Tuesday, December 22, 2009




Twenty-eight folks have sent in their availability. That leaves about 45 who haven’t.

For perspective: on January 30 we’ll have 29 club and college games, plus scores of high school games at the Kick-Off Tournament in Sacramento. Of the 28 referees who have responded with their availability, only 14 of them can ref that day.

So: we have about a third as many referees as we’ll need on January 30.

This is the time of year when the high schools start to worry about their coverage. They write: why can’t the NCRRS provide them refs?

Exhibit A is detailed above. We’ll have thirty-plus club and college games on the Saturdays in February and March. If the past continues to serve as a guide, not on any one of those Saturdays will we have thirty referees available. We’ll have sixty-plus folks ref at least one game this year, but the prevalence of refereeing on a particular Saturday is less than half of the incidence of refereeing over a season.

PLEASE send in your availability. I can’t assume you are ready to go, no matter how intrepid you’ve proven in the past.

As soon as we have enough names to match to games the process will start. Late-comers will get leftovers.

There are tournaments January 16-17 (Stanford Invitational) and January 30-31 (Sacramento Valley High School Kick-Off Tournament) that will need Sunday coverage as well.

Please format your response as follows (cut and paste as needed):

Available? Y/N Able to travel? Y/N

Jan. 16 ____ _____
Jan. 17 ____ _____
Jan. 23 ____ _____
Jan. 30 ____ _____
Jan. 31 ____ _____

‘Travel’ means more than ninety miles or so each way. With lots of teams in outlying areas, we need everyone to travel several weekends a year.

This is where you may request specific games. Pick a weekend that you’d like to spend on the far north coast, or near Mt. Shasta, or in Fresno or Arroyo Grande. Or Reno for that matter, skiing. Let us know which weekend and where.

January 16: game in Humboldt, two each in Reno and Chico
January 23: games in Humboldt, Mendocino, Fresno, two in Chico, three in Reno
January 30: games in Humboldt, Redding, Mendocino, Modesto, Fresno


Fifty-two have signed up with CIPP for the coming campaigns, and it’s fallen off considerably with only one registrant so far in December.

Go to www.USARugby.org

Click on Registration ’09-’10 just below Welcome in the column on the left.

Take the first option: Create/Renew Individual Membership. Go from there.

Your ‘club’ is the Northern California Rugby Referee Society.

REMEMBER to print out the liability waiver. This needs to be signed and submitted in hard copy to our treasurer, Jim Crenshaw, with your $10 annual NCRRS dues.


Much of the USA was digging out from under. Not us. High sixties along the coast.

Salinas Touch

By Bruce Carter

Many of our readers will know a rugger who hung in there until he could play alongside his son. Well, the Salinas (HS) Mongols were running Saturday morning and your correspondent, an assistant coach, played touch for an hour and a half with his grandson in the game.

I may not be able to run with these teens, but they’re initiates to the Game. They’ve never been sold a dummy, or seen a touch-pass, or seen someone take a half-gap and then pass to an on-rushing teammate an inch behind the defender’s back, so that I might as well have been a Harlem Globetrotter running through the Generals.

My goal is to teach them these things. When I’m the worst player on the pitch, my work will have been done.

Berkeley RFC 7 – SF/GOLDEN GATE 49 Referee: Rich Anderson
ARs: John Coppinger, Bruce Bernstein
I think everyone involved on Saturday was happy to get a chance to stretch their leg muscles.

With Treasure Island still feeling the effects of the rain, Berkeley was able to retain the Gilman St turf tracks as they hosted SF-GG. Golden Gate brought a team mixed with first and second side players, yet Berkeley was able to keep the match tight for the first 20 minutes. SF-GG backs continued applying pressure and secured a 22-0 lead at the midway mark.

A late try brought tired smiles to the home 15 as the final score became SF-GG 49-Berkeley 7.

Personal thanks to Dixon Smith for coming out, Bruce Bernstein for AR-ing and John Coppinger, who mistakenly thought there was a December Beer-fest (who would have told him that?) but stayed any way to AR.

Happy Holidays to all.

Seconds: Berkeley RFC 0 – SFGG 27 Referee: Bruce Bernstein
ARs: Rich Anderson, John Coppinger
Referee Coach: Dixon Smith

I was impressed with Berkeley's new artificial turf field, proximity to the horses at GG Fields, the Bay, Hwy. 80 & Pyramid Brewery. Plus both their sides put up a hell of fight against bigger, stronger, more powerful SFGG teams with a combo of Islander savvy & homegrown youth.

Similar results happened in both matches, but Berkeley never backed down from a tackle, ruck, or maul & never gave up any push-over type scores. For one of the first matches of the year, everyone should be impressed with all 4 sides' potential.

Thanks to Cop & Rich for their touch/assistant refereeing & Dixon for his 1/2 time & post-game comments.

FRESNO 15 – Kern County 12 Referee: Preston Gordon

A good game between 2 very evenly-matched sides. Kern County plays in SoCal, so I don't think these teams play each other much during the regular season. They brought about 18 guys up from Bakersfield and we settled on two 30' halves for the A game and two 20' halves for the B game.

In the A game Kern County got an early try, which Fresno equaled before too long. Fresno also put over a penalty kick, and that was it for the first half (8-5 to Fresno). In the second half each side got another converted try, leaving the final score at 15-12 in favor of the home side.

Seconds: Fresno 12 – Kern County 12 Ref: Gordon

In the B game, Kern County again scored first. They converted that one and that was it for the first half. Fresno got 2 of their own in the second half, converting 1, while Kern County got one more unconverted try. The final score in this one was 12-12.

There were some pretty good passages of play throughout both games, despite the relatively low score. As I mentioned, these 2 teams were evenly matched, and aside from one dangerous tackle worth a yellow card in the B game, very clean.

EAST PALO ALTO 63 – Seahawks 10 Referee: Pete Smith

Mine was pretty much a scrimmage with EPA dominating. They ‘won’ 63-10 over the Seahawks playing 4-20 minute periods. EPA looks VERY strong this year. They called me for ref on Wednesday, I told them that wasn’t possible because they only had 3 people CIPP’d and one is Frank Merrill. By Friday they had over 30 CIPP’d. No excuse not to be CIPP’d for the season. USA Rugby worked with EPA to get it done in 24 hours.

Vallejo 7 – SANTA ROSA 52 Referee: Ryan Luis
AR: Mike King
Referee Coach: Bob Destafney

Santa Rosa came to Mare Island to play Vallejo. The game was slated for a 1pm kick-off, which was promptly moved to 1:15pm as the home side slowly assembled. The home side had no formal warm-up as a team, and in fact hadn't even brought a ball. This should be a tell-tale sign to how the game went. Santa Rosa dominated the match with their fitness and organization. The game was played in 4 20 minute periods with a final score of 52 to 7 in favor of Santa Rosa. Thanks to Mike King for running touch for me.


PALM BEACH 52 – Daytona B's 0 Referee: Sam Reagle
Conditions: Perfect

The heat wave earlier this week subsided. We missed the all-time record of 87 by 2 degrees. 85 may sound lovely in California, but at 90 percent humidity, you can't even go for a walk without wringing out your clothes afterward. This is my humble attempt to bring cheer to those in colder climates. Actual gametime temperature was in the low 70's. The pitch was dry and fast.

I got an email a couple of days ago asking if I would be interested in a game in Daytona Beach. Needless to say, I jumped on it.

Saturday morning, I was told that the union needed another D3 team so Daytona offered to play their B-side as a D3 team. The problem with that plan occurs when you don't have the numbers as was the case today. The Daytona A-side just finished playing against Jacksonville and the B-side needed about 5 players. They recruited what they could and off we went.

The Panthers appeared to want the game more than Daytona. Physically, they seemed pretty evenly matched, but Palm Beach supported noticeably better at the breakdowns creating overlaps and long runs. The Panthers scored first just 2 minutes into the game. Then, 5 or 6 penalties later spread among the two sides, Palm Beach scored again with a penalty kick at the 17 minute mark. My talk with the captains must have worked because the teams really cleaned it up. The Panthers scored their second try a couple of minutes later, their third at the 35 minute mark and their fourth to complete the first half. Halftime score: 31-0

Palm Beach scored a try off the kickoff and another about 5 minutes later. They touched down their final try about 20 minutes after that. This completed the scoring as both sides seemed to tire. Palm Beach has a young South American named Fernando who showed real potential. He runs well and he made every kick (8) that he attempted. He also spent the last 10 minutes in the sinbin.


Your writer earned his nickname with a series of refereeing articles composed for the Pelican’s Beak in the previous millennium.

Assuming the audience has mostly changed, we intend to reprise some of them from time to time.

From The Pelican's Beak
Volume I, Issue 4
February 15, 1994


Fans in Uniform?

A story in the newspaper about one a veteran professional athlete described the respect he had earned and noted that opposing players often tell him they like his style of play. The writer went on to note that “Even one of the referees complimented him.”

This writer’s incredulity reflects a belief common among players and fans in general: that sports officials, like grade-school teachers as perceived by their pupils, are out to spoil all the fun.

I have never heard a casual sports conversation mention officials except to degrade them. The ‘constructive’ criticism offered on sports radio shows usually extends to requiring further schooling for refs or making their positions less secure as a means of improving performance.

On TV a few years ago, I saw an NFL quarterback fumble while setting up to pass. Most of the players, including the quarterback, thought it was an incomplete pass and stopped playing. The referee (the only guy to wear a white hat in the NFL) did not blow his whistle and moved into a better position to see the ball.

One defensive player tentatively approached the ball, then looked up at the ref. The referee extended his arm to point toward the goal line. On the replays, I could not tell whether he was also speaking, but he had to be saying the gridiron equivalent of “Play On!”

The defensive player picked the ball up and ran in for a touchdown.

The network replayed this several times. The defender was interviewed after the game. All the sports columnists and talk show hosts had their extended say about the game and this particular touchdown. I didn’t hear or read any mention of the guy in the zebra shirt who really allowed the play to happen.

NFL referee Jerry Markbreit wrote an autobiography that rugby referees would enjoy reading, Born to Referee. He discusses the on-field relationships he has developed with the players, the conversations that go on, the pride he has knowing these guys and watching them work.

An elderly man of my acquaintance reminisces about his days as a baseball umpire. He got as far as single A (the lowest professional level) baseball. His fondest memory is the no-hitter that he saw, “from behind the plate.” The names of all the players he umpped who made it to the big leagues are still fresh in his mind.

Despite these feelings among the officials, most players and spectators view referees, umpires, linesmen and their ilk as hindrances to the game, indifferent bureaucrats at best and obstreperous tyrants at worst.

Our Singular Game

Rugby has several aspects that allow the referee to transcend this perception of “us versus them”. The good referee exploits these to raise the game to a higher level and to make it more enjoyable for all who are involved.

First and least, most referees played the game. Any respect someone earned as a player will carry into his refereeing career. Ruggers are normally aware that the refs used to play. They are more likely to know the level the ref achieved as a player than to know anything about referee grades. Unless the referee was an acrimonious, underhanded player, status as a former rugger is enough for membership to the fraternity of the pitch.

The fact that rugby referees work alone (team of three notwithstanding) also helps. Team sports nurture an us versus them mentality. If there are multiple officials, they fit nicely in the ‘them’ mold, especially when they have to confer to make a call. The rugby ref gets a certain respect for going it alone.

Many players learn their rugby law from referees. Beginners frequently have coaches who either do not know or do not see the importance of explaining the laws. The patient, concise, knowledgeable referee can greatly influence inexperienced players who will then view referees as on-field resources, both to improve their own game and to correct the transgressions of their opponents.

The advantage law makes rugby unique among team sports because of the pervasive discretion is gives to the official. It also offers the referee a chance to be as creative as the players in the attempt to produce exciting, winning rugby. Letting the teams know that the advantage is being played endears the referee to one team without alienating him from the other. They know their turn will come. Good referees announce aloud that an advantage is being played on has been gained because few players look for or notice hand signals.

Most useful for establishing rapport with the players is the referee’s attitude. Remember the grade school teacher analogy: a martinet will be hated. Enthusiasm is contagious. There is no reason for a referee not to say, "Great try!" when a great try is scored. A kicker who has just barely missed a tough one appreciates commiseration. A referee cannot be negative and at the same time be enjoying the best seat in the house. Malcontents who see a happy confident referee will realize that they are the ones who are missing a great game.

Along with a productive attitude, selective hearing helps. A referee must have difficulty hearing negative comments while being keenly aware of positive ones. When a player compliments something the referee has done, a glance, a nod or a wink suffices to acknowledge it.

Favoring Both Teams

Rugby offers its referees opportunities not given to many sports’ officials. A referee who knows this will excel. Being defensive would incite and us versus them reaction from the players. Creating positive things with the advantage law will encourage everyone. Coaching inexperienced players can only help the referee’s lot, especially in explaining what wasn’t called so that they don’t think they got away with something.

After a well-called game, the referee is welcomed in both camps, offered even the last cold drink in the cooler and made privy to the game post-mortems. The highest reward for the referee is to be perceived as showing favoritism toward both teams.

By being ambassadors for the game, representatives to the media and always willing to chat with the fans, rugby referees can insure that no one will be surprised when a referee compliments a player. It’s part of his job.

After all, he loves this game.

Christmas Visitor
Hope this guy found your place on his route the other night!


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Thursday, December 17, 2009




January 9 will find the men’s D1 and D3 clubs and colleges playing league games. By the end of the month we’re up to forty games a Saturday not counting tournaments.

There are tournaments January 16-17 (Stanford Invitational) and January 30-31 (Sacramento Valley High School Kick-Off Tournament).

If you do not let me know that you are available you will not get assignments. We make no assumptions. The schedule is a complex and time-consuming endeavor – one false assumption and it falls apart.

Of course, it cannot be assembled to be able to fall apart unless I hear from all fifty or sixty folks who MIGHT ref a game now and then. A wonderful Christmas present would be – enough refs to cover all of Northern California’s rugby games.

Imagine the editing process required to compile the results. Please respond as follows (cut and paste as needed):

Available? Y/N Able to travel? Y/N
Jan. 9 ____ _____

Jan. 16 ____ _____
Jan. 17 ____ _____

Jan. 23 ____ _____

Jan. 30 ____ _____
Jan. 31 ____ _____

‘Travel’ means more than ninety miles or so each way. With lots of teams in outlying areas, we need everyone to travel several weekends a year.

This is where you may request specific games. Pick a weekend that you’d like to spend on the far north coast, or near Mt. Shasta, or in Fresno or Arroyo Grande. Or Reno for that matter, skiing. Let us know which weekend and where.

January 9: games in Humboldt and Mendocino, two games in Reno
January 16: game in Humboldt, two each in Reno and Chico
January 23: games in Humboldt, Mendocino, Fresno, two in Chico, three in Reno
January 30: games in Humboldt, Redding, Mendocino, Modesto, Fresno


Just over thirty attended our January meeting, including a baby in the arms of Roberto Santiago, who presented a talk on the maul.

A new face was abroad: Stephen Moore, who has now refereed three games. Would that we had more!

Mark your calendars now: the second Wednesday of each of the next four months, from 7-9 PM on Treasure Island.


Aptos 12 – Stanislaus 12 Referee: Bruce Carter
Touch Judge: Ben Bravo, Phil from Aptos
A red-letter page in my rugby diary: a home game!

Salinas has a new high school team, the Mongols. Aptos and Stanislaus agreed to play at Salinas High School as a fund-raiser, so the TJ and I had only to drive a mere 6.4 miles to the pitch.

Going back over my records… the last time I lived closer to a game was in 1990, when Monterey still had a team and I lived there. Other than that, it’s always a 45-mile ante to play for the Pelicanmobile with the average pot well above 100 miles.

Leaving Las Palmas, our residential community, we travel along River Road with strawberry fields between road and river, cattle grazing opposite and happy to see the rains arrived.

Turning onto Highway 68 heading east, Tour Rules kick in as we cross a body of water, the Salinas River. This takes us past lettuce, celery and spinach and, this late in the calendar, four Christmas tree lots in the space of two miles.

Highway 68 becomes South Main Street, from the end of which, staring down the barrel of the boulevard, is the visage of Favorite Son John Steinbeck within the atrium of his eponymous Center.

Salinas High School was recently restored to its original California Mission style of architecture, the adobe gleaming white even in the rains, the tiles and towers adding period touches, the landmark building of the entire city.

It was raining! One of the things I loved as a young rugby player was people’s surprise when they found out the game proceeded despite the elements. Mudby: That’s what we called it in Georgia sometimes, when a set of jerseys weighed a hundred pounds after a match and the red clay stained the tub you washed in.

The Mongols were set up under a tent holding a bake sale, with hot dogs and coffee also on the menu. Aptos had twenty-plus players, Stanislaus seventeen. The pitch was firm around the outside and messy in the middle, like a jelly doughnut.

The wind came whipping down the pitch, disorienting for Californians because it whistled south to north. It drove needles of rain and kept all of the play at one end of the pitch the entire game. (I believe the ball only crossed the southern 22-meter line once in the entire match.)

My approach to the game was, okay, the fans here who are new to the game don’t need to see a lot of stoppages. But the greased-pigskin of a rugby ball, and the blue hands of the players, conspired against me.

Before the game I was informed that one of the props was brand-new. He’s now as experienced as a second-year player: this was an eighty-minute scrum session interrupted by a few tries.

There were so many scrums that the front rows, who started out with their game faces on, by the end of the game were joking together and carrying on cross-scrum conversations as we engaged.

By judiciously moving each scrum over a few meters from where one had been previously, we managed to aerate the entire central portion of the pitch at no cost to the host institution.

I also practiced my new secondary signal, the one the ref in the World Cup final uses every time he calls a penalty in Invictus, but nobody noticed. Maybe they didn’t see the film on opening night. Certainly our readers have seen it by now – it’s sort of an eeny-meeny-mighty-mo motion, like counting pills in a box, or using your finger to separate small seeds from slightly smaller seeds on a table. It means “I’m reffing the 1995 World Cup Final and I can use any secondary signal I feel like using.”

I also noticed that referee calling ‘Engage’, which wasn’t part of the game until summer of 1998. No wonder he was doing the Final: he was three years ahead of world refereeing.

I also noticed that the ref who did South Africa’s pool matches against Australia and Western Samoa also did their semi-final against France. But then the poor guy got stuck on the touchline to try and break up fights in the final. I didn’t notice what he did wrong not to be able to referee every game they played, poor schmuck.

But tell you what, I wouldn’t mind reffing all of the games between Aptos and Stanislaus. This game was played in good, thoroughly wet spirits, with big hits for some and helping hands for all, and mud enough to lubricate all the trucks hauling produce out of the Salinas Valley. Several passes went to opponents, the two teams in the second half being formerly-green and formerly-gray.

The Aptos #4 scored on a lovely charge-down, falling on the ball in-goal. Later in the half Aptos’ #8, Skip Hanson, was obstructed following up a grubber kick but managed to get a finger to the ball as it squirted through the soccer-goal net.

During the second forty-minute scrum session, Stanislaus’ Justin Keller scored a try after his forwards beat their heads against the goal line for a few minutes, making it 12-5.

Then they almost had a chance to tie the game on one of the few fluid movements of the match, the ball passing through several pairs of hands from right to left and then passing through the center’s hands as he dove across the tryline, from about six inches off the ground.

He grounded the ball with his hand in the in-goal but knew it had gotten there of its own accord.

So it came to this: scrum down, the umpteenth scrum. Aptos put-in, about thirty meters from their own line. No longer raining but the mud had been rising like yeast since it stopped. “How much time left, Sir?”

“Less than one minute.”

Do you know what ‘less than one minute means’? It doesn’t mean ‘one minute’ and it doesn’t mean ‘almost one minute’. It means: ‘kill the ball and you win’.

Aptos Coach Vaughn Stumpf knows that. And he tried to tell his players after they won the scrum and attacked up the sideline right in front of him, heading towards the south end of the pitch were there were hardly any footprints.

Knock it on, throw it forward, boot it to touch, step into touch – and win the game.

But attack into a crowd, pass it behind the wing, have him miscue a pirouette fly-hack – and an alert Harlot Garret Seymore picks it up, tip-toes down the touch-line, rounds the cover defenders, centers the ball and Captain #10 John Gornik drops the conversion and kiss your sister.

Fresno – Fresno State Referee: Hennie Strydom
No report received.

FOG – Redding Referee: Ryan Luis
Score was a lot to a little for the Fog. I wasn't able to keep a completely accurate score because of the rain. Fog dominated the game through better organization and pouncing on Redding’s mistakes.

I was actually impressed with the handling given the heavy rain. In the end there seemed to be an average amount of scrums. Redding did finish on a high note with a game finishing Try to avoid the shutout.

Fog B 7 – SILVERHAWKS 29 Referee: Sam Davis
Great game it stopped raining just as we took the field and it started raining when we left;-)

The Silverhawks with their old age and treachery were the victors in a fun match. We played 2-20s and a 40. They were all bemoaning about the time the first half.

The second half they just played like Ruggers. The Hawks scored first on some fine back line movements two min later they did it again. This time they placed it in the center and our own James Hinkin kicked the extra point. The Hawks scored a few more times with a lot of back and forth play. To my surprise I did not have any extra refs on the field helping me call the game. I did have a number of comments but all in good fun in the second half, when the FOG scored. The final score was Hawks 29- Fog 7. Great day of rugby!

Seahawks 5 – SB BARBARIANS 34 Referee: George O'Neil
We played four 20's and there were a lot of substitutions in this preseason friendly match. The Barbarians seemed to piece together more consistent play with great counter-attack and capitalized on the Seahawks’ mistakes. The Seahawks had great leadership and were quality for most of the play but made some subs in the second half that led to inconsistencies in play. Both should do well in the upcoming season.

SANTA ROSA JC 20 – Diablo Gaels U23, 7 Referee: Cary Bertolone
For Pete's Sake field in Santa Rosa
The teams warmed up in the "POURING" rain, so by kickoff at 1:00, no one noticed the light rain as it was so much of an improvement over warm-ups!

Diablo Coach Barry Thompson and I go way back; I was playing for the Griffins in 1984 and billeted Barry's team (from New Zealand) for a week in San Diego, before they beat the pants off of us. While at my apartment, Barry fell in love with my neighbor, returned to the U.S., married her and had two boys, one of whom was playing on Saturday.

[Editor’s Note: this one may win the ‘going way back’ award.]

Santa Rosa scored tries on the 4th minute and the 23rd for a 10-0 halftime lead. It was 20-0 before the Gaels finished the game with a converted try for a final of 20-7.

It was sloppy and muddy and fun. Mike King was there, in the rain, helping me with feedback! Thanks Mike!!

St. Mary’s C 0 – SIERRA COLLEGE 37 Referee: Stephen Moore
Referee Coach: Bryant Byrnes

80 minute game played on a very good ground but in miserable weather conditions, raining consistently in second half. A score line that reflected the strengths of the two sides. St. Mary’s defended well at times with some promising attacks, but were no match against the very powerful and better trained Sierra College scoring 7 tries and one conversion. Plenty of foul play, three yellow cards in the first half to Sierra and one red card to St. Mary’s in second half. Most of Sierra’s tries scored in the second half as a result of St. Mary’s tiring and short one man as a result of a red card.

ST. MARY’S 26 – Diablo Gaels 22 Referee: Pete Smith
ARs: Preston Gordon, Tom Wright
It was a full downpour for the entire pre-game and first 20 minutes of the game. Despite the conditions, the teams played very hard, with flare and almost a disregard for the conditions.

SMC scored two early tries to go up 14-0.

Diablo were undisciplined, conceded too many penalties and SMC took advantage of the situation. I had a brief chat with the Diablo captain after the second try and informed him that the penalty count is way out of whack and his team needs to listen to my instructions.

They took my advice, settled down and scored the next two tries to pull to 14-12. SMC scored next making it 21-12, only to have Diablo answer back before halftime for a 21-17 score. The next 20 minutes were a back and forth affair with no points being scored. Finally Diablo broke through with about 15 minutes remaining to go up 22-21. SMC opened it up and played almost recklessly only to have their efforts rewarded with a try that put them back on top at 26-22. Diablo tried to counter back; they needed a try as 3 points were not enough, only to come up two meters short as they were pushed into touch at full time.

St. Mary's B 17 – VACAVILLE 25 Referee: Preston Gordon
As I arrived at St. Mary's for the first game I figured the weather forecasters were completely wrong - the sun was out. They were proven right not much later, as the rain started during the first game and continued into the second. I was running touch for those two, but the good news is that our new track suits perform pretty well in terms of water resistance.

The rain had tapered off towards the end of the second game, but when mine started at 1500, it came back with a vengeance. There was even a little bit of thunder in the area. The pitch was in remarkably good shape after 2 full games, although the amount of knock-ons increased markedly as the players got tired in the second half.

Vacaville was able to match St. Mary's in the backline for nearly all of the match, and I'd say they definitely had the edge in the forwards. They had 3 tries by halftime (15-0), and although St. Mary's mounted a good comeback in the second half - starting by running the kickoff back for a try - Vacaville got a last-minute try to seal their win.

And, of course, after 80 minutes of rugby in the driving rain, it stopped pissing down shortly after the final whistle. It was a good, fast game nonetheless, and thanks to both coaches for running the line for me.

Marin 0 – BARACUS 39 Referee: Dave Ellis
Referee Coach: Dixon Smith
Baracus proved that it is possible to show flashes of open, running rugby in the mud and rain in Saturday's game at Marin City.

The well-disciplined Baracus forwards used their power to keep their Marin counterparts on the back foot and provide a hard running back line with quality ball, which was taken full advantage of with some quality, flowing movements.

Marin defended with intensity throughout, but penalties resulting from their lack of discipline in and around the rucks helped Baracus maintain their forward momentum and score a total of 6 tries.

California Maritime Academy 11 – ALUMNI 29 Referee: Joe Leisek
Bodnar Field, California Maritime Academy, Vallejo
In the cold and the rain, one of Northern California's best rugby settings drew a good-size crowd for the school's annual alumni game. Rugby is a varsity sport at CMA, and refereeinig there is always a highlight of a referee's season.

Coach Edward Roberts has a squad of 40 this year, according to one player I spoke with before the game. Having reached the round of eight in last year's national collegiate championships, the team has a foundation of success on which to build. On this day, the guests showed that not all alumni teams have spent too much time away from the game. These guys were good.

There were contests for the ball throughout the late afternoon, and neither team established consistent control at the breakdown, but the alumni made a lot more of their opportunities to score five tries. Both teams ran the ball whenever possible, but there were many handling errors in the slick, cold conditions.

A great rapport among everyone on the field and a pleasure to referee. That evening, the alumni were to take the current varsity players to dinner.

This was my first game since May, and what an inspiring rugby weekend it was: a game at Cal Maritime on Saturday and Invictus with four South Africans on Sunday evening. Funny story: During the scene where the actor playing Joel Stransky kicks the game-winning drop-goal against the All Blacks, my friend Frans silently pumped his fist as if he were back home in Pretoria watching the game on television in 1995.


Your editor remembers watching this game on a giant-screen TV at the home of our late friend, Dave Jaquint, and his wife Connie.

The game was played about 6 AM local time in late June of 1995. Some of the flock arose as early as 3 AM to get to his house in time. Dave paid whatever fee was necessary to get the rights to show the game privately.

John Curry and Josh Tameifuna from SoCal were staying with Dave, and were joined by a number of us including Mike Gadoua. (Forgive me forgetting others – no pictures were taken!)

We all knew the referee for the Final, Ed Morrison: Ed had spent three weeks in the old Pacific Coast territory refereeing when it included Southern California, in 1990. He worked the Pacific Coast college and club playoffs as well as the Pebble Beach Tournament. He was the first referee we had ever heard who talked to the players, things every referee in the world does now. It was revolutionary. He changed refereeing in a profoundly fundamental way, and we were not surprised to see that he’d gone onto the RFU Panel and then to the biggest game in the world all within five years of leaving our shores.

Memories do include an endless breakfast, course after course arriving courtesy of Connie throughout the match, and she was more than prepared to continue feeding us as it went into overtime.

And one more: the enormous television literally filled one entire wall of the room, floor to ceiling. Dave said he was given it in gratitude by a client whom he had gotten freed from a serious charge.

Asked the charge, he said without a trace of irony or a hint of a smile, “Robbing a Good Guys.”


As the credit roll in Invictus there plays a stirring version of “World in Union” sung in an African language.

This has been the theme song of the Rugby World Cups since the second one.

A reader commented that this tune seems to play on a continuous loop at the cafĂ© next to the Soarin’ Over California ride at Disneyland’s California Adventure in Anaheim. Your correspondent has heard it there himself and can vouch for it. Very moving accompaniment to your Pilot Burger and fries, with a Mickey shake and a water back.

But there’s not a rugby connection: the music is by Gustav Holst, the melody from the Jupiter (fourth) movement of The Planets.

You could do worse with your leisure listening, and you’d find yourself thinking about the Oval Planet!


San Bruno Saints – East Palo Alto 3rd CANCELED – LACK OF CIPP
SFGG – Sacramento Capitals RAINOUT
Seconds: SFGG – Sacramento Capitals RAINOUT


ORLANDO 13 – Gainesville 3 Referee: Sam Reagle
Conditions: Perfect
There were overcast skies here in Clermont on the outskirts of Orlando when I looked outside this morning. I hadn't checked the weather channel and it was cold and rainy on Thursday so I really didn't know what to expect. When I opened the door of The Odyssey midmorning, I was somewhat surprised at how really nice it was out. Perfect rugby weather.

This was a D2 game between two proud clubs. I found the pitch just over an hour before kickoff and was the last to arrive. Both teams were there in force and already warming up. We ended up kicking off about 10 minutes early which was fine with me since the visiting Hogs brought enough players for a B-game which isn't the norm around here.

The Hogs scored first just 3 minutes into the game when Orlando cheated, I mean committed an infraction around 22 meters out. With the wind at his back, the kick had plenty of distance. I wish I was as eloquent as our editor, but I labor to find the right words to say that there was very little offense by either team for the remainder of the half. Orlando had one attack that made it to the goal line, but it was held up there by the defenders who poached the scrum and cleared the ball. Halftime score: 3-Nil Gainesville.

The second half really wasn't much different than the first except that Orlando had 2 attacks compared to only one in the first half and they capitalized both times. One try was 12 minutes in and the other 29 minutes in. Since they missed both conversion kicks, it was still anybody's game. Score: 10-3 Orlando. Orlando made a penalty kick with 5 minutes to go to seal their victory.

Sidebar: At one of the lineouts, a defender grabbed the ball being held by the opposing hooker. When the hooker stated that it was his lineout, the defender looked at me and said that he didn't want them to throw it in quick. Somewhat surprised, I awarded a free kick for delay of game. I had thought he was just confused and would have cut him some slack.


Rugby is a game that doesn’t generally stop for injuries. The referee should stop the game only if necessary, which means one of three things apply:

• It is not safe for play to continue – the injured player is in the way
• It is not possible for play to continue – the injured player is required for the restart phase
• There is no-one seeing to the injured player and the referee needs to take care of it personally

Here’s an example involving a friend of ours where the injured party IS in the way but play is able to continue safely:

Joe Leisek used to write away for rugby programs from famous matches when he was a teenager, and big-hearted PR folks in foreign lands complied.

Here he is presenting a program to Scott Wood from the first USA Eagles match against England at Twickenham in 1977. This match was featured in Sports Illustrated and is pictured on the wall of the Golden Gate clubhouse because San Francisco hooker Jay Hanson was involved.

The program will be placed in the Referee Changing Room.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Tuesday, December 08, 2009




The NCRRS will meet Wednesday, December 9, from 7-9 PM at the SF/Golden Gate clubhouse on Treasure Island (southeast corner of the island). All referees are encouraged to attend and all others will be welcomed as well.

REO David Williamson has another comprehensive training program arranged for the 2010 season. Having covered the tackle at our meeting in October, his week we’ll focus on the ruck and maul. George O’Neil will also speak on his experience refereeing in New Zealand earlier this year.

Food will be provided beginning at 6 for early arrivals while the Referee Development Committee is meeting. Plan to arrive at 6 – if everything works you’ll have dinner and conversation. If traffic is bad, you won’t miss the meeting and the food will still be there, the traffic having affected everyone else, too.


Isaac Caselis of Hayward, who has reffed and ARed a little for the Pelicans, is helping to coach the Warthogs in Oakland. They could use some practice jerseys.

You might recall reading about the Warthogs in the Chronicle’s Sporting Green: Scott Osler wrote about them earlier this year: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/22/SPNV15EG24.DTL

If you have any rugby jerseys that you could spare, why not bring them to our meeting this Wednesday? Maybe you’ve – er – outgrown them. Perhaps you’ve forgotten the significance of one of those in the far reaches of the closet. Or it may be that the colors simply no longer suit.

Your jersey will be recycled in the best possible way for a rugby jersey: it will be worn to practice, muddied and bloodied, and another lucky athlete will fall in love with our sport thereby.


At UC Santa Barbara on Friday afternoon, January 1:
Chris Tucker: USA high school All Stars – Canada U17
Pete Smith: USA U20's – NZ Universities

At the IRB Sevens in Las Vegas, February 13 and 14th:
Aruna Ranaweera: Assistant Referee
Kat Todd-Schwartz: Referee Performance Reviewer

Congratulations to these four hard workers on their just rewards!


Fresno over 35 – Under 35 Scheduled Referee: John Pohlman

Fresno’s board realized that the old boys weren’t CIPPed and most of them were not going to get CIPPed, so they called the game off mid-week.

John Pohlman was prepared to drive 170 miles each way but instead didn’t get a game.

SF Fog – Univ. of Nevada, Reno Scheduled Referee: Dave Ellis

Non event! My early Saturday morning due-diligence on the USA Rugby website determined that UNR had only one CIPPed player on their roster. A phone call to their coach confirmed that to be the case. Unfortunately, they were already on their way to Treasure Island. Wasted trip, as Dave Williamson, the Fog President and I all concurred that the game be cancelled. Bummer!

Dave, who was scheduled to be evaluated, saved a round trip of 460 miles. But he and Roberto Santiago, who was slated for the seconds, didn’t get matches either.

[Editor’s Note: As of four days later there’s no evidence of a learning curve: they still show that lone CIPP ranger.]


Three involving St. Mary’s at Rocca Field:

SF/GOLDEN GATE seconds 51 – St. Mary's thirds 5 Referee: Preston Gordon
This was a perfect demonstration of that old saw about how old age and experience will beat youth and exuberance every time. We played the full 80, with open subs, and while the St. Mary's side put together some pretty good passages of play, and caught SFGG napping one time with a quick lineout that resulted in a try, there wasn't much doubt about who would win after half an hour or so. The halftime score was 15-0, but then it opened up pretty quickly in the second half.

I stuck around to AR for Paul and John afterwards. There was a pretty good crowd for the SFGG A - St. Mary's A game; I'd estimate 300 all together.

A great day of rugby!

SF Golden Gate 22 – ST. MARY’S 35 Referee: Paul Bretz
ARs: Preston Gordon, John Coppinger
If this is preseason I can't wait until the real thing. Saint Mary’s defeated SFGG 35-22. SMC has speed everywhere and their running lines are very good. SFGG had a combination of Super League, D1, and U21 players. The breakdown was well contested and SMC seemed to always have more bodies contesting for possession. Thanks to Preston and John for running the lines.)

ST. MARY’S seconds 49 – Humboldt State 6 Referee: John Coppinger
ARs: Paul Bretz, Preston Gordon
In the finale of the three match set at Rocca Field, SMC ran by and over the over-matched Lumberjacks.

The match, which was played in perfect rugby conditions, ended just before darkness descended.

My thanks to Paul Bretz and Preston Gordon for sticking around to act at ARs.

SAC CAPITALS 35 – Diablo Gaels 29 Referee: Scott Wood
TJs: John Compaglia (Gaels), Sacramento Player
A cold, overcast day at Danny Nunn Park greeted those who arrived for what is becoming an annual pre-season match-up. Sacramento has a great set of barriers for both sides of the pitch. Both teams scored off interceptions. Both teams scrummaged relatively well. Both teams had early problems with tacklers not getting to their feet before playing the ball. Overall, this was a very active and exciting match. Diablo maintained the lead until the 71st minute. Then Sacramento scored to cut Diablo's lead to one. The ensuing kickoff went over the dead ball line. Sacramento opted for a scrum, got stable ball, passed left, missed tackle or two, ball carrier scampers in for a try. The conversion was made. Diablo had about two minutes remaining. Unfortunately for Diablo, the Gods were preparing for the Raiders' and did not have enough in the tank to bless the visitors with a resurgent attack.

Seconds: Sac Capitals 10 – DIABLO GAELS 33 Referee: Bjorn Stumer
I was frankly surprised at the quality and speed of this B side match, especially if one considers the fact that most of the players were veterans of the A side match played just prior. Sacramento as the hosts were able to field a number of new faces, whereas Diablo had virtually their whole A side on the pitch. This reflected on the score, with Diablo putting in 3 tries and two conversions in the first half. Sacramento came back in the second half scoring three tries in the corner. This meant that all the kicks at the posts to convert went wide. Diablo however did not have that problem and converted both of the tries scored in the second half. As I said before, the fitness and skills exhibited were far above B side. Cooperating weather and the best safety perimeter around the pitch I ever saw contributed to the success of the day.

MARIN 29 – Santa Rosa 10Referee: Rod Chance
AR: Mark Godfrey, player not to be named later
Referee Coach: Dixon Smith
The sun came out for local rivals Marin and Santa Rosa. Both teams were out early getting ready for a spirited game. The first half was a battle that ended with Marin converting 1 try and Santa Rosa with 3 from a penalty kick.

The second half Marin came out with a quicker pace and strong forward play that taxed a worn-down Santa Rosa pack, resulting in three quick tries. Santa Rosa responded valiantly with hard running, scoring a try at the 60th minute. It was a well played game with a great attitude from both clubs.

STANFORD 22 – Maritime Academy 19 Referee: Tom Zanarini
Hello, game day butterflies, oh how I've missed you. It was the Tri-Tip 7's tournament in August that I last blew my whistle. The break was nice but now it's back to good times on Saturdays.

A beautiful day on Stanford's campus, both teams came ready to play. This was my first encounter with Cal Maritime and they put on a good show. Both teams had issues with hands in rucks and playing the ball on the ground. Hopefully it’s just preseason jitters; they see the ball and just can't help themselves. For as many penalties as I called, there must have been an equal number of misses as evidenced from all the assistant referees on both sides. They want the call for themselves, but can't help themselves from infringing either!

Anyway, on to better things. The preseason tag is for the schedule only as both teams when at it full force. Stanford only just pulled out the win with a penalty goal in the last minutes. Both teams were fast and strong and pretty equal in strengths. Hard to believe Cal Maritime is a small Division 2 school.

Seconds: Stanford 5 – MARITIME ACADEMY 10 Referee: Referee: Stephen Moore
Assistant Referee: Tom Zanarini
A tough match between two very determined sides with a score line of nil at half time reflecting strong first half defense.

The second half saw Maritime cross Stanford’s goal line with a try in the corner after the ball being played out wide with a long sweeping run. Stanford latter replied breaking through Maritime’s defense to equal the score. A short lapse in Stanford concentration led Maritime to respond quickly at the re-start with a second try. Both sides doggedly fought out the remaining game time with no further points.

This was my second match as a referee and first officiating a full 80 minute game.

I felt more physically relaxed this time, but still feel there is a way to go with mental relaxation despite feeling more confident with some decisions at times. Tom Zanarini (Assistant Referee) rightly pointed out that my whistle and signal combination is slow, and my whistle for a penalty and arm signals need to be more pronounced. Also I was not giving clear secondary signals after infringements at breakdowns. Advantage play after a knock is also a struggle for me. I feel I will confuse myself with too much info at this early stage. I hope to improve this. Like everyone else I don’t like referees who don’t play advantage.

Thanks to Tom Zanarini for his input and advice. I wrote down plenty of notes after the match, and read up on the law book and other materials.

Again I look forward to the next match. Thank you again Pelicans!

SAN FRANCISCO STATE 25 – Univ. of San Francisco 12 Referee: Pete Smith
At was a day that took me back to the mid-eighties with the mud, blood and beer credo that reigned supreme back then. Not to mention the sizable crowd that had assembled including 6 coeds with exposed midriffs and ‘G-A-T-O-R-S’ painted on them. There were several photographers and someone filming the warm-up and game from USF that seemed to be doing some sort of movie. What the players lacked in experience they made up with enthusiasm. There was singing and chanting before and after the game, it was a real college atmosphere. Maybe these teams have played against each other several times in the past that I am unaware of or this has instantly become a fierce cross-town rivalry.

The field had a strong slope and the elements were in favor of the slope making almost the entire game at one end, the muddy one. The home SFSU Gators scored early and often in the first half by pinning the USF Dons in their own end. The Gators were led by both their captain Joseph #6 and hooker who a hand in every try. They were tremendous at the tackle and listened to my instructions well enough to almost completely avoid penalties at the break down, but pushed the limit to the max. The Gators sat on what they thought was a comfortable 25-0 lead with five unconverted tries. Unfortunately rugby is played with two halves and the second half was much more evenly played and ultimately all the scoring was done by USF. With the wind, sun and slope all at their back, they were able to apply similar pressure on SFSU. The Dons scored two tries to make it 25-12 and the score should have been 25-19, but with the goal post at the back of the try zone (soccer goals with nets, posts added) a USF player ran out the back of the try zone while trying to center the try, for a 22 meter drop out. Otto came on for USF and he settled and led his forwards in the second half and that likely helped change the momentum as well as the captain for SFSU Joseph going off with a lower leg injury.

Under the Duh file, I overheard one of the teams talking about their play calls with one call being ‘Argentina’. The player asked if the call was just any country or specifically ‘Argentina’ to which he was answered that it was specific and not just any ‘South African’ country.

FOG women 96 – Sequoias 25 Referee: Hennie Strydom
Fog Ladies vs Sequoia Invitation XV (combination of Sequoia and Fog)
Due to shortage of players we played 10's, with 20-minute quarters.

Scoring broke down as follows: 39-0, 25-5, 17-20, 5-0.

The field was well-marked and ropes set to manage the spectators. Overall a good experience.

Chico State 12 – CAL POLY 39 Referee: Don Pattalock

TJs: B. McSwain, A. Triantafyllou

There are stories detailing the game on the rugby news sites so I won’t recount the match. The score flatters Cal Poly somewhat as the game was heavily contested. Every tackle/ruck was contested and the match was extremely physical. Both teams countered well off turnovers; however, CP managed to score while Chico fell short. CP was much larger in the forwards and that fact alone had Chico on the back foot. A couple soft try’s after halftime lead Chico to lose some focus and CP finished off the match from there. Fun match to be a part of.

PS: Dan Lacko did the 2nds and I stayed and watched the first 30 min period. Two fantastic trys awarded by Lacko: one he was on both knees as a maul went to ground in-goal and Dan awarded the try from his knees; the second, Dan is in-goal as a maul is advancing towards him, the maul roll’s and the try is scored right at his feet. Perfect or serendipitous positioning: you be the judge.

Seconds: Chico State 17 – CAL POLY 36 Lacko


ORLANDO 16 – Pelicans 7 Referee: Sam Reagle
Conditions: Sloppy
I have been looking forward to refereeing the Pelicans of St. Petersburg since I got the assignment 3 weeks ago. As it turns out, one of their coaches is Russ Boring who played for the Sacramento Capitals in a previous life. It's always nice to run into someone you know when you are far from home. We chatted a bit before getting on with our respective duties.

It has rained here in central Florida for the past 2 days. Not torrential, but varying between none and some. Just before kickoff, the rugby gods waved whatever it is they wave and the sun peaked out from behind some clouds and all was good, except the pitch which was woefully saturated. Muddy conditions usually hurt the offense more than the defense and today was no exception. All but one of the scores was from a penalty kick or directly related to an offensive miscue by the other team.

The Pelicans got on the board first just 3 minutes into the game with a well earned converted try. I was impressed with how well they recycled the ball after attacking the defenders head on. Little did I know at the time that that would be the only score for the next 30+ minutes without any real organized plays from either side. Orlando got on the board just before halftime when a Pelican with the ball in his own goal had it ripped away and downed for a try. Halftime score: 7-5 Pelicans

Minutes into the second half, Orlando striped a penalty kick to take the lead 8-7. This held up for about 20 minutes of back and forth industrial rugby when Orlando scored a try by stealing a lineout about 8 meters out and slicing between defenders into goal. Orlando made another penalty kick about 5 minutes later to finish the scoring. Because the winner was in doubt up to the final minutes, it was very exciting to referee and (I hope) to watch. I look forward to seeing Orlando again next week when the play Gainesville.


We have a dozen games on tap this weekend, with eight available referees left over.

This is a problem we won’t have much longer, after the seasons ramp up in January.

You can see the lineup at www.Pelicanrefs.com. Assistant Referees are always welcome and some of these games look to be quite good. Drop an e-note to the assigned ref if you’d like a run.


The B grades are no more. B3, B2 and B1 will combined into a single territorial grade known at T.

The existing C grades will be renamed as local grades, L3, L2 and L1. New, ungraded referees who are currently called D referees may be called L4 or some other designation that the local society prefers.

These changes were approved by the General Committee of the USA Rugby Referee and Laws Committee, which met in Las Vegas this past weekend. They should be implemented nationwide by the start of California league play in January.

Under the new criteria, it will be slightly more difficult to make L1 (old C1) and likewise T (formerly, initially at least, B3). But once on the T Panel, a referee will be in the same pool for assignments and appointments, including national appointments, as the other T panelists.

Distinctions among those on the T panel will be made by the grades that they receive on their evaluations. The road to the National Focus Group and National Panel will of course run through T territory.

Everyone with an existing grade will be transferred to the corresponding grade without having to meet additional criteria if they happen to be C1 or B3 at present. Those C2 and C1 referees who have above-grade reports in the bank already can be reassured that these reports remain valid currency toward promotion even though subsequent reports must be written against the higher standards.



“I was in Paris for a couple days last week and stayed near a small cafe/sports bar shown in the attached picture. They served Pelforth beer, which used to be called "Pelican" and is now owned by Heineken. No idea if they serve this in the US.


Here's what Wiki says:

Pelforth Brewery

25 cl bottle of Pelforth Brune


A recently-wedded couple has come up with a proposed Pelicus name for the bride:

Pelicus Pookie Goochicus

A special plenary session of the Senate was required to consider this issue. Long-time readers will recall what happened to the one who proposed a name in pig-Latin: he became Pelicus Littlus Dickus for a few years until redeeming himself by good works.

But if a woman wishes to apply pillow-talk to herself in public, we can only respond as did Cicero: “O tempora! O mores!”

Muchos Pelicanos
Somebody we know is hanging out with a bunch of our friends.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris