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 café 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