackle on the No 14 player of the Bulls.

The hearing was scheduled for Monday 11 May 2009 at 17h00. I convened a prehearing meeting with the legal representative of the Player, Mr Swart, for 16h00 on Monday because I was informed that the video evidence of the incident as well as the reports by the referee and his assistant were not yet available notwithstanding the fact that I personally requested these early on Sunday morning after being informed at 21h19 on Saturday 9 May 2009 of the citing. Mr Swart informed me that the citing report was received in time and that he had an opportunity to view the incident on video from a video made available by the Cheetahs technical staff. After being given the assurance that the video evidence and reports would be available at 08h30 on Tuesday morning, it was agreed that the hearing would proceed on Tuesday 12 May 2009 at 09h00 and that the only issue would be that of sanction as the Player admitted that he performed a dangerous tackle on his opponent. Hearing

The hearing proceeded with the viewing of video evidence on which the Citing Commissioner based his decision to cite without sound. Mr Swart then requested me to allow him to play a video clip with other angels including a so-called “eagle eye” view and a further video clip with sound so that we could listen to the exchange between the referee and his assistant before the referee took his decision to issue a penalty and a yellow card. The request was granted and the additional angles of the incident were viewed and I also listened to the exchange between the two match officials.

The incident occurred immediately after the Bulls No 14 caught the ball in the air after a high kick by his team. He ran straight into the Player who then executed the tackle for which he was cited. The assistant referee, Mr Kaplan, described the incident as follows in his report:
“From my position on the touch line, and in my role as an AR, I reported foul play to the referee of the day, S Dickinson, in the match played on Saturday between the Bulls and the Cheetahs played at Loftus Versfeld in Pta. The incident concerned T de Bruyn of the Cheetahs, who lifted, twisted and then dropped the Bulls player (Ndungane) during a passage of general play. I was in close proximity to the incident and I recommended a yellow card on the basis that whilst the tackle was certainly dangerous, the foul play did not include a driving motion into the ground. The content of our conversation can be reviewed as we agree from both sides of the tackle that a yellow card seemed appropriate.”

The referee mentioned in his report that he had players in front of him that partly obstructed his view but basically confirmed what Mr Kaplan saw. In their audible exchange on the field of play Dickinson mentions to Kaplan that he saw the incident and that he intends to issue a yellow card with which Kaplan then agrees on the basis that the tackler did not drive his opponent into the ground. Both match officials were well place to make their observations with Kaplan in the better position. Mr Swart did not dispute the accuracy of Kaplan’s observations as recorded in his report. Mr Jacob Danie Peyper was also called to give evidence. He is a Super 14 referee and also on the IRB Sevens Panel of referees. The purpose of his testimony was to inform me of the training and guidelines received by referees to deal with this type of incident. According to him when a tackled player is lifted, twisted and then driven into the ground a red card should be the option, without the drive, a yellow card and a penalty if there is only a lift.

Mr Swart called the Player to give evidence. He testified that the incident happened very quickly and that he was surprised after the incident that he was able to lift his opponent with such ease. He attributed this to the fact that he was stationary, smaller than his opponent as well as the direction and force with which his opponent ran into him. He further stated that he had no intention to “spear tackle” his opponent and when he realised his opponent was in the air, he immediately let go of him. He confirmed that he was coached not to perform this type of tackle on an opponent and was also aware of the inherent dangers of tackling a player in this manner. He immediately apologised to the player and after the match again apologised. According to the Player Ndungane accepted his apology and they parted company in a good spirit. The Player made a good impression on me and I accept his evidence.

The head and assistant coach of the Cheetahs gave character evidence on behalf of the Player. They spoke highly of him as a player and person and emphasised that he has a clean record as player in more than 112 first division games and 23 S14 matches. Mr Swart in a well presented and helpful argument submitted that, on the evidence, I cannot be satisfied on a balance of probabilities that the referee was wrong in his decision to award a penalty and yellow card. He emphasised the experience of the referee and his assistant, who were both well positioned to view the incident and come to a decision. He emphasised that Mr Kaplan is the most capped international referee in world rugby and Mr Dickinson the second most capped and that between them they have refereed 92 test matches.

In terms of Regulation 17.11.4 (a) I can only interfere with a decision of a referee (or assistant referee) in respect of an incident where the referee has made a decision on the field of play if I am satisfied, on a balance of probabilities, that the referee’s reasons for his decision are wrong.

I find myself in the difficult position that two of the most experienced referees in world rugby saw the incident, deliberated with each other and came to a decision. The Citing Commissioner does not share their view based on the different angles of the incident viewed by him.

Having viewed the different angles of the incident, taking into account Ruling 5.2005 of the IRB, the evidence presented and the submissions by Mr Swart, I have no hesitation to disagree with the reasons of the referee and his assistant to issue a yellow card. In coming to this conclusion I had the luxury and benefit of viewing different angles of the incident at my leisure. The video evidence, confirmed by Kaplan, is clear that the Player lifted and twisted the Bulls player before dropping him to the ground. This action was dangerous and exposed the Bulls player to serious injury whilst in an extreme vulnerable position. The main reason of the match officials not to issue a red card was the fact that the tackler did not drive his opponent into the ground. They however failed to take proper and/or sufficient account of the dangerous manner in which the tackle was executed and the exposure of the Bulls player to serious injury. I hasten to emphasise the fact that the match officials made their decision on the spot without the benefit of reviewing different angles of the incident.

I can also not agree with the submission by Mr Swart that the lifting of the Bulls player was a direct result of Ndungane’s own action in the tackle situation although I accept that the manner in which Ndungane went into the tackle made it easier for the tackler to lift him.

Although I accept in favour of the Player that he did not drive his opponent into the ground, he failed to take any action to bring his opponent safely to the ground after lifting him. I further cannot accept the submission that the offending was rather careless and not reckless. The tackle was clearly reckless. No 14 of the Bulls was not seriously injured and could resume play after treatment on the field. In fact he scored a try after the incident. The execution of the tackle was however dangerous as mentioned and the Bulls player was indeed fortunate to escape without serious injury. Mr Swart submitted that the low entry level should apply. I disagree and could in the circumstances find no convincing reason why the incident should not be categorized at a mid range entry level which carries a sanction of a six weeks suspension.

In terms of Regulation 17.14.3 I am required to identify and consider all relevant aggravating factors and determine what additional period of suspension, if any, should apply. I found no such aggravating factors. There is however relevant mitigatin factors that I must also consider in terms of Regulation 17.14.4. These are the age of the Player, his excellent record and character as a player, the fact that he admitted the transgression and showed genuine remorse. He also apologised to his opponent after the incident.

Mr Swart submitted that I should consider a caution as an appropriate sanction. I disagree and would be failing in my duty if I impose a sanction of less than three weeks.

In the circumstances the Player is suspended from all rugby for a period of three weeks calculated from 9 May 2009 until and including 30 May 2009.

The Player is advised of his right to appeal.
J Lubbe SC
12 May 2009

Take home lesson to our readers: if a player lifts a ball-carrier off his feet, it is player’s responsibility to insure that the opponent gets safely back to ground. ‘Safely’ here means horizontal or better (head and shoulders last) and if the ball-carrier is brought down with any force the tackler has to remain firmly bound and go to ground as well.

Best Corner Flag Ever
Chris Tucker sent this along:

Took this a while ago when running touch for Scott down in Berkeley. O Club set up the field and had to make flags for the corner posts. Although it's tricky to read, the text in question is the NCRFU match safety protocol!


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Wednesday, June 03, 2009




Chris Tucker has been promoted to C1 after the weekend’s tournament at Stanford and Palo Alto High School. Congratulations to Chris.

His first appointment as a new C1 is the Mexican club championships in Mexico City and Celaya, which will be played June 13-14.

This opportunity came to us via the Texas referees, two of whom accompanied two Pelicans to Hawaii last October.

Hail, Pelitex!


George O’Neil will be flying to the Land of the Long White Cloud this week to referee until the end of August. He will be based in Christchurch.

This arose through three sources: the Referee Department of USA Rugby, where Ed Todd looks for development opportunities for deserving young referees; the USA Rugby Football Foundation, where Brian Vizard and his board support such endeavors; and the board of directors of the NCRRS which is helping with the airfare, treating this as an ‘exchange’ that will benefit our teams and players for years to come.

Go ahead: envy him. You won’t be the first.


Super League final:
SF/GOLDEN GATE 23 – Life 13
Golden Gate, an original Super League team, has brought home USA rugby’s top trophy.

After Saturday’s game concluded at the high school Grizzly Shield in Palo Alto, several dozen aficionados of the one true sport converged on Characters in the Santa Clara Marriott to watch a game on ESPN Classic. At the same time, we are told, likewise the faithful gathered at the Golden Gate clubhouse on Treasure Island.

All were rewarded with a well-played and hotly-contested match, excellently whistled by Chris Henshall with former Pelican Tom Coburn as one of the ARs.

Although Life were taken unawares and thoroughly surprised by the pass Mose Timoteo gave Jason Bowden for the first try, we in NorCal have been privileged to see Mose’s zero-ball play (Gregan pass) many times these past ten years.

After that it was a game of nerves and defense. Volney Rouse showed how a first-class halfback kicks the ball and not twenty-four hours later many were wondering why he hadn’t been playing elsewhere on the weekend.

With a minute left the score was 13-13. If all you previously knew was that Gate won by ten, now you know you missed a cliff-hanger game with a free-fall finish.

Division Two Championships:
EAST PALO ALTO 39 - Indianapolis 11
EAST PALO ALTO 46 – Albuquerque 22

Three years in existence, the first two playing in the third division, Rob Holder’s EPA Razorbacks have ascended to the heights as National Champions.

You will notice these weren’t close. Those of us who were fortunate enough to referee EPA this season were not surprised – they crushed folks.

Congratulations to our Northern California champions, SFGG, EPA and Jesuit.

This was the first year in a while that the national playoffs were regionalized. The setup this year guaranteed that all semi-finals would feature a team from the East or the Midwest.

Guess what? Every one of them lost, some by huge margins. For the thirty-five years that your writer has been in this game, the best rugby’s been in the West and the Pacific Coast/SoCal. That’s not changing.


PACIFIC COAST 30 – Midwest 0
PACIFIC COAST 36 – Northeast 5

Two more games that weren’t close against teams from you-know-where.

These matches were played in Little Rock, Arkansas. The final was refereed by Pete Smith, who along with a number of the players of the Pacific Coast and the College All-Americans represented NorCal.


How long will we wait until the Eagles defeat one of the Five Nations/Tri-Nations?

After an hors-sellout crowd watched the USA miss 12 points of make-able penalties, yield one try on a touch kick that wasn’t and another try on a dropped pass right to a stationary player, we might feel we will wait forever. The team seems to be jinxed.

We’ve seen games where it looked the home-countries ref was favoring the home-countries team over a second-tier side, but that wasn’t the case Sunday. All those penalty chances aren’t given lightly in a Test match.

But hope springs eternal. If you can find a place with ESPN Classic (which is a LOT easier than finding a place with ESPN-U) then sit yourself down at 11 AM this Saturday to cheer for the Eagles to finally do it against Wales!


“Welcome to the IRB Laws of Rugby Union web site. On this site, you can read the Laws, watch video examples and animations to build your understanding of how the Laws are applied on the field of play, and take a self-test exam to check your knowledge.”


Eight teams competed for the Grizzly Shield in Palo Alto this past weekend. We believe Utah won the U19 division.

The games on Saturday were well-played for the most part, with the surprise team being the Wanderers, who were assembled mostly from Peninsula players to provide an eighth team.

The event was refereed by C2 referees, all of whom acquitted themselves well.

Thanks to those who did fine duty as ARs and to Ray Schwartz for carrying the organizational ball on this, as so many other, youth events.

Chris White and Co
Greg Garner, Chris White and Eric Rauscher pose with a facsimile of one of our friends at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Greg, of the RFU, will be staying on to referee the Churchill Cup, then flying home to get married before departing on a four-week round-the-world honeymoon. Chris has the summer off.

The rest of us probably don’t: SEVENS beckons.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris