Tuesday, December 22, 2009




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Go to www.USARugby.org

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

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

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

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


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

Salinas Touch

By Bruce Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays to all.

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

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

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

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

FRESNO 15 – Kern County 12 Referee: Preston Gordon

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

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

Seconds: Fresno 12 – Kern County 12 Ref: Gordon

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

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

EAST PALO ALTO 63 – Seahawks 10 Referee: Pete Smith

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Fans in Uniform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Singular Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favoring Both Teams

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

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

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

After all, he loves this game.

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


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris