Wednesday, July 29, 2009




The response has been gratifying. We have twenty Pelicans and three of our neighbor referees from the Southern California RRS signed up to cover the twin tournaments on Treasure Island in two weeks. This will allow us to double-cover both events at the same time, men and women – something not a lot of domestic referee societies could pull off.

We hope that the teams, the players and the competitions will be well-served by our efforts.

Thanks to Bill Caulfield of the SCRRS for putting out the word and securing us some help.


Palo Alto wrapped up early for the summer, never having finished in July before.

Formalizing the national championship in Sevens, expanding it to sixteen teams, and then introducing ever-more drawn out qualification procedures in parts of the country have had the paradoxical effect of killing August sevens tournaments.

Whereas not many years ago teams were playing solely for fun and knew it, these days those same types of teams stop playing once their regional seeds have been selected for the simple reason that the June torrent of tournaments which used to run all summer trickles to a halt after July.

Fight back against tide! Attend the Tri-Tip Sevens in San Luis Obispo on September 12.

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Report by Aruna Ranaweera

Week 1

MONDAY July 20:

After a 27-hour trip from SFO, which included a 15+ hour non-stop flight from JFK to Johannesburg, I was met at the Cape Town airport by some Western Province Rugby players who shuttled me to the Stellenbosch hotel, a quaint boutique hotel in the middle of Stellenbosch. All TIP participants are staying at this hotel, where the IRB is providing meals and board. My roommate is one of the top referees in Romania, Horatiu Barguanas.

TUESDAY July 21:

Winter in this part of South Africa is similar to winter in the bay area: mild and occasionally wet. Daily TIP activities go from 8am-6pm or so and are mostly at scenic Stellenbosch University, about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. According to Wikipedia, Stellenbosch is the only university in South Africa that still uses Afrikaans as the primary language of instruction.

There are a total of nine referees at this year's TIP: one each from Namibia, Romania, Portugal, USA, Argentina, Canada, Uruguay, Spain, and Georgia. Seven of the referees are in the age range 23-29 and I am the second oldest. (The Portuguese referee is 37). About half of the referees have already had IRB appointments. This is the fourth time the TIP has been held and is considered an opportunity for the IRB to develop referee talent in Tier 1 and Tier 2 rugby nations that are not represented on the IRB referee panel. In addition to the nine referees, there are also nine coaches and four strength/conditioning trainers here for that portion of the TIP.

TIP participants were welcomed by Steph Nel, the energetic Program Director of the Western Province Rugby Institute (WPRI). After an interactive workshop with Jacques Hanekom (WPRI CEO) to define the term "High Performance", participants were introduced to TIP Referee instructors Tappe Henning (former international referee and current member of the IRB Referee selection panel) and Kosie Horn (South Africa Referee Manager).

Andre Watson then addressed us and remarked that South African rugby is in dire need of more referees as there are approx 9000 matches played each weekend, but only 2000 referees.

Tappe Henning then lead the referees through an exercise to define and select the referee management team and referee panel for RWC 2011. There was also a discussion about finding funds for IRB referee development.

The referees were also assigned to referee matches in Stellenbosch U's hostel (intramural) league: Monday is Division 5, Tuesday is Division 4, and so forth, with Division 1 on Friday. I was assigned to referee a Division 4 match on Tuesday and enjoyed the experience even though scrums were uncontested and play was somewhat unstructured. Rucking and tackling was physical to say the least! Hostel league matches consist of 25-minute halves and are played on a large field with several "ground rules" that make things interesting. Although Tappe and Kosie (and Andre Watson) watched the matches casually to observe our referee styles, there are to be no assessments until next week. Instead, informal feedback will be provided by our TIP referee peers.

Since the hotel is located in the middle of Stellenbosch, TIP participants found several entertaining bars and clubs within walking distance. Seven Rand to the US dollar means beer is cheap.


Basil Bay gave us a speech exploring the philosophical aspects of rugby as a sport and lifestyle, while John Dobson (founder of rugby365) presented on managing the media.

Jonathan Kaplan then spoke to us about his life as a top international referee: It was great to hear his candid opinions and we enjoyed the opportunity to ask him questions about his craft. I asked him what the biggest area of opportunity was within international refereeing and he said it was the need to have referees from 2nd tier nations at the IRB highest level. I also asked him how he foresees refereeing evolving in the next 10 years to which he predicted the emergence of younger, more athletic referees and also the use of two referees on the field (something Stellenbosch U already does in some of its matches).

Doctor G. Pool then gave us a presentation on the evolution of the game of rugby and how it has borrowed concepts from other sports, including rugby league and American football.

During lunch, I realized that my classmate, the Romanian High Performance manager (a good-natured New Zealander named "Steve") is in fact Steve McDowell, the 1987 World-cup winning All-Black prop. How cool is that? I used to watch his All Black team dominate world rugby in the late 1980's.

We also took a rather difficult law exam that consisted of video clips. This is the future of rugby law exams, I am told.

In the evening, we watched three more TIP referees officiate Division 3 hostel matches.


Tappe Henning led a discussion of referee pathways to the top level (IRB panel). He emphasized that there are now several opportunities for Tier 2 nation referees and that the pathway is more open now than it has ever been.

We also discussed several core skills for referees including style and technical aspects.

In the evening, we watched the remaining two TIP referees officiate Division 2 hostel matches.

FRIDAY July 24:

Tappe Henning continued the discussion of rugby laws using video clips and examples/anecdotes. Some of the positioning advice and recommendations are different from what I have heard in the US, so I look forward to following up once I return home.

In the evening, all TIP participants traveled to Newlands in Cape Town to watch the Vodocom Cup (Currie Cup) match between Western Province and the Orange Free State Cheetahs. The stadium is impressive and the match was fierce with WP winning 19-13. At the stadium, my Romanian roommate Horatiu introduced me to his friend Chester Williams from the 1995 World Cup winning Springbok team. The "black pearl"! Very cool.

More news to come next week!


Paul Simko sends this along, his latest labor of love after a three-year gestation:

Have a look!


Sam Reagle and Teresa checked in, from their open-ended RV escapade. They were last reliably located in Michigan, having traversed the purple mountains majesty and the fruited plain, taking the opportunity to white-water raft and spelunk along the way.

Reports have them heading north, eh?

Award Winner
Scott Wood presents David Williamson with the Bryan Porter Award for excellence in furthering referee development in Northern California, to the applause of Preston Gordon and his friend Catherine, Dixon Smith, Tom Zanarini and Paul Bretz’ legs.

The Big Bird and Pelicus Pentapteryx lend credence to the ceremony.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Wednesday, July 22, 2009




Thus far we have twelve referees signed up for the dual Sevens championship tournaments on Treasure Island in three weeks.

Let’s see: ARs and in-goal judges for two pitches at a time, plus a ref on the women’s pitch, plus a #4 for each pitch. That’s eleven folks working at every moment for two days. These worthies would get one game’s rest after doing eleven in a row.

There are 44 games on the men’s pitch – not sure about the women’s yet.

So: we need AT LEAST twenty-two volunteers, ten more than we have at the moment. Come join your friends!

If you are reading this but you’re not a regular referee, we may be able to use you as a #4 (substitutions official). If you’ve had the touch judge courses, there might be a spot for you on the line or in-goal. Let us know.


Get the lead out! See you on a pitch?


Sandy Robertson forwards a link to an article on Glendale, Colorado’s, rugby facility:

It’s good publicity except for the fact that a short article it manages to mention strip clubs eight times and show a photograph of one of them.

They don’t have such establishments in Manhattan?


John Coppinger wants you that it’s not nice to try to fool Mother Nature:


Would you like for Sevens to become an Olympic Sport? If it did, everyone at work would know what you do on the weekends. After all, if you told them you were involved with rhythmic gymnastics or team handball they’d know, even though they have never known a single person who’s ever done either activity.

Fans of the abbreviated version of the sport have put together a petition that you can sign in an effort to try to convince the powers that be to make Sevens an Olympic sport.
The clock is ticking fast - the International Olympic Committee will soon make a decision and choose two out of seven competing sports, including Sevens.

The other sports vying for inclusion are softball, squash, golf, baseball, roller sports and karate.

If you feel so inclined you can sign the petition at to support Sevens’ inclusion.

We listed our top two reasons: the vast majority of the nations in the world have governing bodies for the sport (take that, squash, softball, baseball!) and no new facilities would be required (and take that, all of the contenders except karate).

Paddy Melt Square
From the archives, one of our favorite Sevens photos.

Pat McNally, in Conshohocken at the club sevens championships in 2000, evinces both the hard work and the immediate rewards of refereeing the Fastest Game in Town.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Thursday, July 16, 2009




The first-ever women’s club Sevens national championship tournament will be played on Treasure Island, August 15-16, and hosted by the SF Fog.

This is the same weekend as the men’s event.

However, USA Rugby is not sponsoring this championship, which is good news for the Pelican Refs: we will be privileged to provide the referees for the tournament!

It will be a busy and fulfilling weekend for us: we’ll also be supplying the ARs/In-goal judges and 4/5/6 officials for both tournaments.

We will need to have at least twenty of our membership working that weekend, given that ten will be running at any one time. Please make plans to help us out.

Those coming from out of the Bay Area: we can arrange either billeting or hotel rooms. But we need to plan this in advance, so respond now with your availability.


Our neighbors to the north reasserted ownage in this keen rivalry. The pathetic quality of the web feed was the would-be spectator’s first clue that there might be better ways to spend Saturday afternoon – like refereeing Sevens.


Referees: Phil Akroyd, Rod Chance, Chris Tucker
Also seen carrying a flag, Ray Thompson

I arrived bright and early at a new pitch just north of Mather Field AFB in Rancho Cordova. Pitch was well lined (thanks to Dan Rose) and posts looked good too. The pitch is in a bowl, creating a natural grass stadium effect, perfect for spectators to watch the proceedings.

The Air Force obliged with a fly-over just before kick-off (one of a large number, as the pilots played touch-and-go all morning) and we were set to go. The only slight disadvantage was that one of the teams (Islanders) who had entered did not show, so we were down to graduating CB players, Lancers and a Barbarians side, for about 25-30 players all told. Nevertheless, there was plenty of enthusiasm and a whole lot of fun had by all.

Which is not to say that the rugby couldn't improve -- a scrum that went together out-of-phase (tight heads became loose); a scrum-half who repeatedly put the ball in from the wrong side, even when corrected by the opposing hooker; and (my personal favourite, awarded by Phil) a disallowed try (almost touched down under the posts, all except for the key ingredient of downward pressure on the ball) were highlights on the amusement calendar, but when the players went at it, the pace was fast, the tackles were fierce and the conversion drop-goals were more accurate than I've seen in a while.

After 6 matches in various team combinations, enough was enough, and we departed to watch the Eagles get crushed. Thanks to Justin Prichard, new coach of the Sac State men, for starting what we hope will become a fixture on the Sac Valley calendar. And to all the 15 or so local teams who didn't field a team, get your butts in gear and come on out on the 25th, you have something better to do than play rugby???


This was more like it.

The first iteration of the Palo Alto Sevens, played on June 27, competed with both the Fog Fest and the Olympic Club’s Oysterfest. We might have thought NorCal sevens was dying on the vine.

On the 25th, O Club brought three sides. Hayward, East Palo Alto, the Fijian Barbarians, Diablo and Vallejo were other strong men’s teams, along with numerous youth sides that returned. Missing in action this summer so far are San Mateo and Golden Gate.

A referee corps ten-strong kept the side-to-side and end-to-end action flowing.

This year’s sole Pacific Coast qualifier will be held in Flagstaff, Ariz, on August 1, while the final running of Palo Alto will be July 25.


The 24th Tri-Tip Sevens will be played on the lovely pitches of Damon-Garcia Park in San Luis Obispo on September 12.

NorCal teams are invited to participate, and the Pelican Refs are always welcome as well:

Four for Sevens
There’s shade, food, beverage and camaraderie to be had at the Palo Alto Summer Sevens: Mike Gadoua, Scott Wood and his betrothed Danielle, and Joe Androvich (who looks as though Roberto Santiago’s Bacon Explosion that he ate might have just gone off).


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Wednesday, July 01, 2009




One PM this Saturday should find you in front of a television. The USA Eagles will be playing Canada in a World Cup qualifier on ESPN.

Not ESPNx, but thirty-year old, garden variety, throwback ESPN. You can probably pick this up on the TV in the waiting room at the bus station.

Gather some friends around to introduce them to our game, between the softball and the swimming pool. And sing along with the national anthem - we have a lot to celebrate.


Palo Alto:
The Palo Alto Summer Sevens was played on two pitches with eighteen teams in attendance. It was almost a hundred degrees, but that didn’t stop a dozen Pelicans from flocking.

The tournament was mostly high school teams, two of which had three sides entered.

We would expect July 11 to be better-attended as the senior sides prepare for the regionals and nationals.

Here’s the Sevens calendar:
July 11 – Palo Alto
July 25 – Palo Alto
August 1 – Pacific Coast qualifier in Flagstaff, Ariz.
August 8 – Reno
August 15 – USA men’s club finals at Rocca Field, and the women’s club finals also on Treasure Island

Four referees worked this event.

Red 8 – GRAY 36 Referee: Craig Lusiani

BLUE 17 – Red 12 Referee: Roberto Santiago
This one went back and forth. With each team scoring a converted try in the first half Blue scored just before the mid-game whistle for 12-7 lead. Red tied it at 26:00 but Blue sealed the deal scoring another try at 35:00.

ORANGE 22 – Blue 14 Ref: Santiago
Orange scored three tries in the first half and led this one 15-14 at the break. This represented a good effort by Orange who had played in the previous match while Blue had had a break after playing in the first match of the tournament. At the half the Orange captain requested uncontested scrums due to safety concerns from their inexperienced front row. Things see-sawed back and forth until Orange scored and converted a try at 29:00.

Far NorCal Sevens:
Far NorCal Sevens and NorCal OBs versus Nevada OBs, in Dunsmuir
No report received.

Classics Games:
Seconds: USA 14 – Canada 14 Referee: Phil Akroyd
This was the curtain raiser, played at 3pm before the A side game at 4.30pm at Rocca Field. Great weather – sunny, dry, around the high 70s with a light breeze.

The older guys liked to play this game on the floor, so once a yellow card was given to the Canada loose-head prop for the team’s third ruck offence in a row, the game opened up a little.

The USA took the lead into half time by 7 to 0, and scored again shortly after the break to take a lead of two converted tries to none. However, the visitors continued to play well and came back at the end to score two of their own tries and convert both of them.

Neither team could find it within themselves to score in the final seven minutes, so it looks like I’ll be getting the beers at the next Pelican event.

US of A 5 – CANADA 35 Referee: Paul Bretz
The game was close at the half, and even halfway through the second half. Ah, well.

Nothing To It
Halftime of the Classics game finds Roberto Santiago, Phil Akroyd and Paul Bretz all smiles.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris