Wednesday, January 27, 2010




Jeff Jury is returning to the flock after a several-year sabbatical. Jeff lives in Fresno.

Perhaps we’ll see him in Sacramento this weekend!


The Pelican Society faces its annual crunch time test weekend, thirty-six club and college games plus the Sacramento Valley High School Kick-Off Tournament.

This is the Woodstock of youth rugby: three days of entertainment and too often in the past, all-encompassing mud. But the folks looking out the satellites’ windows are calling for a rainless weekend this time around.

Games begin Friday evening with UC Davis, fresh off their victory over St. Mary’s, hosting Sac State at Granite Regional Park at 7 PM. Phil Akroyd could use a couple of good ARs – let Chris Tucker know if you are interested.

The tournament will run from 8:30 to 5 Saturday and Sunday on six pitches. Obviously, we don’t have enough referees to cover all of these games ourselves, but we have at least 12 visitors - 5 from Alberta, 2 from NY, 2 from Colorado, 1 from Erie, 1 from PNW and 1 from Germany, all coming in at their own expense due to a love of the game.

You may be refereeing elsewhere on Saturday afternoon. That should not preclude you from dropping by the tournament before and/or after your game on Saturday, or all day Sunday. We need refs, ARs and especially REFEREE COACHES.

Plus – there’s a dinner Saturday evening at Buca di Beppo’s on Howe to show pelican hospitality to our guests. All are invited. Number Ones. Let Chris Tucker know you would like to join us at the festivities.


The Las Vegas Travel Exchange has already matched up a pair of lonely hearts looking for companionship during the Las Vegas Invitational and the IRB Sevens.

We have one other with a room at Hooters to share Wednesday – Saturday nights, half of $300 for the four nights and you’re in.


East Palo Alto 28 – OLYMPIC CLUB 36 Referee: Pete Smith
ARs: Bruce Carter, James Hinkin
I think this was easily the game of the week with the scoring line all the evidence I need to validate my claim: 7-0, 14-0, 14-5, 14-12, and 21-12 Halftime 28-12, 28-19 (penalty try/yellow card), 28-26 (with player in the sin bin), 28-33 (3 minutes remaining), 28-36 Final score! Olympic Club pulled it out the final minutes to win. They only led for 3 minutes, but they were the last 3 minutes.

The weather cooperated during the game with clear skies and light wind. The synthetic field was obviously fast and firm. There was a larger crowd on hand as many other area games had been cancelled and EPA’s U23 team hosted Marin in the preceding match with just about everyone sticking around for the main event. The field markings were lacking a little as it is impossible to stick the flags into the synthetic turf. I had two great AR’s in Bruce (National AR Panel) Carter and James ‘hard working’ Hinkin.

The teams definitely came to play with very few whistles and end to end action. It was the sort of game that you hope people that have never seen rugby will witness as they will instantly fall in love with the game. It had a little of everything that makes the game great.

Seconds: East Palo Alto 0 – OLYMPIC CLUB 49 Referee: Roberto Santiago
ARs: James Hinkin, Pete Smith
Videographer: Bruce Carter
The Olympic Club Bs came out strong and fast against an EPA side made up of some A side players, A side reserves and healthy dose of kids who had played in the D3 game earlier in the day. OC scored their first try 90 seconds in and ended the half with 35 on the board. The visiting kicker put on a clinic converting every try on the day with only two coming from in front of the posts.

The action slowed down in the second half. Trailing 42-0 and getting pushed over in the scrums EPA asked to go to uncontested scrums due to having some U19 player in the tight five. Olympic Club agreed somewhat grudgingly as they understandably wanted their reserves to get more experience in a live contest situation. The frustration of one Olympic Club player was evident when two scrums later the EPA hooker had a brain freeze, hooked O Club's supposedly-uncontested put in and a fight nearly broke out. This gentleman proceeded to look for a fight a few more times before the game concluded but couldn't find any takers.

In the final analysis the gap between the Olympic Club A side and B side players is not as wide as it is on some clubs. The O Club back line played with a great amount of cohesion and communication.


SF/GOLDEN GATE SL 97 – Sac Lions 0 Referee: George O’Neil
Assessor: Bryan Porter
No report received. Score taken from on-line article.

SFGG COLTS 39 – Diablo U23, 0 Referee: Preston Gordon
In the interests of a good pre-season run, we decided to have 4 20-minute quarters with open subs. The rain had cleared by the 1500 kickoff, and SFGG scored in the second minute and continued to apply pressure to Diablo throughout the first 40 minutes (similar to the first game). Diablo looked good too, but wasn't quite up to the level of SFGG play.

At halftime it was 29-0. The last 20 minutes of the game were not on par with the first 60, with lots of dropped balls as the players got a bit tired, and there was only one try scored.

Thanks to SFGG for the hospitality and meal after the game.

BARBARIANS 45 – Sac Capitals 15 Referee: Paul Bretz
AR: John Pohlman
Barbarians won 45-15. Game was played on a postage stamp. Sac had good Lineout and a good maul but had a slow recycle rate which led to 2 intercepts that both went for tries.

Seconds: BARBARIANS 26 – Sac Capitals 15 Referee: John Pohlman
The newly formed Bay Barbarians hosted the Sacramento Capitals this past Saturday in Fremont. This was the first time I had seen the Barbarians. I was interested in seeing how they would compete going straight into division 1. Paul Bretz did the first game with me and a very qualified Sacramento injured player running touch.

Of note was that game was played less than four miles from my house. The Barbarians had secured a very small all-turf field at Irvington High School. The Barbos had a lot of people and extra players. The Caps had traveled with around 22 players for both sides.

It was decided to play 20-25 minutes halves.

The Caps scored on three penalty kicks in the first half to take a 12-0 lead. The Barbos were less disciplined than the Caps but their fresh legs kept the pressure on. The Barbos scored 4 tries in the second half, three converted. The Caps made 2 more penalties to finish the scoring at Barbos 26, Caps 15.

EPA U23, 20 – Marin 17 Referee: Bruce Carter
East Palo Alto played three home games at Cubberley, where the summer sevens have been played dozens of times over the years, on a new synthetic pitch inside the ‘stadium’.

Grandstands on both sides of the track and a break in a week’s rain guaranteed a festive and family atmosphere, as the generations either played touch between matches or sat and chatted with friends.

Tasi Mounga is coaching EPA, one of the great US Eagles returned home to the peninsula to roost.

We enjoyed sunshine throughout this match, as the Airship Ventures blimp tour shuttled overhead between Moffett and the sights of San Francisco and the Golden Gate.

Marin enjoyed a seven-five lead for a while in the first half but otherwise needed to play catch-up most of the way, including the last five minutes when they pressed the EPA line but couldn’t make it the last few feet.

Only one of seven tries were converted on a windless day with firm and predictable footing. Better kicking could have changed the game significantly in either direction.

If this game is any indication, NorCal D3 rugby is a formidable competition indeed.


Mendocino – Humboldt Referee: Richard McGrath (Australia)
No report received. If anyone knows how this turned out, please let us know.

BERKELEY 37 – Redwood 0 Referee: Rob Hendrickson
Berkeley and Redwood both showed up with numbers for both an A side and B side matches between light sprinkles at Berkeley’s Gilman field, opting to play on artificial turf out of concern that 4 games at their TI field on Saturday (Berkeley + Fog, each X 2) would have been too much after last week’s torrential rains. The play and the score were close after the first half (Berkeley leading 10 – 0), with Berkeley opening up in the second half with 4 tries. Redwood has a lot of talent, and will undoubtedly be an even stronger opponent as the season wears on and they gain experience.

Seconds: Berkeley 15 – REDWOOD 50 Referee: Matt Heafey
Gilman Field
It cleared for another glorious day on this brand new field off Gilman sun shining through and some good football-style rugby.

It seemed as if the 1st side from Redwood would stay on the field for the 2nd match to try and redeem their effort from the first game. Berkeley came out with an entire new side unfortunately Redwood was ready when the ball was kicked off and quickly took the ball back for score after a couple quick passes and a few missed tackles. This theme continued throughout the first half giving them a comfortable advantage at the half. Both sides were very generous offering their support in calling the match.

Fog 15 – SAINTS 27 Referee: Cary Bertolone
Referee Coach: David Williamson
A break in the clouds, kind of, and we kicked off at 1:00 at Treasure Island with Dave Williamson watching me, as I had a wire. The Saints seemed much stronger, but a few early on "silly" penalties kept them out of the try zone, as they had trouble keeping any momentum going with all of the penalties. Saints lost a prop for 10 minutes, only 6 minutes in for "almost" punching someone. Fog scored 3 points at the 12 minute mark. Before the sin bin released the first prop, a Saints lock incurred another yellow. Playing one man short, Saints pushed one in from the forwards with good rucking at the 25 minute mark for a 5-3 lead. The Fog came right back and combined with hard forward work and some great back passes, ran one in with a great run from their outside center for a try to take the lead 8-5. The Saints put one together at the 39 minute mark and converted for a 12-8 half time lead. The second half was more of the same with three more yellow cards for the Saints, one of which turned into a red as the same player infringed right after he returned from the sin bin-I was shocked. However, the Saints tough running and punishing tackles got them three more trys in the second half. The Fog drew close, at 22-15, late in the second half, but the Saints put it away with their last try, final score Saints 27-Fog 15. Despite all of the cards, everyone seemed to be in good spirits and it was a good rugby day.

UC DAVIS 24 – St. Mary's 11 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
No report received. Score taken from on-line article.

Seconds: UC Davis – St. Mary's CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER

Sac State 0 – CALIFORNIA 81 Referee: Chris Tucker
AR: Ron DeCausemaker, Eric Rauscher
A cool showery day in Berkeley after a switch of location from Sacramento owing to a conservative Sac State rec department. Still better to play rugby anywhere than not play rugby somewhere. The score indicates a track meet, but that was far from the case, with Sac State playing hard throughout and defending well. If anything their limited offence was what caused the score -- with ball in hand they rarely found the gainline, and the support was not there when they did. A couple of long breaks by Sacramento backs were dealt with close to the goal line by pursing Cal defenders, and the ball was turned over. Cal's defence was organised and effective throughout, with a clean sheet their reward.

Only sour note was an overly-high penalty count in the first half as my game management was insufficient / ineffective / ignored, with blame apportionable to all 3 pieces of the puzzle. Will be interesting to watch the video to see what I did right and what can be improved...

Seconds: Sac State – California CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER

Chico State – Stanford CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER

Fresno State 5 – CAL MARITIME 77 Referee: Tom Zanarini
The four-hour drive south was worth it as the clouds parted and blue skies and sunshine greeted us in Fresno. I though I'd arrive early 11:30-ish to get some extra warm up time from the long drive and was greeted by both teams already organizing and a U-19 Fresno team practicing. This was Fresno St. first 'league' match and I was excited to see this new college club perform against one of the country's best.

FSU wasn't able to contain CMA, but they put up a valiant fight, including the try of the day by scrumhalf Jerry Kelly. After just gone down to 14 men for a professional foul, Jerry picked up at the back of his scrum and went weak side for a 70 meter try. Defenders in front of him couldn't catch him. Way to show you're still in the game.

I hope FSU continues to improve. The size of the school alone could see this club being a future powerhouse.

NEVADA 22 – Santa Rosa JC 12 Referee: Don Pattalock
AR's: P. Ulibarri / C. Zameila
On a semi-snow snow covered pitch, Nevada and SRJC battled it out for 80 minutes. Nevada seemed to have the edge in the forwards and SRJC in the backs. Nevada's back row (combined weight of the 3 of them = 400lbs) consistently beat SRJC to the breakdowns and tackled ferociously. Halftime score was 10 - 0 Nevada. In the second half SRJC managed a little better possession but it was Nevada's technical kicking that kept them under pressure. The two sides each scored 12 in the second half, but Nevada deservedly came away with the win.

Side note: Phil Ulibarri aka the $6,000 man, made his re emergence on Saturday with his new knee. Glad to have him back on the pitch. Now, if we can just get the rest of him replaced, we’d be perfect.

Seconds: Nevada – Santa Rosa NOT PLAYED

Humboldt State 0 – SIERRA JC 33 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Thanks to lush scenery along the Redwood Highway, a lively bluegrass/jazz FM station, and the soothing voice of GPS girl, my early morning trip from San Jose was quite pleasant. Despite intermittent thunderstorms throughout the drive, by the time I approached Eureka, the rain had stopped and the sun had emerged through the clouds. The match was played in Manila because all other fields in Arcata had been closed due to weather. Humboldt State should be commended for a nice job preparing the playing enclosure including sideline barriers. The 55F sunny weather attracted a number of onlookers.

Both teams had some experienced players, but also quite a few beginners. Consequently, there was lots of enthusiasm, but also many handling errors and penalties. Sierra was more powerful with ball in hand and led 7-0 at half thanks to an opportunistic try off a scrum turnover. In the second half, Sierra applied sustained pressure to notch four more tries, mostly off missed tackles or miscues. (Sierra also knocked on twice over the goal-line.) Humboldt attacked the goal-line with gusto at the end of each half, but Sierra's defense held firm each time.

Much thanks to the home team for their hospitality, which included inviting me to their post-match function in Arcata.

USF 27 – Univ. of the Pacific 24 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
TI-on the wet, but serviceable Fog field on pretty clear winter's day. This kind of D2 match is simply fun for everyone-players, spectators, the ref, even the coaches. The skill level was admirable and the spirit good.

USF scored first at 13 minutes, but just when it looked like it might be a romp UOP dots one. And so it went all game. At half the score was Dons on top 15-12. There were several lead changes in the second half. UOP scored last with no time left-but there simply was not quite enough time to tie or win.

Post game mini match: UOP 5 – USF/Fog/Warthogs 5. As it should be.

A thank you to the Fog is in order from the rugby community for sharing their field, for this was re-scheduled from Stockton late in the week. Indeed, I overheard the president of the Fog offer use of the field to a new high school team. That is generosity personified.

UC DAVIS women 10 – Stanford 5 Referee: Joe Leisek
IM Fields, UC Davis
The first of two college rugby upsets in Davis this weekend, both of which stunned traditional college rugby powerhouses. In the day's first contest, the Aggie women came out strong and tough against visiting Stanford. The hosts stuck to a game plan of using forward size and strength to keep the ball tight. They played a patient game of pick-and-drive, maintaining possession very well and putting up a stout defense against Stanford's much more expansive game. These were two teams with very different game plans. While Davis moved the ball forward in increments, Stanford played their more open game, even on a pitch with standing water and ample mud. To their credit, they were able to work the ball through the backline often. Davis scored their two tries in the first half, both from forward-oriented phases of play. Stanford's try came early in the second half when a Davis player kicked ahead at a lateral angle to a Stanford wing, who caught the kick and scampered about 30 meters straight ahead to score near the corner. Both teams impressed with their commitment and dedication to playing the best game possible on a wet, muddy field. Don Walsh made an appearance and watched about half of the game; I always appreciate his sage advice and conversation. I tried to leave the pitch in good condition for Jim Crenshaw and the men’s game, who, when he arrived, told me I had not succeeded.

Seconds: UC Davis women – Stanford CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER

Sac State women – UC Santa Cruz CANCELED DUE TO WEATHER


Friday night:
HAYWARD U-19, 49 – Elsie Allen 5 Referee: John Coppinger
The rain stooped Friday evening as Elsie Allen visited Pepsi Field in Hayward for a preseason match under the lights.

Well organized and scrappy, but undersized, Elsie Allen hung with Hayward for the first half and simply were overwhelmed by the bigger, faster, and more athletic Hayward side.

MARIN HIGHLANDERS 32 – Peninsula Green 12 Ref: Coppinger
Saturday morning I made my way to Redwood High in Larkspur for the second week in a row; this trip to run the Peninsula Green/Marin Highlanders match.

When I arrived, the Marin/Pen Green Frosh/Soph match was underway and I took well deserved grief from the Marin coaching staff for reporting last week in HP that Jed Elley coaches the Marin Highlanders. (The father of Carl Hendrickson, the PITS # 8, was also quick to point out my brain fart as soon as HP went to virtual press lat week.) In fact, Jed coaches the Marin MD3 club and PITS.

In the varsity match, Marin and Peninsula Green both came out attacking, but Marin was better able to maintain control of the ball and turn control of the ball into scores. Marin seemed to have made significant strides since the week before, while P. Green struggled at the tackle/ruck.

After the match, as I left the pitch, the Marin Highlanders JV kicked off against the new Danville team.

After two straight weekends of U19 rugby, I had a couple of thoughts on the way home. First, the people who have built the NorCal U19 program deserve a great deal of credit and thanks for a lot of things, but perhaps the one thing that strikes me the most is the tradition/requirement that the teams meet post-match to select the man of the match for the other side and then share a hotdog or sandwich. I think that this simple thing builds the sportsmanship that is so important to our game. The second thing that struck me is that the better players (who always seem to be the leaders on the field) all seem to know each other from the PCIT or the PCRFU High Performance camps or tours and they respect each other, which also adds to the air of sportsmanship that I sense. Hopefully, with the transition to Rugby California from NCRFU/PCRFU and the resultant demise of the PCIT and the PCRFU HP camps, this element will survive.

Santa Rosa 5 – Live Oak 12 Referee: Mike King
The overcast turned to a downpour soon after the kick-off. Both sides had some problem handling the longer passes, making interior movements more effective. Santa Rosa struck first, but Live Oak challenged at times. The second half was more of the same with some penalties near the goal line costing Santa Rosa a try. Finally, Live Oak broke the deadlock near the close of the match, converting a try to finish 12-5. Great effort by all!


Wanna get fired up about our Game right here in between Saturday fixes?


Not so long ago youth rugby meant high school. Now it means ‘younger than high school’.

Chris Fisher updates us on the NorCal situation:

“There are only 5 U-8 clubs: 2 East Bay, 2 South Bay and 1 at TI.
There are 8 U-10 clubs: 4 East Bay, 2 South Bay, 1 Marin, 1 TI
There are 11 U-12 clubs: 4 East Bay, 2 South Bay, 1 Marin, 1 TI, 3 Valley.”

If he missed anyone it’s because youth rugby is now, blessedly, a moving target.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Friday, January 22, 2010




The best rugby exchange of any society in the USA has occurred biennially since 1994 on even-numbered years, and 2010 will be no exception.

The East Midlands Society will be sending four referees and (possibly) one referee coach to Pelicanland in March. Names and particulars are yet to come.

They will arrive either on Wednesday or Thursday, March 10 or 11, and depart on Monday, March 22.

The Sacramento area has a lot more home games on the second weekend, so we’ll plan on having them in the Bay Area the first part of their trip and the Sacramento area after the Yosemite hike.

Have a look at your calendar. We’ll need hosts, as many as five in each area:

Bay Area: March 10/11 through the morning of Wednesday, March 17, when they’ll need transport to Yosemite. Hosts don’t have to be hikers; we need both!

Yosemite hike: drive up Wednesday, March 17 and spend the night. Hike Thursday, then depart for Sacto.

Sacramento Area: March 18 through the morning of March 22 (unless they have an early flight and need to be back in the Bay Area that Sunday night)

Let Bjorn Stumer know if you can host.

We’ll also need folks to volunteer to plan and host side trips: wine country, SF tour, whatever you like. This means taking a day off work so you need to plan ahead.

If you’ve been overseas on exchange or you’d like to go in the future, it’s time to make a deposit in the Rugby Karma Bank. Take a day or two off and strengthen the rugby bonds that bind us all.


Aruna Ranaweera and Bryan Arciero have been appointed to the JWT in Moscow in May. Bryan, from Alberta, has refereed here several times and may be back later this season to tune-up for his Russian trip.

Aruna will be doing his first game back from August’s injury up in Humboldt this weekend.


You going to Vegas for the Sevens? Not going but on the fence? Just want to get your blood pumping after too big of a lunch?


Anyone looking for a roommate in Vegas, or someone to share a car with? We’ve got one who needs another.


Only about half our membership has responded with February availability. Can’t make a schedule with so few refs, and we’d like to get February 6 published soon so our travelers can make their plans. PLEASE LET US KNOW.

Please format your response as follows (cut and paste as needed). We need travel refs to the destinations listed below, sometimes two or three in the same city the same weekend.

Have a look. If you’d like to plan a weekend around one of these destinations for a particular weekend, let us know.

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

Feb. 6 ____ _____
Feb. 13 ____ _____

Feb. 20 ____ _____

Feb. 27 ____ _____
Mar. 6 ____ _____

Away games on tap:

February 6: Reno, Humboldt, Redding
Feb. 13: Two games in Chico, everything else Sac/Bay Area
Feb. 20: Fresno, Arroyo Grande, Humboldt, Reno
Feb. 27: Redding, Fresno, Humboldt, Reno
March 6: Fresno, Humboldt, Arroyo Grande, Mendocino

Report by Mike Malone:

History on a local scale was made this past Sunday when Mike Malone and Matt Eason delivered a Level 1 Officiating course to 49 students, 33 of whom were under age 19. On relatively short notice and on the promise of dozens, if not scores, of students, the Northern California Rugby Football Referee Society was asked to deliver the course on behalf of the Bay Conference, affiliated with the Northern California chapter of Rugby California, a state-based youth rugby organization. The Bay Conference, made up of 13 boy’s high school and youth teams, plans to use these 33 young referees, all but one currently high school players, officiating their Conference’s U14 and U12 matches. Ably assisting Mike and Matt deliver the course were David Williamson, Giles Wilson, Paul Bretz, and Gordon Preston. The history on a local scale; this was the largest number of students ever to have been taught in one course in Northern California; on the national level, it was two students shy of tying the national record set two years ago in Eastern Penn. That one youth who is not a high school student? Well, it was not because he has graduated from high school. In fact, he has not yet entered high school. The boy, Liam Bretz, is 11.


CALIFORNIA MARITIME 17 – Sierra JC 5 Referee: Ryan Luis
Maritime never trailed and always looked more dominate in the match, though Sierra did have a strong forward pack which was able to get the better of Maritime early on.

Seconds: Cal Maritime 0 – SIERRA JC 24 Referee: George O’Neil

Saturday, January 16
San Mateo 8 – OLYMPIC CLUB 39 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referee: Matt Heafey
Aragon High School, San Mateo

The score does not completely reflect Olympic Club's dominance in this match. The visitors were much more experienced and organized up front and in the backline. They had far more possession and territory. At times the visitors were stunning, with strong mauling, backline speed and organization, and excellent communication. No. 8 Kort Schubert scored two tries, while captain and flanker Andrew Armstrong scored one of his own and played a very strong game. San Mateo's relative inexperience at this level of play was apparent. That being said, the club is very well organized, well-stocked with youth and athleticism, and will only improve to become a force in the league. Thanks to Matt for his help.

RENO 39 – East Palo Alto 32 Referee: Don Pattalock
AR’s: C. Lusiani, K. Hudson (S. Lau @45)

This was one great match. Both teams play a similar style of rugby; straight ahead and never backing down. The first half was all EPA, all possession, all pressure and all the points. It was a classic one sided affair with Reno struggling to gain possession and defending virtually the entire half. Reno did get one try against the run of play with a stolen ball in a tackle that went 70m the other way. Off an EPA error, Reno was awarded a 5m scrum. The first put-in was contested and ultimately came out the channel. On the reset, Reno feed the scrum and was appropriately sanctioned for feeding. One of the spectators then commented loudly that he hadn’t seen a feeding call since 1948. The half ended with another EPA converted try at 29-7.

The second half started with EPA pushing deep into Reno’s end and scoring a penalty. From there, Reno went through a metamorphosis and started to play dominating rugby. Minor mistakes by EPA, like kick-offs directly into touch (2), fed the Reno attack that was relentless for the last 30 minutes of the game. Reno scored 5 trys, converted 2 and kicked one penalty to win the match 39-32. Quite a game. Both teams exhibited great sportsmanship and played extremely hard.

Seconds: Reno 10 – EAST PALO ALTO 22 Referee: Craig Lusiani
A time-shortened match due to similar personnel planning in both the aside and beside matches.

The first half was played cleanly and equally with half time score of 5 to 5.

The second half had the Zephyrs competing well in set pieces but suffering from a lack of speed. The Razorbacks used their speed to move the ball wide and produce several long runs resulting in tries under the posts.

Sac Lions 8 – BARBARIANS 14 Referee: Scott Wood
ARs: Tony Latu, Russ Wilkening
Location: Burbank HS, Sacramento
Weather: No mercury rising today

What a fun, exciting time this is. No rain, a relatively firm pitch, ropes up, paint down, and proper posts in place. Burbank High was buzzing with excitement as the teams warmed up. Family and friends on both sides of the ball and whistle greeted each other. Several players from the newly-formed McClatchy HS (coached by some of the Lions' players) were in the crowd of approximately 50 to 75 (it's not easy to estimate crowd size while waiting for a scrum to form).

The teams approached the match with enthusiasm at the breakdown but appeared wary of trying anything creative. It seemed like the match moved in fits and spurts with a series of scrums and the occasional penalty. The Barbarians had one opportunity for a penalty goal disallowed because the kicker took (much) longer than one minute to take the kick. The referee even stated (twice) that he should kick. Both teams scored penalty goals before the Barbarians cut into the right corner to score a try (unconverted). We went into halftime with the visitors leading 8-3.

The game opened up in the second half as the teams were more dynamic in their attacks. The Lions went down a player for a dangerous tackle but the Barbarians only came away with a penalty goal. In the waning minutes of the match, the Barbarians were leading 14-3. Sacramento managed to move to within 22 meters and a couple of silly penalties for offside gave them the opportunity to have a lineout five meters from goal. A swift move to midfield and a quick pass back to the right gave them the opportunity needed to score a try (unconverted). The ensuing kickoff was the play of the match as both teams knocked on the ball. Barbarians eked out a victory 14-8.

Congratulations to both sides for a fun, well disciplined match. While the Barbarians came away victorious, the Lions fared really well and are commended for their tenacity.

Many thanks to Russ Wilkening for driving down from Reno and to Tony Latu (after being "volunteered" by Vivian Latu) for being Assistant Referees.

Seconds: Sac Lions 7 – BARBARIANS 15 Referee: Russ Wilkening
The Barbarians traveled with extras, but the home team struggled to find a B side so most of the A's played again. Two 20 minutes periods were agreed upon.

The Barbarians were the fresher of the two sides and it showed as they threw long passes into space which found runners coming on at pace. The Lions defended with some big tackles, but they could not keep their defensive line intact and some Fijian Sevens style rugby by the visitors made them pay for it. Two unconverted tries made for a halftime score of 10-0.

It was more of the same to start the second half and the Barbarians went up 15-0 with a centered try left unconverted. This seemed to lift the Lions spirits and they began to attack with far more vigor. They played a more smash-and-go style of rugby all game and they began to make larger advances and showed more energy as the game clock began to wind down.

Passing up three chances from penalties to kick for the corner and use their dominant lineout, they chose to tap and go each time, finally scoring a well-deserved try as time expired, which was slotted for a score of 15-7 at full time.

Or so I thought...they wanted to play some more! The Barbarians wanted more; the ref saw the Lions circling up, many bent over in exhaustion and said that was it. The Barbarians continued to plead for more time and some of the Lions began to warm to the idea. They talked their brothers into "just five more minutes' and we were off again! The players left it all out there for that last five (really nine) minutes and while both sides came close, they could not score again.

It was a day of really excellent spirits, two contrasting styles of play and good, clean, fast and hard hitting rugby.

Thanks to Scott Wood who stuck around to watch the first half and offering some sound advice before having to leave for a family engagement.

SACRAMENTO CAPITALS 38 – Chico 3 Referee: George O’Neil

Seconds: Sac Caps – Chico Referee: ???

Seahawks 12 – BARACUS 15 Referee: Roberto Santiago
San Jose came out very strong early on but couldn’t turn their backline play into points. Lost ball stemming from knock-ons and forward passes stymied the Seahawk line. Open field running seemed to be a particular challenge for the home team as they had no problems when going into contact. Preseason rust lay thick on the grass like manna. Penalties were meted out to both sides in the first half for high tackles and diving over at the breakdowns. Yet despite the sloppy play the home side found themselves up 5-0 at the half thanks to a try just behind the right post.

I should note that Baracus was playing at a bit of a disadvantage in the first half due to having forgotten their jerseys. I can only assume that their sartorial motley-ness was responsible for their lackluster play in the first half because with their kits having arrived at half time they came out for the second session like gangbusters. A couple of big plays got Baracus out in front.

First came a long run down the left sideline resulting in a try. Baracus extended their led to 5-15 with a penalty at 59:00 and a converted try at 70:00. With that it looked like Baracus might pull away but San Jose put one over the line just one minute later. But the story of the day was the Seahawks inability to turn field position and strong running into points. With just a couple minutes left they had the ball and were on the attack, and that’s how the match ended with the home team in possession but ending the game on mishandled ball.

As with many games there was a bit of grumbling from players about this call and that call, which is normal. But I’d like to take this space to clear one misconception I’ve encountered more than couple times over the years. Rugby players of America, by and large your referees do not get paid. In fact it is overwhelmingly the opposite. Like you, dear players, we also pay club dues and CIPP fees. The vast majority of your referees not only volunteer but they drive for hours, take time off work, ignore family, friends, and chores all to help make your match official. The result is almost always a net loss when it comes to money. So before you open your mouth and spew out an ignorant comment like “We pay to play and you’re getting paid” remember these simple guidelines:

-Unless you’re getting paid to play your ref isn’t getting paid to ref
-Unless the league you play in starts with the word “Super” your ref isn’t getting paid. (And I don’t know if those guys get paid either) [Editor’s note from long experience: no, they don’t]
-Unless you have a country’s name front of your jersey rather than the name of a local bar your ref isn’t getting paid

So you see, we’re all kicking a little bit of bucks up the chain for the privilege of running around on Saturdays. Now that we have that cleared up let’s remember that we all have the same goal, a good game of rugby. The ref isn’t against you. The ref is for you. The ref wants you to do well. Thank you.

[Editor’s Further Note: we can’t BELIEVE that NorCal teams think NorCal refs get paid. We’ve never been paid. And we don’t receive expenses. That ref you had in Redding, or Arcata, or Fresno, or Arroyo Grande or Reno – he paid for his gas, his bridge tolls, his meals and his hotel room if he stayed the night. And his speeding ticket if memory serves. No mileage. No stipend. No fees. No money at all. Got it? The ref who does your children’s soccer or softball matches makes more in one game involving eight-year-olds than we do in our entire careers.]

Seconds: Seahawks – Baracus

D2 pre-season friendly:
SANTA ROSA 54 – Vacaville 17 Referee: Mike King
This friendly pre-season was hard-fought with the home side showing a bit more organization and cohesion. Vacaville has unfortunately been kept off training fields thus far, which probably accounted for some of the rustiness. The game was divided into 4 quarters to allow maximum opportunity to both sides to substitute and try combinations. Both sides look ready to roll into the season. Special thanks to Tom Zanarini for staying after he completed the end of the Elsie Allen 10 a sides Tourney, while I traveled back from the JC v Santa Cruz 2ds and for Cary Bertolone for covering the 2d half of that 2ds match.

EPA RAZORBACKS U23, 31 – San Bruno Saints 24 Referee: John Pohlman
Two of the top Division three teams in the county met this past weekend. A very physical, fast and clean game welcomed me back to refereeing for 2010. I had not done a competitive 15's game since last April. I hoped I had the speed and management to give this game justice. Fortunately for me, two well coached and disciplined teams showed up Saturday.

EPA was hosting the new San Bruno team. Two mostly Polynesian teams, separated by 20 miles or so. Before and after the game it was great to see the friendship and community the players and fans presented. On to the game!

The game started fast, both teams making strong tackles and forcing a few handling errors. Other than the handling errors both teams looked to be in mid-season form.

EPA scored first. They were led by Captain Vaea Sanft, who dotted down a converted try 9 minutes in. The Saints answered back four minutes later with a converted try. First tie of the game. EPA answered back with an unconverted try. Followed by an unconverted try by the Saints. With two minutes left in the half, the Saints were camped on the EPA try line. The Saints had a pick and drive to the side line. I was not able to see the grounding of the ball. Thus a five meter scrum. The Saints scored off the scrum to go ahead at half time 17-12. And take me off the hook for not giving an iffy score.

Everyone regrouped and I refueled for an expected fast and furious finish.

EPA scored in the first five minutes to tie the game for the third time. The Saints score a converted try 5 minutes later. EPA 17-Siants 24. The game was back and forth for the next ten minutes with EPA finally able to tie the game again with a converted try with 15 minutes left.

At the 70th minute I got my first semi-dangerous tackle, with a shoulder charge. A stern warning and discussion on how great a game we had and how unfortunate it would be to give any advantage by sending someone off.

The last ten minutes was a clean whirlwind. EPA scored a converted try with six minutes left to take their first led since 9 minutes in. The Saints controlled most possession but the EPA defense held.

Final EPA Razorbacks 31 San Bruno Saints 24.

Thanks for a great game. You can go a whole season without being involved in a game with this competitive intensity. If they stay healthy, these may be the D-3 teams to beat this year.

MARIN 39 – Humboldt 5 Referee: John Coppinger
Rugby stars aligned last Saturday, as I was able to handle the Piedmont/Marin Highlander U19 match on the field turf of Redwood High in Larkspur at 11 in the morning and the Humboldt/Marin club match in Marin City at 1:30 that afternoon.

Piedmont traveled to Marin for a pre-season friendly. Both sides bloodied (probably a poor choice of a word given that a Piedmont player in either the JV or Frosh/Soph match split his head open and required a number of stitches before I arrived) a lot of new and younger players and the 31-19 score in favor of Piedmont probably shouldn't be taken as an indication of anything. It was 26-12 in favor of Piedmont at the half. Piedmont has a number of impressive players, including Jesse Milne at flyhalf, Travis Moscone at hooker, and Captain/#8 Carl Hendrickson. Milne is a junior and Moscone and Hendrickson I am told are Cal bound. Hendrickson has a reasonably prominent father in local rugby refereeing circles, whose name I can't recall. Marin was smaller than Piedmont, but more aggressive in the loose and were ably led by their impressive captain/hooker, whose name I unfortunately failed to note. Both teams showed discipline and accepted direction well and I wish them good luck in the upcoming season.

As soon as the Piedmont/Highlanders match ended, I left Larkspur and headed south for the short drive to Marin City. I remember when the Marin field first opened. It was a fine pitch. Years of Marin County budget problems and higher priorities have left the pitch a lumpy mix of different green weeds. There might be something a gardener might call grass mixed in with the weeds, but only an agronomist could say for sure. The pitch was loose and slippery after the small rain the Bay Area received a week ago Tuesday and the east side of the pitch was protected by a moat where the road is usually found. By the time the currently forecasted two weeks of rain passes, I will shudder to imagine the state of the pitch. A word to the wise: strap your boots to your feet and a floatation device may be advised.

Marin had 30 players; Humboldt had 16, including 2 who showed up 2 minutes before kickoff. Marin came out aggressively and organized led by their coach/captain Jed, a South African (and who is also the coach of the Marin Highlanders), at flyhalf who marshaled an attack that varied and always looked to run. Marin ran out to a 17-0 lead at half time and scored 22 more in the second half while Humboldt battled to the end and was able to score late to make the final 39-5. A good match played in good spirit by good guys. A fitting end to a good day of rugby.

BERKELEY 27 – Aptos 15 Referee: Henni Strydom
The match was played in ideal conditions, with a well marked playing surface. Aptos took control of the first half scoring 17 points (penalty, 2 tries, one conversation) without any BRFC response.

The second half saw BRFC claw back into the game scoring 5 tries (including a penalty try) and a conversion.

Aptos played a man down in the last minutes of the game due to foul play.

NOTE: I had to ask 2 Aptos players to remove a toe stud from their boots prior to the start of the game.

BERKELEY II 50 – FogAptoCinos XV 0 Ref: Strydom

FOG 53 – Mendocino 10 Referee: Rob Hendrickson
The Fog hosted Mendocino at TI with a 2:30 kickoff. Mendocino had sufficient numbers so they could actually substitute which seems like a big improvement over the early Saturday morning phone calls of yesteryear saying they only had 10 who would be showing up but they still wanted to play. The game was closer than the score would indicate, although the Fog seemed to consistently get to the breakdown earlier and with more numbers. Their back line play was very good as well, and they were able to get the ball out wide for large gains. The play of the match was a perfectly executed grubber kick by the Mendocino captain past the winger, which he then scooped up on the run and scored their first try in the second half (and getting the wind knocked out of himself in the process of diving in for the try).

Redwood – Shasta Referee: Cary Bertolone
No report received.

CHICO STATE 23 – Sac State 15 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
AR: Ron DeCausemaker

Seconds: Chico State – SAC STATE Referee: Dave Ellis
Suffering from a combination of holiday excess followed by a couple of weeks of serious hacking and coughing, I was looking forward to a run to help open my lungs up, and it worked well. After enjoying running touch for a hard fought and very entertaining 1st side game, I got the B side game underway.

Both sides seemed to be an equal mix of some experience and a lot of raw enthusiasm, the main difference between them being the size of the Sac State pack. Sac State used this advantage well, and were able to keep Chico State on the back foot as they multi-phased their way down the field to four tries. Chico State responded with spirit, willing to counter attack wide when the opportunity arose, scoring a try of their own in each half. Thanks to Jim Crenshaw for his sage post game critique on my performance, definitely food for thought on the drive home.

Silicon Valley – St. Mary's thirds Referee: Rod Chance

Stanford 31 – ST. MARY’S 38 Referee: Phil Akroyd
ARs: Preston Gordon, Bruce Carter
Evaluator: Mike Malone

According to the American Rugby News website, St. Mary’s head coach Tim O’Brien said of the game: “An awful display of college rugby is what I witnessed Saturday at Stanford. A lack of technical skill and tactical competence was the theme of the day.”

If that was the case, then I must like bad rugby. The game produced ten tries, of which half were converted, along with three field goals. Due the sheer amount of action, it felt like the whole game lasted about 20 minutes.

St. Mary’s showed the try scoring flare in the first-half, putting in three tries and converting two, while the home team kept in touch by kicking penalties, due to a series of not releasing infractions and midfield offside by the visitors.

At half-time, it was tied up at 19 each.

The open and fast play continued in the second half, and both teams had their share of possession and attacking opportunities. Stanford appeared to have trouble converting their pressure into points as they were throwing the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, along the opposition 22 meter line. They did manage to break through after ten minutes were played in the second half and actually took the lead for the first time in the match with a converted try. However, it was shortly after that St Mary’s tied it up at 26, with only seventeen minutes left in the game, and it was still tied with nine minutes left.

The Gaels scrum half put in a couple of cheeky little chips into the Stanford in-goal and the probing paid off when the home defense let a ball bounce which was pounced on by a St Mary’s back. They fired into a two-try lead with two minutes left, but Stanford was not done yet. The Cardinal gained good field position from the restart and managed to get the ball out to a football convert on the wing who broke a couple of tackles to score in the corner.

Time ran out for Stanford, but from my point of view, the entertainment value was immense. Thanks to Bruce and Preston for spotting the things from the sidelines that I missed and to Mike Malone for the feedback.

Seconds: Stanford 14 – ST. MARY’S 39 Referee: Preston Gordon
ARs: Rod Chance, Eric Rauscher/Phil Akroyd
An interesting game of rugby: there were lots of line breaks, 9 tries, and 3 balls held up over the line. Unfortunately there were also 5 yellow cards and 1 red. Stanford went from 15 men to 12 between the 35th and 37th minutes - 2 yellows followed by the red for repeated dangerous tackles right after being warned about that - but scored both of their tries while down 3 players. St. Mary's took it in the end though, finishing at 39-14.

Thanks to Rod, Eric, and Phil - it was great to use the radios too.

SANTA ROSA JC 15 – UC Santa Cruz 10 Referee: Mike King
A high-intensity affair played to the final whistle by both sides. Hard hitting, good rucking and counter-rucking, decent ball movement on a fairly firm pitch with some drizzle. The JC went up 10-0 on 2 tries in the first half, including a maul from a lineout. The second half saw swings of momentum - Santa Cruz scoring a converted try with the Santa Rosa following shortly after on a score off an attacking movement and penalty. Santa Cruz later converted 1 of 3 difficult penalty kicks to draw close, but not enough to prevail. Great start to the season.

Humboldt State 7 – SANTA CLARA 14 Referee: Sam Davis
This was to be a different weekend than the last time I refereed Humboldt vs Santa Clara in Humboldt. The last time it was a one-day trip on my Harley which everyone reminded me of when I saw on the field Saturday. My honey and I took off on Friday afternoon arrived at a cute bed in breakfast that night goofed around Saturday morning and then arrived at the field. After the game a shower, a massage a nice dinner good wine and a slow drive back on Sunday through the Avenue of the Giants. If you have the chance I would recommend the trip.

An hour before game time both teams were warming up and ready to play. Humboldt with a few veterans and a number of new faces. Santa Clara with a seasoned group many who I remembered in the High School games. The field is one of the worst to play on but we get to play rain or shine. The Loggers have been working hard to improve the field their efforts were evident and appreciated. Both teams were moving the ball up and down the field and for the first 20 min no one crossed the goal line. Santa Clara scored first on a great extra effort by the backs spreading the defense. Humboldt came back hard and with 7 min left in the half Santa Clara off sides provided a penalty try for Humboldt. The 2nd half was as fast paced as the first Santa Clara crossed the goal line twice: both times the Loggers did not allow the touch-down. They pushed Santa Clara back across the halfway mark and started their own attack. Santa Clara came back with a multiphase play that put it over the goal line and touched it down. Time ran out with Santa Clara ahead 14-7. It was a great game and both teams should be very proud of their performance.

Santa Clara women 15 – UC SANTA CRUZ 47 Referee: Rich Anderson
This match was a bit closer than the score indicated on the field, with UCSC stealing three SCUT passes for tries. Santa Cruz, though, came with superior numbers (I think I checked 122 pairs of SLUG boots pre-match) and kept the pressure on throughout the match.

ELSIE ALLEN 10s TOURNAMENT Referee: Tom Zanarini
This was a scrimmage type, round-robin with one team leaving after every 10 minutes, no scores kept.

STANFORD 21 – Western Washington U 0 Referee: Eric Rauscher
WWU amazed me. A Div 2 team with no coach drives from near Canada to play in the tourney and plays very well. They were not able to handle Stanford’s backs, but did surprisingly well otherwise.

UCD 34 – UC Los Angeles 0 Ref: Rauscher
Davis is very proficient at setting their rucks about a meter beyond the ball and were able to win breakdowns again and again. Very good work by the forwards. Davis also had very good communication among their players allowing them to play a co-coordinated attack.

U. of OREGON 17 – Nevada 0 Ref: Rauscher
Oregon was another team that displayed excellent ball control by placing their rucks well.

CALIFORNIA 10 – Univ of Oregon 0 Ref: Rauscher
ARs: Ben Bravo, Bruce Carter
This was a pretty even match in which Cal ended up on the winning side. UO played well but were not able to put points on the board.

3rd place match: CALIFORNIA 15 – UCD 5 Ref: Rauscher
ARs: John Pohlman, Mike King
This was the second time I had each of these two teams. It was a very well played, close and hard fought game marred only by injuries. The game was back and forth and side to side. A pleasure to ref. My thanks to John Pohlman and Mike King for acting as ARs for me in this match.

John Pohlman’s Sunday:
Sunday I was off to do a 9:30AM game at Stanford. Eric Rauscher and I were to referee a game and then drive up to Treasure Island to help with a Refereeing class. My game was a between Reno and Colorado. Reno controlled the game and won 28 to 5.

After the game I was notified I was not needed at Treasure Island. Yeah, I'd rather referee than teach.

COLORADO UNIVERSITY 25 – UC Davis 5 Referee: John Pohlman
I got to call one of the semis. This was UC Davis versus Colorado. I didn't think Colorado would make the semis due to their loss to Reno. I was informed Colorado had already qualified and played some reserves for the Reno game.

When I was talking to the UC Davis captain she stated their coaches had left due to family commitments. They said they would probably sub most of their players 20 minutes in, and were coaching themselves.

The real Colorado team showed up. They controlled the game and won 25-5, led by tournament MVP and Captain Loren Daley.

STANFORD 5 – California 5 (overtime; 5 – 5 in regulation)
ARs: Eric Rauscher, Rich Anderson

I had spent much of the weekend video-coaching the other refs, offering advice and focusing on reducing the penalty count. The semi-final I assigned myself turned out to be a Cal-Stanford matchup, always a treat in any sport.

The teams seemed evenly matched in the early going, which proved a reliable trend. Both had very active back row scrummagers and fleet-footed outside backs.

This game was an absolute joy to referee. Play was productive and the occasional ill-considered notion proved amenable to a timely word: “Six, No!” and so forth.

Cameo Motley, Berkeley’s left winger and tournament MVP- Back, lit off down the touchline in the early going and scored a lovely try after eluding the rarely-eluded Jess Watkins, who misjudged her opponent’s pace and took an unproductive angle.

It looked like this might hold: Stanford had a period of pressure towards the end that led to a knock-on an inch from paydirt, but then Watkins, playing scrumhalf, evened the count.

Time ran out with a mutual common score. The referee nevertheless felt good about a penalty count of FOUR. Read it and weep, refs.

To the organizers’ credit, knowing that Stanford would advance on the tie-breaking criterion of total point differential for the weekend, they informed me that we should play five minutes of sudden-death.

Alas, my penalty count increased by 50% and no-one found any points under the rugby ball.

Thanks, ladies. You made this AARP-eligible fellow the fan with the best seat in the house.

Stanford – COLORADO UNIVERSITY Referee: Rich Anderson
ARs: Ben Bravo, Eric Rauscher
Videographer: Bruce Carter

Finishing up my weekend of Women's College Rugby (1 match and a friendly on Saturday; plus a spirited Stanford v UC Santa Barbara contest earlier Sunday), was the 3:20 Final of Stanford v Colorado. Colorado's pack dominated the proceedings, with their No #4 Daley (who was later named the tournament MVP) continually gaining ground pounding the ball into the Stanford pack, and more importantly, kicking and chasing the ball downfield.

Colorado won the match and the tournament. It looks like it will be a very competitive season in the Women's D1 season.

Special thanks to: Young Ben, who took time from the NFL Playoffs to run touch (Years from now we will all be saying we knew him when); Rob Hendrickson and Bruce Carter for being kind enough to officiate over tied matches; And Mike King, Eric Rauscher, and John Pohlman for 'KeyStone-Kopping' it around the pitch during the match, looking for Bruce's $500 radio, which yours truly lost at the 3 min mark (and also helping with the AR-ing)

Bruce stopped his video to look for the radio himself, since it could not be found, but assured me that this short bit of film will be sent to the IRB for training purposes. The radio was safely lodged under the fence at the back of the North Try Zone, apparently having been thrown there by a player, and was returned to its rightful owner.

The referees who worked the tournament were: Richard McGrath, visiting from Australia, Eric Rauscher, Rod Chance, Sandy Robertson.

MOTHERLODE 36 – Live Oak 10 Referee: Chris Fisher
B sides: BELLERMANE 26 – Live Oak 5 Ref: Fisher


Yet another new camera lets us down…


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Wednesday, January 13, 2010




Drop everything – get over to Treasure Island for 6 PM food and conversation, 7 – 9 PM NCRRS monthly meeting. Advantage, Line-Out and Scrum will be the topics.


Please format your response as follows (cut and paste as needed). We need travel refs to the destinations listed below, sometimes two or three in the same city the same weekend.

Have a look. If you’d like to plan a weekend around one of these destinations for a particular weekend, let us know.

Available? Able to travel?

Feb. 6 ____ ____
Feb. 13 ____ ____
Feb. 20 ____ ____
Feb. 27 ____ ____
Mar. 6 ____ ____

Away games on tap:

February 6: Reno, Humboldt, Redding
Feb. 13: Two games in Chico, everything else Sac/Bay Area
Feb. 20: Fresno, Arroyo Grande, Humboldt, Reno
Feb. 27: Redding, Fresno, Humboldt, Reno
March 6: Fresno, Humboldt, Arroyo Grande, Mendocino


Friday Evening:
7 PM STANFORD women 100 – Santa Clara 5 Referee: Stephen Moore
Videographer: Bruce Carter
The score defines the vast difference in strengths. Stanford a stronger side in many aspects, tackling, breakdown and backline running. Santa Clara were competitive in scrums but poor in defense against the impressive ball handling skills of the Stanford backs. Lots of breakdown penalties in the first half, far fewer in second. Surprisingly no lineouts in first half, only two in second. Stanford scored 16 tries and 10 conversions, Santa Clara one try (reminds me of Japan v All Blacks in the RWC once). The final minute looked promising for SC with a long run down the sideline only to be held up meters from the goal line, unfortunately game over with a handling error. Despite the score the game was a lot of fun.


Reno 17 – BARBARIANS 29 Referee: Don Pattalock
AR's: W. O'Hara, Rich Boyer (R. Wilkening @40)
Reno appeared to be shaking off the rust from the couple months of snow that has been on the ground. Reno had the better pressure and possession but were denied several times right on the Barbarians line.

The Barbarians host many familiar faces and were dangerous on counter-attacks scoring 2 trys against the run of play. This was a hard-hitting opener with some strong rugby on display.

The final warning on high tackles was issued at 12 minutes resulting in Reno playing 20 minutes of the first half down a player. Despite being a man down, Reno closed out the first half ahead 12-10. Reno backed themselves with 3 quick penalty taps right infront of the Barbarians poles rather than taking the points. Both teams should have a strong season.

Seconds: Reno 7 – BARBARIANS 17 Referee: Rich Boyer
The majority from each team played in a physical A game, so halves were shortened. Both teams played with spirit. The game was played cleanly, without incident. Several instances of good sportsmanship were noted. The game was physical, and Bay Barbarians prevailed 17-7.

Sac Lions 24 – East Palo Alto 24 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
AR: Mark Godfrey, Rod Chance
Referee Coach: Kat Todd-Schwartz

No seconds match was played.

SAN MATEO 39 – Sac Capitals 0 Referee: Pete Smith

Seconds: San Mateo 7 – SACRAMENTO CAPITALS 25 Referee: Bjorn Stumer
Although Sacramento did not quite have a full "B" side and most of the players just finished playing the earlier "A" side match, they took to the field with vim and vigor and and easily dispatched a determined San Mateo. The sky had been gray and the weather cold all day, but just as the match started a glorious sun broke through regaling all with a gentle warmth at the soft under foot Martin Luther King pitch in San Mateo.

After the initial whistle, both sides came out fast firing on all pistons. This lasted the duration of a clean and competent match between two capable sides. The first half saw an unconverted try and a penalty for Sacramento, and no score on the board for San Mateo. San Mateo continued its attacks in the second half and scored a converted try. This however was not enough, as Sacramento, apparently immune from fatigue, stepped it up a notch and put in an additional three tries, one which was converted.

Overall a nice, clean, and fun match full of hard tackling and effective mauling. Competent and disciplined players that came to do serious work, coupled with a gracious crowd attending made this a good day for all involved.

Diablo Gaels 5 – OLYMPIC CLUB 41 Referee: Chris Tucker

SEAHAWKS 47 – Santa Clara University 5 Referee: James Hinkin
AR: Hennie Strydom
On a cool, crisp day in January the San Jose Seahawks met Santa Clara University in a preseason clash between two clubs with close ties, Santa Clara having several former Seahawks on their coaching staff.

Santa Clara tried to use their speed and fitness to offset the Seahawks' distinct size and experience advantage and that led to a contrasting style for the sides. The first half saw several excellent scoring chances for Santa Clara go begging as the final pass was not made or the shot at goal was missed. San Jose, however, were much more clinical in their finishing as they were able to run 3 tries in for a halftime scoreline that flattered to deceive. Halftime score: San Jose 17 - Santa Clara 0.

The second half saw the size advantage tell as the young collegians were worn down by constantly tackling their larger opponents. San Jose was able to exploit the inevitable space created as more and more Santa Clara tacklers were committed to stopping the ball carrier and they ran in 6 more tries - mostly off of long breaks after the defense had been fully committed. Santa Clara was able to dot down a well deserved consolation try after turnover ball saw the Seahawks get lazy in their reorganization and the Santa Clara center was able to shoot straight up the middle for an untouched 40 meter scoring run. Final score: San Jose Seahawks 47 - Santa Clara University 5.

Seconds: SEAHAWKS 35 – Santa Clara 0
Referee: Hennie Strydom

SF/Golden Gate 19 – NEW ZEALAND UNIVERSITIES 39 Referee: Paul Bretz
ARs: Preston Gordon, Eugene Baker

EPA U23, 20 – Redwood 14 Referee: John Coppinger
ARs: Frank Merrill, Sean Peters
After some prompting, both home side EPA and visiting Redwood Empire managed to get square with CIPP registration allowing this match to proceed.

EPA had regulation filed ropes and a field monitor, complete with fluorescent vest. Unfortunately, these safety measures were needed.

Redwood Empire came out strong and took a 14-3 lead at the break as EPA struggled to provide support to EPA ball carriers breaking the gainline. Both teams were given yellow cards in the first half for persistently failing to retreat 10 meters after a penalty.

In the second half EPA was able to bring players into support of runners breaking the gainline and kept the pressure on Redwood Empire, who conceded two tries, one converted, resulting in a 15-14 EPA lead late in the game. On its second try, EPA was a man up because Redwood Empire was playing a man down because of a red card given for a kick to the head of an EPA U23 ball carrier.

With about three minutes remaining in the match, EPA was desperately defending its goal line from heavy Redwood Empire pressure when the visitors were awarded a penalty 12 meters from the EPA goal line. Ignoring his captain, one of the Redwood Empire flankers grabbed the ball, tapped through, and charged the EPA goal line unsupported smack into four or five EPA defenders. The call carrier was taken to the deck and failed to release the ball to defenders on their feet resulting into a penalty, which allowed EPA to clear the ball to touch at midfield. EPA controlled the lineout and scored an unconverted try with no time left to round out the scoring.

EPA should be congratulated for their discipline and restraint following the kicking incident. The team kept their composure and none of the large crowd entered the field or even made a move towards the pitch. I must note that Redwood Empire quickly hustled the transgressor off the pitch.

My thanks to Frank Merrill and Sean Peters for running touch.

Mendocino – Diablo U23 Referee: Cary Bertolone

HUMBOLDT 27 – Shasta 12 Referee: Mike King
Rumble on the North Coast
Only hours before Eureka was hit by the rolls of the quake off the coast, these 2 stalwart sides started the new campaign on a good note. Humboldt’s troops at first seemed like they were coming out of winter’s hibernation as they were arriving shortly before kick-off time and needed to finish erecting the second set of goal posts after 1:00 p.m. Shasta on the other hand was ready and chomping to play on time, but assented to the brief delay to finish the preparation on Manila field. Shasta gamely started the match with 14 and played the entire first half even. The styles were somewhat contrasting, with Humboldt launching running attacks, while Shasta kept it tight with some nifty mauls from lineouts. Half-time was knotted 12- 12. Only the lack of fresh legs and the untimely loss of captain and stalwart lock, Jeremiah Batdorf, led to Shasta’s inability to cover the entire field and stop breaks through the line that ended the scoring in Humboldt’s favor. To their credit the Shasta players kept in the match the entire time although playing with only 13, by grit and good conditioning. Great match and fun rugby. The ref then split the scene only to learn the next day that the fun had only begun. A 6.5 quake hit the North Coast soon after the match ended.


This is what happens when the ref has to leave for a long drive home and misses the festivities. Scott Wood explains:
“Camera begins to shake at 0:56. People across the plaza react at 1:04. Shasta Highlanders and Humboldt RFC stroll out starting at 1:17. Note the half-pitcher saved by a Shasta player at 1:38.”

SAN BRUNO SAINTS 17 – Aptos 6 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
This was a Men's Club Division 3 match between San Bruno and Aptos. The host team, the San Bruno Saints, is new this year and looks to be a worthy new side. To its credit, it had properly lined the field and the safety barriers were in place.

At the end of the first half the score was 17 for the Saints (3 tries and 1 conversion) to 6-two penalty kicks for the Aptos side.

Although no points were scored in the second half, it was much faster paced with nice multiple phase open play and tenacious defense. There was one five minute period at about the 20th minute of absolutely furiously paced good rugby stuff. It probably took more than a minute for the forwards to rendezvous for a scrum re-start; they were scattered all over the field, hands on knees and with tongues handing out.

Berkeley 21 – FOG 23 Referee: Eric Rauscher
AR: Roberto Santiago, TJ: Carl Fortney
Referee Coach: Joel Rubin

Job Corps Field, Treasure Island. Pitch moist with a layer of goose down. High clouds with a mild breeze.

It's like the A's and the Giants, the Raiders and the Niners, a fine cross-bay rivalry. I was quite impressed with the physical conditioning and the skill level displayed by both teams. The first half was a very good half. Berkeley capitalized in the first six minutes with two penalty kicks off of breakdown infractions by Fog. Fog fought back to score two tries at 17 and 25 minutes. Berkeley had the last score, a try at 34 minutes for a halftime score of 11-10. The second half got a bit testy, with tempers flaring here and there. Play continued at a fierce pace, with Fog scoring a converted try at 3 minutes. They scored penalty kicks at 20 and 34 minutes, interrupted with two tries unconverted by Berkeley at 14 and 29 minutes. I had Jake there as a coach, and over an early dinner and a couple of pints, he gave me plenty of good advice as for how to handle challenging games in the future. All in all, it was hard fought (a little too hard), and close match between two evenly matched teams that know each other well. Thanks to Carl and Roberto for being support on the sides and to Jake for guidance.

Seconds: BERKLEY (wm note: sic) 69 – Fog 0 Referee: Roberto Santiago
While the A side game was closely contested the B side match was not as close. The Fog Bs gave every bit as much effort as their A side counterparts their efforts were not as richly rewarded. The Berkeley B side played with more cohesion and pace than the Fog seconds could muster. Berkeley’s left wing dominated the first 25 minutes of the first half breaking off several long runs, including two tries, leaving would be tacklers in his wake and showing great speed for a man built like a second row. The large #11 would have had a hat trick early on but on his final run he pulled up with a lame hamstring about 10 meters out. Though he was able to hop/skip into the try zone upon arriving he spiked the ball in either pain or frustration resulting in a knock on. The rest of the match was a blur of Berkeley overloads in the back line and devastating crashes up the middle resulting in try after try. Despite the lopsided score the entire match was played in good spirits which reflected well on both sides and both captains.

CALIFORNIA 154 – Humboldt State 0 Referee: Tom Zanarini
Referee Coach: David Williamson
Driving through Larkspur on my way to Strawberry Canyon I saw a lone pelican on a dock. Must be a good omen. Perfect conditions for rugby; overcast and 50's with a freshly watered field.

Humboldt St. were down in the stadium warming up early. They are still on winter break and have gathered for a few sessions during this time. They came ready to play and take on their biggest challenge of the season. Cal came prepared and gave no quarter to the Lumberjacks. After the opening pageantry, Cal scored off their own kickoff in about 9 seconds. That would be their last chance to practice a kickoff. Humboldt fought gallantly and held their heads high. They had a number of very crunching tackles, stole a few off the head in scrums and lineouts. Cal was tactical and methodical. You could tell where they were going but it mattered not. They went where they pleased.

Humboldt did win the bloody nose contest: Cal had 3 Humboldt had none!

Thanks to Rob Hendrickson for his AR assistance and Dave Williamson for the coaching session.

UC DAVIS 30 – Chico State 0 Referee: Scott Wood
ARs: Jim Roberts, Donal Walsh
The game did not flow well in the first half. Ball handling errors led to scrums. Scrums had some initial problems with early engagements, early drives, and ball feeding. Each were sorted out and eventually scrums became well-contested platforms. The teams challenged each other physically and with creative drives. Chico had the first scoring opportunity with an attempted penalty goal that curved just too much. Davis opened the scoring with a converted try and followed it up with a penalty goal. Halftime: 10-0.

For the second half, Davis kicked off and quickly found itself with a player in the sin bin due to a dangerous tackle. Chico attacked well but was not able to capitalize on the power play. The game opened up more than in the first half as both teams moved the ball well. To Chico's detriment, Davis was able to maintain better possession and continuity scoring two converted tries and two penalty goals to close out the match 30-0. While Davis shut out Chico, they had to fight for each point.

Thanks to Jim Roberts and Donal Walsh for braving the cool temperatures and running touch. Their input and assistance was valuable.

Seconds: UC DAVIS 38 – Chico State 24 Referee: Jim Roberts

St Mary’s Round Robin Referee: Phil Akroyd
Throughout the three mini-games, the standard of rugby was very high and the level of commitment is to be commended. The pitch was in fine condition and the sun even broke through a little. This was an enjoyable way to begin my 2010 whistle-blowing and the games played out as follows:

St Mary’s ‘B’ 0 – 40 Sierra JC ‘A’
This was the first of the three, forty-minute games played at St. Mary’s before the main event of Cal Poly ‘A’ V St Mary’s ‘A’.

Sierra played in exactly the same style as the last time I saw them. That was hard power-play in the tight five, repeatedly hitting rucks hard and in numbers and then taking advantage of a disorganized defense. Sierra pretty much dominated all phases of play and posted a point per minute.

St. Mary’s showed a lot of style and ambition, but they seemed less committed at the tackle and most significantly, missed many tackles in open play. Sierra scored six tries and converted five, as many were dotted down under the posts.

St Mary’s ‘B’ 19 – 12 Cal Poly SLO ‘B’
This was a very evenly matched game with some good play. The Gaels moved some players around and seemed to make better attacking decisions, although the delivery in the half-backs could have been quicker. The delay at the back of the rucks actually drew Cal Poly offside a few times, earning critical penalties around the field. Cal Poly had the benefit of some rapid counter-attack and like Sierra in the previous game, took advantage of some weak tackles.

The home team pulled off the win by scoring a try with 13 minutes to go and holding on for the remainder of the game.

Cal Poly SLO ‘B’ 0 – 19 Sierra JC ‘A’
Although the score was not overwhelming in favor of the Sacramentans, they never really looked like losing this game. Tiredness seemed to be affecting both teams, and the flow was restricted by a large number of scrums, resulting from sloppy play and the ball becoming held up in rucks and mauls.

As in their first game, Cal Poly gave away several penalties, although in this game, they were related to poor discipline (trying to get away with cheap shots in rucks).

ST. MARY’S 39 – Cal Poly 17 Referee: Joe Leisek
ARs: Matt Heafey, Ron DeCausemaker
Pat Vincent Memorial Field, St. Mary's College, Moraga

Spectators lined all four sides of Pat Vincent Field on a cold afternoon to watch a highly anticipated match between two of the nation's leading college rugby programs. Lots of action, especially in the first half. After the hosts kicked off, Cal Poly ran down the field in multiple phases, with speed and physicality, hanging on to the ball for a full two minutes, with the St. Mary's defense making nearly two dozen tackles. Cal Poly did not score, but impressed everyone: players, coaches, fans, and the referee. The visitors looked to have the edge in the early going, and in fact scored first. But the host Gaels combined better defense with an expansive style of play to score three tries and take a 17-5 halftime lead. In the second half, the hosts scored an early try but soon felt themselves on the back foot, as Cal Poly scored twice to pull within 22-17. The Gaels managed to pull away with three more tries to seal the victory. A pleasure to referee. Gaels captain and scrumhalf Chad Clark excelled, as did Cal Poly captain and flanker Richard Herbert. Both teams are well-coached and very skilled. Thanks to Matt and Ron for their help.

Seconds: St. Mary’s 5 – CAL POLY 61 Referee: A Player to be Named Later

Cal women 7 – UCSC 29 Referee: Chris Labozzetta

Stanford – Stanford Grad CANCELED


Former Pelican, Grizzly and Eagle Captain Brian Vizard asks that we pass this on:

The United States Rugby Football Foundation relies on the support of the rugby community to help fund our various youth and high school programs. We have two fundraising events planned around the USA 7s Tournament in Las Vegas.

Information about the USRFF’s 3rd Annual Scrumble Golf Tournament is located at:

Information about the 1st ever I’Maul In No Limit Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament is located at:

Along with registration details, the information also contains sponsorship opportunities.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.

Any help in spreading the word about these events would be appreciated.


This is the southernmost ‘island’ – Antarctica. Thanks for Joe Zevin for this window on another part of the rugby world:


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris

Tuesday, January 05, 2010




George O’Neil has been promoted to L1. Congratulations to George for his accomplishments, now just one year into his refereeing career.


Lately we've had a few mid- to high-sixties sunny days go to waste, being used for lesser pursuits such as surfing and mountain biking. The 'holidays' are over but the vacation's just beginning: it's RUGBY SEASON.


At the moment we have a surplus of referees for January 9 and 23, but a mild shortage (four uncovered games) January 16 and a major shortage (we could use another ten refs) January 30.

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

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

Jan. 16 ____ _____
Jan. 30 ____ _____

‘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.

January 30: games in Humboldt, Redding, Mendocino, Modesto, Fresno


Santa Rosa JC 12 – REDWOOD RUGBY CLUB 15 Referee: Cary Bertolone

On Saturday, Jan. 2nd, 2010, we had a great game at For Pete's Sake in Santa Rosa between S.R.J.C. and Redwood Rugby Club, a new Div. 3 team from Sonoma County. Hard running and hard hitting were the mainstay with passes not so much. The JC scored the first 12 points on the 5th and 25th minutes with Redwood catching on and scoring 10 points for a 12-10 half. Redwood began rucking in the second half, but no one scored until, with 8 minutes left, Redwood went up for the final score 15-12. Good game, great day and only tainted when the subsequent game didn't happen for Mike King. Santa Rosa Rugby was fully dressed and warmed up and the opponent didn't show.

USA U17 HS All Stars 40 – Canada U17, 10 Referee: Chris Tucker
AR: James Hinkin, Paul Philips (SoCal)

Another beautiful day in Santa Barbara greeted us at Harder Stadium, where a small but vocal crowd gathered to watch the warm-up match ahead of Sunday's official pomp+circumstance affair. No-one told the players that this wasn't anything other than full-on trans-border war, and the tension clearly showed throughout, with both sides a little on the chippy side.

Still, plenty of positive rugby was on display, with both sides keen to show what they could do. The US opened the account after 2 minutes when a no-wrap tackle gift-wrapped the 3 from straight ahead, just outside the 22. The English fly-half (both parents apparently American) duly slotted. The US side proceeded to play on the front foot for most of the first half, burying 4 tries (one converted) past a porous Canadian back 3. A fullback with the dropsies, and wings who repeatedly were caught off-guard by deep kicks put them under more pressure than it should have, and the US capitalised. The final try of the half came after an unfortunate "tackle" by the Canadian #8, who went for a no-wrap torpedo at the runner’s knees. Not pretty + 10 minutes. 25-0 at the half.

The second half was more cheerful for the visitors from the north, who managed to string more play together, aided and abetted by some loss of cool from the home side. Get chippy with your opponents, one thing. Get chippy with me, 10m. A penalty so moved became kickable, and a mouth gives up 3 points.

2 of the 3 tries scored in the second half may or may not have been -- I may have been the only person in the stadium who thought the Canadian try was properly grounded, but it looked good from my (admittedly poor) angle. Much harrumphing from the US players. The last try scored by the US was done just after a forward pass called in by James on the sideline. To my detriment I failed to consult before raising my arm and blowing the score. To his credit, his forward pass signal was small enough that no-one else saw it...

All round, good experience -- tough questioning after from both sets of coaches is a good aid to introspection!


Dec 12, 2009:
FRESNO 72 – Fresno State 19 Referee: Hennie Strydom
First half: 29-7; Second half: 43-12
Conditions: Rainy but little/ no wind. Surface firm and well marked with appropriate markings for supporters and team staff.


Two tour diaries follow, from a referee and from an organizer:

Report by Joe Zevin (Eastern Rockies and West):

Mid-September I received an e-mail from my old friend Bruce Carter, a big Kahuna in NorCal rugby referee circles. There were six or seven names in the address bar. The message stated that the recipients were included because not only could we referee good, fast rugby but were certified IRB referee educators. How would we like to travel with the Pacific Coast Grizzly U-17 squad, ref their games and teach Level One Official courses in - are you sitting down? - Hawaii.

I hit the reply button as fast as I could.

Turns out I was the second to pounce on the opportunity. Sean McDonaugh, a well-respected referee and coach from Canada, had beaten me to the punch. Good thing the request was for two to make the trip, for the spots were filled within ten minutes of posting.

I was put in touch with Frank Merrill from the Bay Area who had already put in countless hours as Tour Director. Frank had visited the islands in the past and knew all the contacts I would need there. Two months of exchanging e-mails and phone calls with those folks and we had a rough idea of how many courses and participants we would have. I could tell from these communications that the leaders of Hawaii Youth Rugby were dedicated gentlemen, willing to put time and money into their passion. They all had the best interests of the kids at heart. Meanwhile Frank had our travel arrangements well in hand. Here, thought I, is one competent individual. He left us nothing to worry about.

On 15 December I caught a plane from Denver to San Jose where I was met by Mike Smith who proudly calls him self Frank's Bitch. In his role of Tour Manager, Mike got most of the grunt work involving kit, balls, scheduling and laundry. He accepted all this and more with aplomb and ease. A night at Frank's, followed by an early wake-up and a drive to the Oakland airport where we met up with the rest of the team and coaches, saw us on or way, winging over the eastern Pacific.

Five hours later we landed at the Kahului airport on the island of Maui. One can fly to any number of airports around the world and not feel much of a difference but here there was no doubt we were in a new environment. The concourse and terminal had no doors, being open to the calm, warm outside. We were greeted by Jack Breen, the driving force behind youth rugby on Maui. Jack is an attorney from eastern Pennsylvania who is "trying to retire" and has lived on Maui for some twenty years. His passion is the group of youngsters that make up his team. Through our conversations it becomes evident that Jack has poured thousands of his own dollars and as many hours into Maui rugby.

After collecting our luggage our first stop was at the local branch of Costco where the team had a lunch of hot dogs and pizza while the referees assisted Jack in stocking on food and supplies for the next few days.

While the NorCal team was to stay at the Kihei Youth Center, sleeping on air mattresses, Sean and I were guests of Jack who, along with Maureen his wife of 30 years, proved to be excellent hosts. Jack lives well up the slope of one of the West Maui Mountains. Lush, green and steep, these mountains are the second rainiest spot on the planet, getting daily showers of an inch or more.

After settling in Jack took us to the Lahaina area on Maui's west coast where he ran a training session of the island's U-17 select side. Sean and I were given the temporary use of a Jeep which we drove to a nearby beach for a few hours of relaxation. While I was poking through the sand and coral at my feet Sean was twice treated to the sight of whales breaching on the horizon. By the time I could look up all that remained visible were sailboats.

The Jeep was returned and a short walk made to the Lahaina commercial district where burgers and the local Kona brew were sampled.

The next day, Thursday 17 December was game day. Jack drove us to a local golf course where Sean and I easily set course records, losing four balls but finding six. Two over for the day. Not bad. Jack retrieved us and we spent the next several hours dashing about picking up members of the U-17 team and making sure others had rides to the match.

We arrived at the game, met the rest of the coaching staff and were introduced to Levi, a gentleman who flew over from Oahu to deliver a motivational talk to the team. In addition we met Aisea Tuikolovai, the fellow who leads the referee efforts on the Big Island of Hawaii. As game time neared the park filled up with local fans, a large sound system was assembled, tents were erected. Just before kickoff the host team performed a Haka, laying down the challenge. The visitors showed their respect by watching unafraid from their side of the pitch.

I reffed the game that day with Sean and Aisea as Assistant Referees. It was a spirited match between the well-drilled Grizzles and a raw Maui squad. What the local lads lacked in experience and coordination they made up in enthusiasm. The contact zone was hotly contested and their size and strength often gave the visitors much to worry about. However many repeated offenses and a language barrier between the referee and the many Tongan-born players led to a stop - start affair. One yellow card was issued but the problem was not solved until half time when the Maui coaching staff could talk to their charges and instruct them in proper play at the tackle. The second half was much smoother, more rugby was played and the Pacific Coast ran out to a 42 – 0 final score converting only the last of their eight tries.

After the game we were treated to a dinner of chicken, rice, soda and a local favorite called Musubi a sort of Hawaiian burrito made of Spam and rice wrapped in seaweed leaves. Speeches were made, Man of the Match awards given and leis distributed. Then the adults retired to the Pioneer Bar on the waterfront for a pint, conversation and the comradeship found only among fellow ruggers.

Friday the 18th was to be our first Level One Match Official clinic on the islands. Jack again acted as host and we set up shop in his very adequate basement. Three attendees showed up, ready to learn and practice the art of refereeing rugby. I took on the administrative duties of the course with Sean teaching many of the modules and Aisea leading two. The students were keen and able, grasping each concept quickly. It was a successful day in that we were able to certify three new referees on Maui.

That night Sean and I were treated to a bit of Hawaiian culture as Jack drove us to the Royal Lahaina Resort for a Luau. A buffet dinner was complemented by bottomless Mai-tais. The entertainment was all one could expect. The performers danced tirelessly and made several costume changes, ranging from traditional grass skirts and coconut bras to dresses that had been the code during the days of the missionaries and the glitter and sparkle of Elvis' Blue Hawaii influence. It was evident they enjoyed practicing the craft and traditions of the Polynesian people. Beautiful, sensuous movements followed by the controlled frenzy of the fire dancers made for a well-choreographed show.

A walk around the water front shops revealed art galleries, many of which had special showings. Some of the paintings on display were of magical color, texture and subject, showing fanciful scenes representative of the shores and cliffs of an imaginary sub-tropical island. I was quite tempted to make a purchase but discretion got the better of the Mai-tais

Throughout our stay on Maui Jack was a wealth of information on the history and culture of Hawaii. From the intrepid Polynesians who sailed the ocean to first colonize the islands to the British who were treated as gods until they returned in broken ships and were stoned to death on the beaches (the ships of gods don't break down) and the Portuguese settlers who built plantations and brought the ukulele. The coming and going of pineapple, sugar cane, cattle, sheep, huge ranches covering half an island were all parts of Jack's stories. We also learned of a weather phenomenon known as "vog" which is caused by smoke from the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

We flew to Oahu early the next morning, catching up with the rest of the group who had made the transit the previous day. We were met at the airport by Dave Wendt, a long standing figure in Oahu rugby. Known by the honorific Maafu (Big Chief) Dave made our first stop the Honolulu Sam's Club (there is a pattern developing here) where he loaded the back of his pickup with food for that afternoon's post-game feast. We then drove on to our hotel in Waikiki, just a few blocks from the ocean. A bit of beach time on that fabled strip of sand was a must-do, the sun instantly bronzing the mainlanders.

The main event of the day was a three o'clock kickoff between the tourists and the Oahu U-17. A short walk from the hotel brought us early to the pitch and I assisted the sole member of the grounds crew in lining the pitch. Sean, being the referee on the day saved his energy for the match. Teams arrived, crowds of parents and friends massed and two of the local Referee Society came to run the sidelines. The Oahu team was better organized than the Maui group and had some good speed, turning the corner on the Grizz a number of times. However the tourists again proved too strong turning in a 53 - 0 performance.

Another massive feast followed the game. Maafu acted as cook, server, host and cleanup crew, eschewing any assistance. The kids made their way back to the hotel and were safely tucked in for the night with a few short-straw adults remaining with them.

Sean and I took the opportunity to sample the local night life but the pace of the past few days caught up with us and we turned in at an embarrassingly early 11:00

The Oahu referees had recently been subjected to a Level One clinic and had not produced any additional candidates so Sunday was an off day for the referees. We used the chance to make the cross town journey to Pearl Harbor where they toured a WWII submarine and the Pacific Aviation Museum. The USS Missouri, the battleship on which the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Harbor took place ending WWII, was in dry dock and not open to the public.

That disappointment was overshadowed by the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. A somber experience for all, the room at the far end of the memorial, listing the names of those who died on 7 December 1941 was particularly moving. In the lower left of the panel was another slab of white marble showing the names of those who had survived the attack but made had had their remains returned to the Arizona to rest with their shipmates.

The first day of winter made it easy to understand why people live here. Temperatures hovered around 80 for our entire stay, winds were light and the sun shone nearly all day. The group quit the hotel and flew to the Big Island, landing at Kona on the west side. The kids were shuttled north to Waimea and housed in the loft of a horse barn owned by another of the many people who give their hearts to the development of youth rugby in Hawaii. After the obligatory stop at Costco, Sean and I were hosted by Aisea, his wife Clover and their three children. Aisea is another great story teller, doing so with a slant towards the Tongan view. He tells of playing rugby with a coconut shell for a ball and other adventures not known by ruggers of greater means.

In fact the vast majority of the rugby community we met is of Tongan origin, most having come to Hawaii in the last generation or two. These are a wonderful, hospitable people, easy with a smile and passionate about their sport, their families and their faith. The three are so intertwined that one follows the others at every turn. Each feast is preceded by a blessing. Each gathering is a reunion of cousins. Tongan names all have meanings that represent their status in the traditional community. For example Aisea's family name of Tuikolovai translates to Chief Rock Thrower, denoting he comes from the line of the king's body guard.

Aisea's house is a wonder of plants and animals. In addition to his dog Ilo (wisdom) his yard is graced by two wandering chickens and a feathered alarm clock with another handful of birds in a coop. Each morning, before the first hint of light the roosters begin crowing in stereo and don't stop until well after we had left for the day's activities. Needing all the sleep I could get, the great temptation was to go out and throttle a rooster.

The yard also boasts several varieties of banana tree, an avocado tree, papaya, mango and a row of taro. Aisea climbed a ladder and twisted a coconut from its trunk.

Back on the ground he proceeded to hack at it with a heavy knife, exposing its juice. We sipped the sweet nectar through straws. Aisea then split the husk into thirds and scooped the fresh coconut meat out with a chip of the shell. Tender and tasty, this was nothing like the dried shredded stuff we find at the grocery at home.

That night Aisea fired up the barbecue and grilled three different cuts of beef and chicken all of which had been marinated in a sauce so secret he would not tell of its ingredients. Again the food, though excellent and full of the protein athletes need, was secondary to the conversation and sharing of stories common to people everywhere but unique to those who share a love of rugby.

Tuesday 22 December was our second Level One clinic. Seven attendees and one auditor came. As with the clinic on Maui, all were well versed in rugby and very keen to learn. Sean took the lead with Aisea and I dividing up the rest. Aisea is an Instructor in Training and performed well in the modules he led. It is evident he holds a place of respect among his peers, both in and out of rugby. All seven passed the course and Hawaii rugby will now enjoy the services of a new crop of referees.

That night was a reception at the horse barn in Waimea and we made the drive over the high road which afforded vast vistas of the island and its volcanoes. From the barn, which sits 2500 feet above sea level we could see patches of snow near the top of Mauna Kea and we experienced our first Hawaiian rain.

Coaches and referees caught up on their conversation and we learned of a few near-drownings at a black sand beach with a strong undertow. A few of the kids were swept out from shore. Frank and some of the other kids went to help. By the time they had gotten most of the distressed swimmers in they themselves were tired and had to struggle to regain land. All were safe and now the incident is just another story to tell.

We also met the Big Island coaches, among them is another Island rugby legend, Kevin Perry. As so often happens in rugby circles Kevin and I knew we had met before but couldn't quite place where. Surely it will come in a flash in the near future.

A good night's sleep was again cut short by the roosters, but we wanted to get an early start and head to the beaches. On the way we turned in to the fishing and pleasure boat marina and took a short walk to the shore where the Ancients had built a clever fish trap. Rectangles of rock filled with water and fish at high tide and then, as the water receded, trapped the fish within the ring for easy collection.

Two sea turtles poked their head up and waved flippers to the visitors. There was also a large flat pile of black volcanic rocks, many of them dressed to fit neatly in. Signs asked that no one climb on the altar as it was a site sacred to the natives and should not be entered without the proper ceremony and chants. A little further south is a spot called Magic Sands. Great curling waves invited but no one was allowed in deep without flippers. A quick dip and a few hours basking proved sufficient.

The third and final game of the tour was expected to be the stiffest competition faced by the Grizz. Expectations were well met. I refereed the game with Sean and Aisea assisting. Strong tackling by the hosts forced the visitors to buckle down to a simple game plan: Run straight and hard, support the breakdown and make sure passes stuck. Though they were well trained the host team could not hold off the visitors indefinitely. A week of working together and a week of top-level coaching had formed this team into a dedicated unit. Nine tries and five conversions led to a final score of 55 - 5. The hosts scored the only points against the Grizzles with a fine multi-phase try that stretched the defense too far for recovery. They had another chance at a score driving across the line only to have the ball held up in goal.

The game was followed by another feast of a wide variety of foods both common and specific to Island culture. The team went to a nearby hotel for their last night and the adults gathered at the Kona Brewpub for libations and decompression.

Having become somewhat immune to their racket, we slept through the first of the daily rooster cacophony, rising at the crack of eight. Sean went for one last bit of beach time while I showered and packed for the trip home.

The next order of business was a quick four hour flight to Oakland, a pick up by Frank's wife Clarisse and a round of dropping off Sean at an airport hotel, Mike at his daughter's in San Francisco and a few players for their Christmas Eve with family.

Joe was quite surprised when Frank graciously invited him to join in the celebration at a daughter's house. A quick meal and drink postponed the trip to the San Jose airport where I planned to spend the night typing memories.

Back home in icy-cold Denver, I sat down to finish and edit this tome. Even before I left for the islands I had a feeling I would fall in love with them, fall in love to the point of wanting to move. Colorado is home and will always be so, but the lure of Hawaii is very strong. The mild climate, the ocean, the sights I saw, the knowledge of sights yet unseen draw me back.

However, like any trip I have taken involving rugby, it is the people who are the highlight. Greeting us with open arms, I have never felt so welcomed, so respected or so awed by their dedication as I did in Hawaii. Sean, as coach of the Ottawa U-17 Select Side, and Frank are planning a return trip and camp. With my meager skills, I can only hope to join them.

Report by Frank Merrill:

Coaches: Josh Fitzgerald, Jesuit and Granite Bay; Paul Keeler, SFGG; Chris Strudwick, Queensland Reds
Managers: Mike Smith, SFGG; David Howie, Queensland Reds; Frank Merrill, Northern Sierra All Stars

First game vs. Mana o Maui -

Grizzlies were hosted by the Kihei Youth Center, a facility run by a non-profit for kids from the Kihei area as an afternoon and early evening facility where kids can come for homework help, games and athletics.

The young Grizzlies were feted as honored guests and celebrities, much to their amazement. The beach was directly across the street. Boys slept on air mattresses and rollaway beds and were fed by the staff at the youth center. Manager (Frank Merrill) and coach (Josh Fitzgerald, Granite Bay and Jesuit) spent the night at the Youth Center to ensure that the boys stayed in the Youth Center and not across the street in the water, which was (naturally) hard to ignore.

Game was held in Lahaina at the Boys and Girls club field. Crowd was entertained by a "color commentator" with a microphone and music (all in Tongan) which added to the atmosphere. There was a crowd of several hundred spectators including a former Grizzlies (Kevin ___) who played in Arizona, unable to get his card and cannot remember his last name, but he had the Grizzly sweater to "prove" it). The post-match function was hosted by the Maui folks (special mention of Reverend Fonua and Jack Breen) on the field area and provided our boys the opportunity to meet the locals, some of whom ended up back at the Kihei Center later where they ended up on the basketball court for hours playing hoops (Grizzly coaches admonishing their players "Do NOT sprain an ankle, gentlemen...."). Boys retreated to the Youth Center for the night and got up early the next morning for travel to Oahu.

Game Two - vs. Oahu All Stars

Team was met by our local hosts Ma'afu (David Wendt) and former Grizzly and Eagle Joe Santos, and after a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, was put up at the Kamaole Sands hotel in Waikiki (about a block off the strip) (NOTE - the USS Arizona Memorial trip was cultural and also educational – it appeared at the beginning of the visit that perhaps 30% of the players had ever heard of the event, but at the end, a sincere group of about 7 players encircled me and said, "Frank, this was the 9/11 event of the 1940's" – I think they "got" it. And are likely not going to forget it either).

Team trained at Kapiolani Park, one of the most beautiful urban parks in the US (or the Kingdom of Hawai'i, depending on your particular outlook), just a short walk from the hotel.

Game was also here there, and featured the "official tour photo" being taken under the profile of Diamond Head. Crowd was not as large as in Maui but did include Mark Deaton, former Palo Alto/Cal/Old Blue rugger who regaled the young Grizzlies with tales of games past, including defeats of Italy, Tunisia and in fact, the Eagles themselves (he said it, I sort of remember it, but it might need some independent verification); and Jon Wilbur, Stanford rugger and also NFL Hall of Fame member (Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, pre-dates the Eagles). Team returned to the hotel where in spite of two bed checks by the managers (Frank Merrill and Mike Smith of SFGG) at 10:00 pm and then again at 11:30 pm some of the rascals managed to break one of the tour rules, as suggested by evidence discovered by the mostly Filipino hotel housekeeping staff the next morning.

Manager Merrill, speaking his best Tagalog to the head housekeeper determined the miscreant room and its occupants and after an assessment by managers and coaching staff, it was decided that instead of a free day at Waikiki, the team would have a "team bonding" session in the hotel pool and then at the beach on the way to Kapiolani Park, where the King Kamehameha Municipal Band was having a regular Sunday afternoon concert. The entire team participated in this physical event, led mostly by Paul Keeler (SFGG) (bad cop) while coach Fitzgerald acted as the "athletic supporter" (good cop).

All of the team members survived without incident and then were fed, watered and put to bed. (No need for bed check: after about 9 pm, they were all asleep.)

Game Three - vs. Big Island Select -

After traveling to the Big Island (Hawai'i) and arriving to see old friend Kevin Perry (OMBAC and the Old Blues), the travelers went from the airport to Hapuna Beach. At Hapuna Beach, the coaches put the players through a series of fun drills and "grab ass" rugby on the beach, then allowed the players to frolic in the warm water for about an hour before departing for Ainslie's Barn in Waimea.

Waimea is at approx. 2500 feet elevation and looks much like the San Mateo County coast (think La Honda), not at all like what one would expect so close to the ocean. The Ainslies provided the team with a very large upstairs over their barn, fully carpeted, where the players were able to spread out and relax. In addition, the Ainslies have a 4 bedroom, unoccupied home a short distance away where the coaches and some of the traveling Dads were able to spend the night in beds, avoiding the floor, with an absolutely majestic vista of the hillsides. The following day, after training on the rugby field walking distance from the barn, the team journeyed to Waipaio Overlook and beach about 20 minutes away. This black sand beach also is the endpoint of the Waipaio River, where the fresh water meets the sea. The "walk" from the overlook to the beach is very steep and about a mile long, including many stretches of nearly 45 degree angle downslope (meaning, you must also go up in order to get back to the vehicles). The boys jumped in the water (swells perhaps 1-2 feet) and enjoyed the warm water. Suddenly, swells were reaching 6-8 feet and retreating out of the water became increasingly difficult with a severe undertow. After assessing the situation, manager (Merrill) and parents (Matt Taylor, Norm Boccone, Joe Rosenbaum and Mark Godfrey) began to extract the boys, with some significant difficulty but entirely successfully. (NOTE - more to mention later*). After the water, we were faced with walking the (essentially) vertical mile back to the vans. Luckily, an empty pickup driven by a local came by and offered to bring the boys to the top (don't forget, manager was the first to get into the vehicle). The team then retreated back to the Ainslie’s Barn for some well-deserved rest.

The last full day we traveled to Kona and set up at the Kona Seaside Hotel to prepare for our last game vs. the Big Island Select, a team made up of the best players out of the three regular teams in the island.

Game was the most professionally run of all three, with full sideline ropes and viewing/filming area that allowed the best view yet. Two of our athletes commented after the game, "I'm glad we played this game last (after a full week of training) and not first, these guys were good." Very nice post match function, including reconnecting with former Seahawk, Raymond Ta'ala who now is helping to coach the Kona team.

*(management decision led by Coach Chris Strudwick - "we will only go to patrolled beaches from this point on, and never back to an unpatrolled beach" <"patrolled" must be an Aussie term J>)

After returning to the hotel, the players and management had a pizza party (maybe an hour and a half after they ate a full post-game meal ) where the coaches announced the tour awards:

Best forward, Nikki Miholivic, Chuckanut Bay (special jersey provided by International Athletics and former Grizzly Jeff Lombard)
Best forward, Connor Rosenbaum, Marin (same)
Best Rookie, Sean Osborn, Motherlode (provided a special jersey by Chris Strudwick of Struddy's Sports of Australia)
Most inspirational, Jeff Calzaretta, Marin (provided a CIA t-shirt by Mike Smith)
Tour captains - Travis Moscone, PITS; Lemoto Filikitonga, San Mateo Warriors; Jeff Calzaretta, Marin

The team returned home on Christmas Eve at about 6:30 pm without a single "peep" from Rugby Mom about coming back so close to the holiday.

Special thanks must go to our Australian friends Mr. Strudwick and Mr. Howie who traveled over on their own dime to assist and participate. They did NOT get back to Oz until the middle of Christmas Day, to no ill effect.

Other special thanks go to our traveling referees Joe Zevin and Sean McDonaugh who created referee courses on Maui and Kona and who certified 11 referees. In the grand scheme of things, this "cross-pollination" will help the game grow faster in the state and was an investment that the PCRFU was glad to assist with.

And final special thanks to Mike Smith (former Eagle manager and SFGG stalwart) who spent the majority of his time for the months of October and November and December babysitting the whole tour. Well done, Mr. Smith.

Some photos from the first game are posted here (Maui):

Second game (Oahu):

Here are the photos from the third and final game (Big Island):


A Pelican does a great job explaining a lot about all of us:

This is the page the interview is taken from:


Don Goard and your scribe have a never-ending conversation going between Salinas and Foresthill.

Latest installment from Don, apropos of comments I’d made about Jerry Markbreit, author of a good book about officiating:

I think that I read this in Tommy Bell’s book. Do you remember him? I’m sure that Markbreit refers to him as a mentor. Bell was the best of his era.

He was doing a Packers game. They had a tight end (I think, can’t remember his name) that had a glass eye. Bell didn’t know about it. The guy got hit and his eye popped out onto the field. Bell was shocked. He said, “My gosh, what would you do if something happened to the other eye?” Without hesitation the player said, “Gee, Mr. Bell, I guess that I’d become a referee like you.”

If you’ve got a few minutes and want to read about this official who did NCAA championships AND Super Bowls, here’s the link:

Advantage Hawai'i
Joe Zevin indicates that Maui is pressing an advantage while the Grizzlies are more than ready to defend the gainline.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris