Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RUGBY DAYS AND KNIGHTS

HAIL, PELICUS!

BUMPER CROP OF PROMOTIONS

Tom Zanarini to L1
Rod Chance to L2
Stephen Moore to L2

Be sure to congratulate these folks at our April 14 meeting!

AN OLD FRIEND IS AN OLD FRIEND

From Tony Redmond:
“I just received notification that I have been appointed to the IRB TMO panel. I figure that USA Rugby deserves at least an "assist" on this one based on the appointment for Canada v Ireland last May. And Bruce, maybe the Pelicans can take some credit too...

“Nomina Rutrum Rutrum”

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Watch or #4 for Pacific Coast college playoffs at UC Davis, Maritime Academy, or St. Mary’s Friday and Saturday.

Referee high school games – plenty to go around.

Stop by Stanford at 6:30 Saturday evening for a cracker: touring Napier HS of New Zealand being hosted by a combined San Mateo/East Palo Alto side.

TREASURE ISLAND TOUR

First impression on the drive up: an Impressionist artist seems to have invaded NorCal, painting vibrant bursts of violet and lavender in areas where, in a few weeks, will be merely a green expanse of wisteria vines. Arbors, sides of houses, fences and even the west-facing sound wall along I880 through Hayward have Doppler-shifted into the upper frequencies of the visible spectrum.

Routines: gasoline at a particular station just off the highway, coffee at the same drive-through, the Pelicanmobile knowing its way up highway 101, the El Camino Real, from Salinas to the South Bay, from repetition. Listening to Teaching Company courses (currently playing: Herodotus) until within range of KFOG when on Saturday mornings they play all of the week’s Ten at Ten shows.

It was 1980 again; just like it was the first time I ever drove into the Bay Area, moving to the promised land of American Rugby to undertake my medical internship in San Francisco. And the same song was playing: (We’re All) Clones, by Alice Cooper. Don’t think I’ve heard it since, but the ‘destroy the government’ refrain telescoped thirty years into yesterday.

With the eastern span of the Bay Bridge in the process of being replaced, the left-exit lane onto Yerba Buena coming from Oakland has been lengthened and made much safer. No longer is it necessary to go from freeway speeds to a hairpin-turn crawl in a couple of car lengths.

Rounding Yerba Buena and then descending onto man-made Treasure Island shows all the famous bits of San Francisco to best advantage: the Embarcadero, downtown, Coit Tower and the pyramid, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate at its eponymous bridge. It’s hard not to wreck your car here sometimes, and Saturday was such a day.

As you drive through the gate onto the former Navy base, to the right is a building with a glass-walled cupola. This was to be the control tower for the Bay Area’s major airport, the ostensible purpose for which Treasure Island was built, until Admiral Yamamoto changed those plans.

Rugby sprouts up in three places on TI these days, an even dozen games being played last Saturday. From Golden Gate’s Rocca Field, a knight’s move north-north-west lands you on the Job Corps field, which the Fog and Berkeley call home. Another excursion of the knight, to the north-north-east, finds the GAA pitch which the Olympic Club has been renting. This rugby knight visited all three.

10:30 AM, Job Corps Field:
SF FOG women 41 – California 10 Referee: Bruce Carter
Ellen Owens’ Cal Bears wanted to be tested prior to this weekend’s Pacific Coast playoffs. The Fog’s backs performed the examination and found some pace lacking.

I should have kept a penalty count – probably less than ten. Thanks for the players for doing your jobs and letting me not need to do mine.

1 PM, GAA East Pitch:
Assistant Referee for Bryan Arciero on Olympic Club – Bay Barbarians
Bryan flew down last year for Cal – St. Mary’s, and in 2005 he was here as a young man (well, he’s still young – still in his twenties). This guy is good, and will be going to the Nations Cup in Romania with Aruna.

This game was close into the second half, when I found myself on the touchline with the Barbarian supporters. O Club scored twice during a Barbarian yellow-card suspension to end the suspense. Some good-natured ribbing began behind me: ‘Who’s this ref?’ ‘Where’s he from?’ ‘He’s no good.’ ‘You should tell him about that guy offside.’ ‘It’s all his fault.’

About this time an Olympian broke two tackles and undertook a long excursion down the far touchline. Came the comment: ‘Well, that’s not his fault.’ Laughter all around, rugby affirmed.

2:50 PM, Rocca Field:
Spectator with Bryan Arciero for the second half, Golden Gate hosting Chicago Griffins
The home team was ahead 17-12 and we seemed to be in for a treat. The second stanza turned out to be a treat of a different sort as SFGG ran in six or seven tries to none.

After that, Bryan and I returned to the GAA clubhouse so that he could speak to the coaches and players from his game.

A rugby day wound down and it was time for the Pelicanmobile to retrace its tracks, back to domestic bliss with Penelope in our feathered abode.

PLAY BALL

SF GOLDEN GATE SL 58 – Chicago Griffins 12 Referee: Tim Luscombe
ARs: Joe Androvich, George O’Neil
Evaluator: Dixon Smith

The season is only six games for these teams. It’s a sprint: think short-track skating, a fifty-meter swim or a hundred-meter dash. A single loss costs home field advantage in the playoffs. Both teams were undefeated, although the Griffins had already played two to Gate’s one.

SFGG won the league last year and, having to replace about half their side, doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. They have two more home games during the regular season, against OMBAC April 10 and surprising co-frontrunners OPSB April 24.

It’s the best way to spend the day if you can’t be off whistling somewhere.

OLYMPIC CLUB 35 – Barbarians 10 Referee: Bryan Arciero (Rugby Alberta)
ARs: Bruce Carter, Tom Zanarini
Last-Minute Videographer: Eric Rauscher
Performance Reviewer: Bryan Porter

In preparation for some upcoming appointments, it was time to head back to NorCal for some fun in the sun.

After a quick remarking of the field, some goal post shifting, and rockin'up with the new Eartecs we got the party started. The Olympic Club took an early 10-0 lead after some excellent work off the set-piece. Support in numbers paid dividends as effective clearing out at the breakdown delivered quick ball to create space out wide. Not to be outdone, the Bay Barbarians used some excellent support running and inside cut-backs to keep the score close at the end of the first half despite playing short for 10 minutes due to repeated infringements.

In the second half the Bay Barbarians were effective at spoiling possession but after several phases their defense broke down, allowing the Olympic Club to mount wave after wave of attack. Another 10 minutes with a player in the bin for intentionally offending was the last nail in the coffin, and Olympic Club ran away with a 35-10 victory.

A quick pit stop at SFGG to catch the 2nd half of the RSL match, then back to the GAA club for a beer and a general sense from the players that I didn't ruin the game. A 10 km run the next day meant an early night on Saturday.

Thanks to Tom & Colleen for putting up with me for the weekend, and to Bruce for helping organize things on the ground.

Seconds: Olympic Club 0 – BARBARIANS 55 Referee: Tom Zanarini
Assistant Referee: Eric Rauscher
Evaluator: David Williamson
Another great weekend of rugby camaraderie in the books. I had the pleasure of hosting Bryan Arciero from Edmonton this weekend. Bryan is a great guest and is always welcome at the Zanarini's house (actually a tiny apartment). Bryan arrived Friday night off of the Marin Airporter just as I got off work. Colleen prepared a ravioli dinner that went well with the Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel (see Preston’s report from last week). A quick after-dinner drink at the now famous D'Angelo's restaurant (3 mentions this season in Hail Pelicus) and off to bed. Saturday morning we managed to catch some of the Warahtas match then off to Rugbyland.

Since our matches were at the GAA fields I was able to show Bryan our Pelican Nest in the SFGG clubhouse. As we arrived at the field the O club players were jumping the fence to get to the pitch. The locked gate and unlined fields at noon had us a bit worried but O club got things sorted quickly. If you've never seen Bryan referee it is a sight to behold as well as a tough act to follow.

Think of your junior high jazz quartet opening for the Stones when the Stones were young.

The B's were ready to play right away, opting for a 60 minute match to counter O Club’s lack of depth due to injuries. The Babas came out firi.. I mean came out strong and didn't look back. When Oly attacked the Babas were patient and picked a few loose balls that ended up grounded for points. A low penalty count and good sportsmanship all around until the last minute when a cocktail of points differential, heat and exhaustion got the better of a few. A quick whistle and all tempers settled. Thanks to Dave for the eval and learning points and to the ever faithful Eric whose AR flags may occasionally point in the wrong direction but never tire.

Colleen and I treated Bryan to dinner at you know where, then we went to Balboa
Cafe around the corner for some cougar spotting.

Prior to our arraignments Bryan agreed to run the Golden Gate Vista 10k on Sunday morning in the city. It was a beautiful route along the Coastal trail between the USSSF memorial and the GG Bridge. Good runners know you need fuel for your muscles after a workout and I knew just the place: the Tipsy Pig on Chestnut where the Bartender is from my hometown. Adam hooked us up with a few tipsy sized pale ales to aid the day’s recovery. One more stop at the Fishbowl on Divisadero for some more sampling then home to shower. I hope Bryan had a great time and we wish him well on his upcoming trips to Australia and Eastern Europe.

Sac Lions – San Mateo Referee: Jim Crenshaw
No report received.

Seconds: Sac Lions – San Mateo Not played.

EAST PALO ALTO 28 – Sac Capitals 26 Referee: Pete Smith
This was a great game played in perfect conditions at San Mateo High School.

Sacramento started off strong and pressured EPA into penalties early slotting two penalties to take a 6-0 lead. EPA answered back with a try to take the lead 7-6. Two more penalties by the Caps put them back on top 12-7 and EPA answered with a great individual try by their #10 and captain to again take the lead 14-12. Sac would take the lead again with a try before halftime to go up 19-14 at the break. This is the third time this year that I have seen the Caps and they have been tied or leading at halftime of all three games only to get crushed in the second half of the previous two. This time Sac came out strong and scored another try to take a big lead of 26-14. EPA would not roll over and concede this game and fought back with another try 21-26 and with four minutes remaining scored the tying try with a very difficult sideline conversion to go ahead. The kick was good 28-26!!! The Capitals did not fold and they kept pressure on in the EPA end until the Razorback surrendered a penalty 25 meters out and just to the left of the posts. The kicker got under the ball and the slight headwind pushed the kick wide! The Caps had one more possession, but rather than pounding the middle and waiting for another opportunity to for a penalty kick or drop goal, they spun it wide and were run out of bounds to end a truly great game.

No seconds match.

Vallejo 0 – DIABLO GAELS 88 Referee: Phil Akroyd
Probably the most mismatched game I’ve had this season, and I have reffed a lot of blow-outs. 0-27 after twenty minutes, 0-59 at half. Diablo opted to purposefully miss conversions to keep the score under 100.

Thanks to Scott Wood for hanging around after his game to A/R for me. Maybe I’ll get a close game next week.

FRESNO 55 – SF/Golden Gate 17 Referee: John Coppinger
Fresno has a new Field of Dreams.

A farmer near Lemoore Naval Air Station installed an almost regulation soccer field for his son some years ago smack in the middle of a Walnut orchard. The son is an adult now, with a son of his own. One the Fresno players works with the farmer and the farmer agreed to let Fresno use the field. The pitch is certainly wide enough and may be 10 meters short, but it's better than most. There was a fair bit of dust, particularly at the south end, and a lot of pollen, but it was pretty cool and Fresno had a bar set up under an overhang from the adjacent barn.

Fresno State and San Jose State (and Rich Anderson) ran out for the initial rugby on the new pitch.

In the Fresno-SF/GG match that followed the college match, Fresno went out to a 26-0 halftime lead and, although SF/GG rallied to score three tries in the second half, Fresno ran out 55--17 winners.

SEAHAWKS over Arroyo Grande by forfeit

SANTA ROSA 50 – Vacaville 12 Referee: John Pohlman
Santa Rosa hosted Vacaville at For Pete's Sake Field. This was an important game for Santa Rosa, who is driving for the playoffs. With their play today they looked like they could move deep into the playoffs.

I arrived around 11:30 for the 1:00 kickoff. No traffic and beautiful drive, put me in one of the happy-to-be-alive moods.

I saw Vacaville play Golden Gate and was impressed with their play. So I was expecting a competitive game.

Thus I was surprised to see Vacaville having 16 players suit up. After going through my pre-game with both teams, it seemed both teams felt Santa Rosa would win.
I say this because although Vacaville could not have beat Santa Rosa on this Saturday, they play well and have a number of very good players.

OK on to the game.

Santa Rosa's captain, #7 Pat King won the toss and choose to kick. It only took Pat one minute to poach his first of many balls. This led to a quick try at 2 minutes by inside center Matt Klew. Ten minutes later second row Chris Reynolds scored his first of two trys on the day. (Note I really think it was Tyler Alhborn who scored two from the second row position, but the roster said it was Reynolds).

Santa Rosa just had just too much defensive pressure in the first half. They would poach ball, spin wide and score. At 22 minutes Matt Klew got his second of the day.

The Vacaville fullback had a pop kick he fielded and scored a nice try.

At forty minutes scrum half Elvis Shipman threw a sweat dummy which the entire Vacaville forward pack took and scored under the posts.

Half time SR 31 Vacaville 5.

Santa Rosa started faster in the second half than the first, with Elvis getting his second try one minute in.

Santa Rosa brought on the subs and the game evened out a bit. Santa Rosa looked to have over 30 players available. The rest of the game saw SR scoring two more to one by Vacaville.

Vacaville had a few moments of brilliance in this game. One of their props finished off a long forward movement by off loading to one of their flankers for a great try.

Santa Rosa was just too dangerous on turnover ball today. Of their eight tries at least half were scored in this manner.

Special thanks to captains Pat King and Matt Heafey for excellent management. It so much more fun to referee a game where you feel the captains are working with you.


BA BARACUS 61 – Stanislaus 31 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
On Baracus' outback field, a lumpy but regulation pitch, rugby balls were a-flyin'-and then touched down in goal with a frequency that make rugby guys giddy.

Baracus is back in full flood-30 plus guys warmed up. And they put on a splendid offensive show in the first half-49 points (to 5) every which way possible. One winger-I think his name is Doc-got frequent flier miles; 4 tries on two dummies and fullback in. However, chippiness became an issue. ''Pete Smith woulda let me put the boots on the guy.'' I don't think so.

Stanislaus is the most dogged but game team I have seen this year. Fifteen players at a home match; 22 eventual players here. And after getting pasted the first half, they came out and scored four tries the second half. As their very own most chippy player said, ''go figure''. They are the epitome of that somewhat dreadful phrase that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

MENDOCINO by forfeit over EPA U23

REDWOOD 36 – Diablo U23, 15 Referee: Scott Wood
Location: Morton Field, Mare Island

After several shuffles of the referee deck, I got the Diablo U23 v Redwood matchup. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Diablo was forced to find a new home pitch. Fortunately Vallejo Barbarians were able to accommodate them on Mare Island. The game was scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. so I packed my bags, bade Pookie farewell, and set out through the Delta. Open space and the iPod set to eclectic (The Residents, Led Zeppelin, Kings of Leon, Kiss, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Pantera, etc) made for a relatively quick journey. A youth soccer tournament was underway and having never been to Vallejo's pitch I wondered if I was at the right location. Sure, the field was also lined for rugby but at 10:15 no other ruggers were around.

Slowly but surely, the teams began to arrive. It was while talking to a couple soccer parents that I learned the match was moved to noon. Oh, well. The soccer was entertaining. Yes, I said that. Some of these kids are extremely talented and well-drilled.

Redwood was in second place looking to maintain a first-round bye. Diablo U23 was much lower in the standings and was hoping to get 15 players into the match. Well, everybody found their way and we kicked off (20 minutes late). Redwood was very physical at the breakdown but could not keep their feet. Nor roll away. This kept Diablo in the game for most of the first half.

With under a minute remaining, Diablo was on the attack near midfield when a ball carrier pivoted to pass the ball. Being the deceptively swift referee, I was trailing maybe five meters behind when I heard a SNAP-POP-SCREAM. I immediately blew the whistle and signaled "doctor needed" to the sideline. The ambulance rolled on scene five minutes later but had to stabilize (a whole lot of doping) the patient prior to transport. Halftime score: Redwood 19 Diablo 10.

After an extended halftime of about 30 minutes, we resumed play. Apparently Redwood took advantage of the break to discuss cohesive patterns as they moved the ball at will. Diablo was able to respond with a try in the corner but Redwood was able to move the ball freely in the backs.

This was a fun game to referee (with the exception to the aforementioned medical mishap). Both teams were very responsive and played with excellent discipline and character.

After my match, I AR'd for Phil Akroyd's Diablo-Vallejo explosive match. But I will let that be his tale to weave.

FOG 39 – Humboldt 12 Referee: Preston Gordon
Job Corps field, Treasure Island
Kickoff at 1548
Humboldt turned up with 15 men, with the last half dozen arriving about half an hour after kickoff time after suffering "van trouble" of some sort. They were graciously given a few minutes to warm up, but were disorganized. The Fog were not, and earned their win and apparently first-ever playoff spot. The game opened up nicely after one yellow card to each side cleaned up the team repeat infringements (tackled players failing to release the ball for the Fog; arriving players leaving their feet at the tackle/ruck for Humboldt). Thanks to Carl and the unnamed Fog lady for doing a good job on the touchline.

BERKELEY 100 – Shasta 7 Referee: Stephen Moore
AR: Dave Newport
Referee Coach: Mike Malone
A run away game for Berkeley, try after try, with plenty of conversions too. After the first 20 minutes with Berkeley 5 tries ahead the game was changed to a ‘friendly’ with Berkeley players substituting for Shasta. Shasta worked hard for their single try in the second half and converted it in cavalier style with a drop kick. Game was played in good spirit. With the weather being a little on the hot side the game was called up 10 minutes early with the agreement of both sides.

San Bruno Saints 14 – Marin R.E.D.S 24 Referee: Roberto Santiago
You may have heard a rumor that D3 is up this year. It's true. The quality in D3 is better than it's been in my 2.5 years in Nor-Cal. The Saints hosted the R.E.D.S. this past Saturday in a game that had a lot on the line. I feel like I'm getting repetitive here but here was another good hard fast game on a field that reminded me of Los Angeles, pretty from a distance but pitted treacherous up close. The teams played scoreless for the first 13:00 minutes. Then the R.E.D.S.' fly half/captain/coach found his #8 on a nifty double skip pass. It's not often you find a guy built like a slightly smaller version of ┼Żydr┼źnas Ilgauskas who can run like this guy could run (and the R.E.D.S. have two of them) but this guy was fast and agile in a way that men his size usually are not. He wove and powered his way 24 meters for a try under the posts. Nine minutes later Marin had a series of rumbles and passes that saw the ball pass through at least 2/3 of the team for a long full team effort try finally put down by the #2. It was at this point that there was a hint that Marin's team speed and San Bruno's injuries were going to be too much for the Saints to overcome. San Bruno did come back with a converted try at 30:46 to get within seven. Then, after a yellow card to the Saints #8 the aforementioned Marin #10 intercepted a pass and took it 30 meters for a score right at the half.

A half hour went by in the second half with the only significant action being a red card being issued to the home side scrum half for a rake to the head of a Marin player at 57:34. The real unfortunate part was that I had already called an advantage for San Bruno and the offending player was attempting to comply. The whistle was almost to my lips when, "rake." See ya.

The Saints went on from there to score a try on a controversial play wherein I over ruled the touch judge on the sideline. It reminded me of a quote from Macbeth, "Wherefore did he raise his flag and 'Play on' stuck in my throat." The call was right, the communication was lacking but I bet the R.E.D.S play to the whistle in the future. Fired up and maybe a little concerned about a 5 point lead the R.E.D.S regrouped and scored a nifty try on the right wing with another display of timely passing and great support. In the end Marin got the win, the bonus point and the top seed in Nor-Cal's D3 playoffs. For their part the Saints are also playoff bound and are fantastic hosts.

Many thanks to both teams for a great day. Good luck in the playoffs.

Fresno State 22 –SAN JOSE STATE 34 Referee: Rich Anderson

UC Santa Cruz 17 – NEVADA 62 Referee: James Hinkin
I woke up Saturday morning eager to beat the beach traffic and meandered on into Santa Cruz to meet up with my old Seahawks coach Kevin Meek and his wife Leah. After a nice breakfast on the beach where we told each other how much better rugby was when we were still playing/coaching I drove up to UC Santa Cruz and arrived for a rugby match on a perfect picture-postcard day.

The Nevada team was ready and warming up at noon while the UCSC hosts seemed to be having trouble getting their team out. Frantic phone calls and excuses ("we're on spring break") finally mustered up 15 to start the match with 5 minutes to spare and we were off. Nevada has apparently taken the example of Todd and Chris Clever to extremes and have decided that More Hair = Better Rugby. There were a lot of tonsorial abstainers wearing the blue jerseys, including the #10 who rocked a mullet the like of which hasn't been seen on a rugby pitch since yours truly was terrorizing opponents at UC Santa Barbara.

Apparently warmups are overrated because UCSC took control from the start and jumped out to an early lead with a penalty goal. Nevada soon responded and and started rolling, scoring 5 tries to Santa Cruz's 1. Halftine score: 31-10 to the visitors.

The second half was more of the same as an organized and well-coached Nevada side dominated a piecemeal UCSC team. Santa Cruz was able to take a quick tap penalty to catch UNR unawares to score a try, but that was dwarfed by the 5 that were scored by Nevada.

SAN FRANCISCO STATE GATORS 39 – U. of the Pacific 17 Referee: Sam Davis
It was a beautiful day at the Fog field. The Gators, working to be included in someone’s league, have played 18 games this season. UOP, retooling themselves with a number of young players, 4 had their first game today. Gators dominated the first half scoring 3 trys & one conversion to one try. Both teams scored with some very good multi-phase play. Gators scored two in the corners and their captain placed one down under the post which was the one they converted. UOP off a maul passed it out to the backs and scored in the corner. The second half had the same intensity Gators scored 4 more times converting one and UOP scored twice converting one. The final score Gators, 39 UOP 17.

SANTA ROSA JC 83 – U. of San Francisco 0 Referee: Cary Bertolone
We kicked off at 11:30 am on a beautiful rugby day in Santa Rosa. Although the first try by the SRJC was with the forwards at the 5 minute mark, most of the tries that followed were back line moves with many passes way out. Austin Welch, the fullback for the JC, lead the way with 30 points, including four tries. No injuries or cards left everybody, even USF, in a good mood and USF never gave up.

SUNDAY

Sac State women – USF

SAN JOSE STATE 52 – UC Santa Cruz 20 Referee: Pete Smith
Sunday afternoon at Valley Christian HS was a big rivalry game between the Spartans and the Banana Slugs. There was a good size crowd on hand with notable dignitaries Doc Macbeth and Mike McDonald as well as several prominent SJSU Alumni. The Spartans were much bigger and more athletic across the board and used their size and strength to just hammer at the Slugs. Most of their tries were just multi-phased, up the guts, smash mouth variety. The narrower football lines played into that style and the Slugs were hard pressed to answer. It is tough when you continually lose the point of contact to gain possession or any momentum. The Slugs, to their credit, never quit, scored four tries with quick thinking and great open field running and showed that despite, on this day the Spartans may be the better team, you can’t count out the Slugs.

SANTA CLARA men 59 – U. of San Francisco 8 Referee: James Hinkin
A sunburny weekend was brought to a close on Sunday with a clash at Santa Clara. Santa Clara were out in force warming up at noon but missed meeting points delayed the arrival of USF. All eventually arrived safely and we were underway.

Once again proving the adage that warmups are overrated USF started out on fire and scored the first try of the match after a period of sustained pressure. Santa Clara quickly regrouped and added one of their own before tacking on two more for good measure. The game was fast and played in great spirits and the referee had his work cut out for him keeping up with the young collegians. Halftime score: Santa Clara 19 - U of San Francisco 5

The second half saw the depth and pace of Santa Clara start to tell. With only one sub available USF was at a disadvantage and Santa Clara exploited it to the best of their abilities. The Santa Clara fullback in particular seemed to find space whenever he touched the ball and punished ill-advised kicks accordingly. Santa Clara ran in 6 tries balanced only by a penalty for the visitors as USF played hard and tackled hard but could not find an answer to the waves of Bronco attacks.

WHISTLING IN THE NORTHWEST: Directional Rugby Tournament
By Joe Leisek:

Two Fridays ago I flew to Portland to visit the Myers family and referee at the PNRFU D2 men's collegiate playoffs. I was met at PDX by the Two Ronnies, a reference that will resonate only to fans of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. The younger of the Myers men is now seven years old and has a career ambition to be an engineer. Not a train engineer, like most seven-year-old boys; an electrical engineer. This is a very smart kid. After a dinner of Swedish meatballs at Ikea, we headed back to Chez Myers, the family's home on nearly a half-acre in Lake Oswego. There we joined Ron's wife Kate and Moira, their 13-month-old daughter. We visited and the visiting Pelican retired early, right after the other kids.

On Saturday morning Ron and I headed down to Western Oregon University in Monmouth, just south of Salem, in the beautiful Willamette Valley, for a play-in match to determine who would face Eastern Washington in the final the next day.

Saturday, March 19
WESTERN OREGON 36 – Western Washington 29 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referees: Ron Cronin, Pete DeJong
Number Four and Match Commissioner: Ron Myers
What a game. These two teams played a taut, close contest for 80 minutes. This one could have gone either way, but WO proved to be better organized in the backline and a little more adept at ball retention. On a sunny day, the teams ran wide as often as possible. Very entertaining, at least to the referee, and a real sense of the outcome being in doubt for nearly the entire match. A total of 11 tries scored, six by WO and five by WW. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I was lucky that Ron Cronin was there, because about an hour before the game I realized I had forgotten my whistles. He loaned me a new Acme Thunderer, which worked really well.

After the game, back in Lake Oswego, the Rons and Moira and I went grocery shopping while Kate went out and enjoyed some time on her own. Back at Chez Myers, I sat in the kitchen and watched Ron at work. I took notes on my phone as he prepared a roast vegetable dish and pan-fried gnocchi. He also grilled lamb, chicken, and beef. We washed it down with a nice Willamette pinot. Ron's culinary skills are legendary among referees for a reason: he is so skilled in the kitchen. After the kids went to bed, I joined Kate and Ron for an episode of Nero Wolfe, before I headed to bed to rest up for the final.

Sunday, March 20
WESTERN OREGON 39 – Eastern Washington 7 Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referees: Ron Cronin, DJ Heffernan
Number Four and Match Commissioner: Ron Myers
Western Oregon won handily in a bit of an anti-climactic final. One interesting point: EW may have actually had more possession, and in fact at one point early in the first half they reeled off about 20 phases of play. The first scrum wasn't necessary until the 7:43 mark. But they just could not break the gainline with all the possession. WO should compete well in this weekend's Pacific Coast playoffs at Cal Maritime. Best wishes to the players and coaches. And thanks to Ron, DJ, and Pete for their excellent assistance and for making the game better for everyone involved. And special thanks to my host for loaning me a brass Acme Thunderer, given to him by Dave Jaquint.

On Sunday night I joined the Myers family for dinner in a downtown Portland deli, Kenny & Zuke's, followed by dessert at VooDoo Donuts.

The Myers family are gracious hosts, and really nice people. This was a wonderful weekend of rugby and good friends.

NORCAL YOUTH TOURNAMENT IN DANVILLE
By Bruce Carter:

The Mustang Soccer Complex, across the street from Blackhawk, hosted this event for a couple-dozen U8, U10 and U12 teams. The place was packed.

This is the burgeoning end of our game, and the learning curves of these kids don’t curve at all: they climb.

Refereeing this age group two months ago, at the Sacramento Kick-off Tournament, required the patience of Job and the turning of blind eyes to the myriad of minor infractions in the interest of letting them play.

No more: Paul Bretz and I agreed after the U12 semifinals that these were simply games of rugby to referee. Six weeks ago we sometimes ignored offside and here we were calling side-joining at the ruck!

Had video been running, youth rugby might have gotten the Play of the Day on ESPN: a player for the Sierra Foothills U12 did something I’ve never seen, in any sport.

A kick went up. Running back to field it, he lost his shoe.

Caught the ball – ran back to the shoe – inserted foot – and then resumed the counter-attack properly shod.

Given the growth of this brand of rugby, we’d expect several more events like this each season in the coming years.

HIGH SCHOOL

Wednesday, March 24:
Girls: MOTHERLODE 38 – Oregon 12 Referee: Phil Akroyd
Motherlode ladies played Oregon at Cordova High on Wednesday evening. They played three 20 min segments as this was supposed to be a “friendly” tour game. There were long periods of continuous play, only stopped when the hard field took down another victim – heads bashing onto the firm ground, cut faces from hard rucking, concussions from hard tackles.

Motherlode were always in control but Oregon had taken a bashing from UC Davis the previous evening, so it was not entirely fair. Both teams rolled in some really young girls (a young Eason?) who represented very well with a try from one of them and several important tackles.

Friday:

Woodcreek 3 – JESUIT 58 Referee: Phil Akroyd
Under Friday night sunset and lights in Roseville, the Jesuit machine checked off another victory. This is about the fourth time I’ve seen their Varsity team play this season and they seem to keep getting more and more polished.

If they are in their own half, they kick deep into opposition territory effectively. If they don’t have the ball, they steal it very quickly. When they do get the ball, they almost always score. They have often won rucks as the tackle is taking place by committing men early and hard. Impressive stuff.

The Frosh/Soph game went a similar way: Woodcreek 12 – 41 Jesuit. Note to coaches – please keep shirt numbers reasonable. “Roll away one-hundred and two, red”, gets a bit wordy.

FRIDAY NIGHT LOBODOME

Elsie Allen High School, Santa Rosa
Elsie Allen Lobos 10 – MARIN HIGHLANDERS 31Referee: Joe Leisek
Assistant Referee: Mike King
Touch Judge: Dan Bartholomew
Friday night rugby in the Lobodome, two teams that have developed an intense rivalry because they always play competitive games and are always in the running the Redwood Empire Conference title. Earlier this season, the Highlanders had defeated the Lobos at home in a tight contest, and last year the Lobos won in Marin on the last play of the game. This year's game was fast and intense and very competitive, especially in the first half. The Lobos struck first with a penalty kick but the visitors scored two tries to the hosts' one to end the half with a 14-10 lead. A Highlanders penalty early in the second half extended their lead to 17-10, where it stayed for much of the half. Finally, the Highlanders pulled away late in the half with two more converted tries. Highlanders center Jake Anderson converted all four of his team's tries, and added the penalty. The Highlanders look big and fast and should go deep in the playoffs. Thanks to Mike for coming out to AR before his game, and to Dan for his help.

JV: Elsie Allen 15 – MARIN HIGHLANDERS 19 Referee: Mike King
The LoboDome on a Friday night? It does not get any better than that, as the Lobo Jrs hosted their Highlander counterparts following the first side spectacular. Both sides fielded several new players, and neither was at full strength. In a rousing abbreviated 10 a side contest, the players got the opportunity to show their developing skills and get the valuable game time they need. The enthusiasm was amazing and this match hung in the balance into extra time. A final break by a fleet Lobo back almost ended in a reversal of fortune for Marin, but the pursuit caught up just in time to take him into touch. Great contest!!

At Cardinal Newman High School
NEWMAN/ROSA 31 – Montgomery High 3 Referee: Cary Bertolone
Kick-off at 7:45 PM with a large crowd and a fiercely contested game provided the spectators with a thrilling view of rugby as both teams rucked hard and had long runs from their backlines. It seemed even, yet the score was 19-0 at the half, thanks in a large part to Newman's flanker, Blake Ratto, who scored two of the tries. The same kind of second half ended with the game 31-3. Both teams played well!!

JV: MONTGOMERY 7- Newman Rosa 0 Referee: Chris Curtis
Coach Curtis picked up the whistle and ran the second sides until 10:00 PM, when the lights had to be turned off. Rosa/Newman has three sides worth of players!!! Montgomery won 7-0.

Saturday:

High School Girls Rugby

Saturday Afternoon 3/27/10 at Elsie Allen in Santa Rosa
ELSIE ALLEN 32- Humboldt 10 Referee: Cary Bertolone
My third game in 17 hours, I was trying to stay hydrated, drinking lots of water on this sunny afternoon. The girls were ready and we kicked off at 1:30PM. Appearing to be evenly matched, a battle ensued with Humboldt striking first with two tries and Elsie responding with two tries of their own for a 10-10 halftime tie. With ten minutes left, it was still tied. Then Elsie, blessed with some substitutions, ran 4 tries in, two from more than 70 meters to win going away, 32-10.

PLEASANTON CAVALIERS 76 – Oakland Warthogs 12 Referee: Preston Gordon
The score (which may be a little off since I don't have my match card with me as I write this) pretty much sums this one up, which was played at Muirwood Park in Pleasanton - a great, flat, soft pitch close to full size. Pleasanton controlled proceedings throughout, with the exception of the first 10 minutes after halftime, where Oakland scored 2 tries. A good game.

Varsity: GOLDEN GATE 22 – Diablo 21 Referee: Joe Androvich

Alameda Riptide girls 0 – AMAZONS 51 Referee: Sam Davis
Alameda U19 hosted the Sac Amazons in Alameda. The Alameda girls’ team did not have the size or experience but they played a great game. There are some fine players on both sides.

SAN MATEO 60– Bellarmine 15 Referee: Chris Fisher

SILICON VALLEY 12 – Live Oak 10 Referee: Chris Fisher

Monday:

Bishop O' Dowd boys 24 – DE LA SALLE 45 Referee: Eric Rauscher
Referee Coach: Bryant Byrnes
Bishop O' Dowd high school, Monday night, under the lights with parents and fans in the stands. It was a game of two halves. First half score O' Dowd 3, De La Salle 40. O' Dowd scored 21 points in the second half, to De La Salle's 5. This was due mainly to De La Salle bringing two full squads, and O' Dowd playing many rookies. My vote for best player of O' Dowd was their kicker. He slotted really hard conversion kicks. Sorry I didn't get his name. My thanks to Bryant who was supposed to do the game, but due to injury showed up to give me coaching.

A REFEREE GOES HOME AGAIN
By Phil Akroyd:

Below are four game reports from my trip to England a couple of weeks ago. I also attached a photo from the first game at Skipton Rugby club. If only all pitches could have these signs.

Game 1 – 3/13/10
ILKLEY 3rds 37 –Otley 3rds 22
An easy way to get into rugby after a ten hour haul across the Atlantic, less than 24 hours previously. This was a last minute assignment, as the game that I originally scheduled fell through. It actually turned out as a ten-a-side game as several players didn’t bother to turn up/were working/got stuck in the bar.

The two clubs are actually local rivals, located approximately 5 miles apart in a large valley bottom in rural West Yorkshire, to the northwest of Leeds. As the Firsts and Seconds were playing away that day, we had the pleasure of the main field – a large, flat and firm surface that had track meet written all over it, given ten-a-side.

I was really relaxed and looking forward to doing a very social game and really happy to be moving, after the plane journey. Apparently, I was a bit too relaxed and fluffed my first call; what I thought to be a player playing the ball in front of the kicker. The players all looked confused and the truth is that I don’t think I’ll ever know what the call should have been, but I stood tall and explained my inexplicable decision… some of them may have bought it. Lesson learned – never get too relaxed, no matter what the game.

My thoughts about a fast game were also inaccurate. Many of these players had obviously experienced former glory and the minds were evidently capable, however the bodies could not execute. As the Ilkley winger took off down the right wing on half-way, I also hit my top gear from about ten yards behind him. As we reached the opposition 22, I had to hit the brakes as I was now five yards in front of him.

Ilkley ran in seven tries in the first half, and managed to convert one, making it 37 - 0. At half, Ilkley evidently decided that they had worked up enough of a thirst for a pint and switched off for the remainder of the game, thus producing the typical game of two halves. Otley took advantage of the oppositions’ stand-by mode and ran in four tries, again, converting only one, making it 37 – 22 at the end.

We retreated in from the chilly but dry, spring-like afternoon to the warmth of showers (a ref changing room!), the clubhouse bar and live Six Nations Rugby, with a pint.

Game 2 – 3/14/10
Skipton 7 – HESSLE (U16) 12
Day three in England brought match number two. The game was a first round Yorkshire Cup meeting between two U16 club teams. Skipton were at home and Hessle travelled down from the northeast coast, from around the Hull area.

The hour drive to the club from my parents’ house was pretty nice – partly cloudy skies but windy and therefore pretty chilly. It was six or seven years since I’d visited Skipton RUFC and in the intervening period, the rugby club had developed into a center for sports, including six rugby pitches, two cricket pitches, a tennis club, several all weather football fields, indoor squash courts and of all things, a remote control car racing track!

It was good to see that there were a number of age group games and practice sessions going on, with the notice board inside the changing rooms indicating that an U6s fixture was taking place.

I made my way to the ref changing room (Hallelujah!), and was met by the coach of the home team who appeared thoroughly peed off that he had to ref an U14 game. I moved onto the boot checks and team talks outside and had the misfortune of overhearing the many conversations about the events of the previous nights’ drinking sessions in the local pubs – these are Under 16s players. The away team, contrary to form, were out early, dressed and organized, while the home team were showing up late and looking pretty shabby.

The game finally got under way at midday on the First XV field, which was wide, flat, surprisingly firm and dry but pretty threadbare on the grass front. Not a bad condition given the recent rain and snow throughout winter.

The rugby was fast but scrappy. Even though this was the first round of their knockout cup, they had been playing since September, not that you would know it. Maybe too many down at the local on Saturday night? Hessle looked crisp and the better technical team but lacked the raw physicality and aggression of the rag-tag Skipton team, with shaved heads and mis-matched shirts.

Hessle scored first with their big number eight crashing over after a series of rolling mauls close to the opposition line and they converted the kick. Skipton scored later in the first half with a wonderful run, chip over the defence and collect by the cannonball inside center to score under the posts from half-way. They also converted. It was certainly a case of “game on” at half-time (7 – 7), and if both teams were to clear up their handling errors, the game would have benefitted.

Unfortunately, the errors carried on – obviously the players were inspired by the Scotland V England debacle, aired on TV the previous evening.

One of the more entertaining aspects of the second-half was the battle of the two scrum-halves. They were giving each other a hard time, which I occasionally had to get in the middle of, like a boxing ref. When I informed them that the game could survive with both of them on the sidelines, they reined it in a bit. The second half stumbled and staggered forward, much like the Hessle forward who scored from short range after an extended period of time in the opposition red zone. The try was unconverted and the scores remained at 7 – 12 until the final whistle.

Game 3 – 3/16/10
CROSSLEY HEATH (U13) 43 – Hipperholme & Lightcliffe (U13) 10
I attended Crossley Heath Grammar School, in my home town of Halifax, until 2000. I asked one of my contacts in the area if there were any midweek games going without a ref and this game came up.

It was an U13 county cup game played at the Old Boy’s club, close to the school. I checked in with the coaches before the game and Nick O’Connor of Hipperholme told me that they have just introduced a Rugby Union program to the school, which previously played football and rugby league. The game would be a big challenge to the newly formed team as Crossleys are one of the Premier rugby schools in West Yorkshire, having produced several national players and elite coaches.

As is often the case at this age level, a couple of more developed athletes can dominate the game. Crossleys had a fly-half named Sam Allen who looked several years older than thirteen and played a large part in wrapping the game up by half. He is apparently signed on a youth contract to Leeds United football team – a huge pro club in the area – and as a result, is not allowed to play rugby on weekends. He had devastating speed, strength, a killer sidestep and the feet of a potential pro soccer player. He helped the team to 33 – 0 by midway, having scored about 21 of those points himself.

After the break, Crossleys scored a few more tries, and then eased up a bit with tackles, which coincided with the visitors committing more to the rucks. Hipperholme bagged a couple of tries but this game had really been decided well before the final whistle. The game wasn’t too demanding and required a bit of coaching to help the more inexperienced players.

As far as I was concerned, that was my reffing duty covered for my trip. Three games in four days was not too bad and the games weren’t at particularly high levels by any means, but just enough to keep my hand in while on vacation. The following day I got a call from the head coach at my old school, asking me if I was available on the Thursday afternoon to ref the First XV (Varsity) against Prince Henry’s Grammar School Otley, in a Yorkshire cup semi-final. They could not source a ref, with it being a 3.45pm kick off.

Game 4 – 3/18/10
CROSSLEY HEATH 32 – PHGS Otley (1st XV) 19
This was the game I really wanted to do all along. They are two very good rugby programs, each with about two players per side who were signed to Leeds Carnegie youth development squad. Carnegie plays in the Guinness Premiership and it is quite conceivable that these kids could be playing in their first teams in a few years.

One thing that became quite apparent, quite quickly was that the game was fast – fast running, fast recycling and fast decision making - on a par with a NorCal High School playoff final. The First XV looked more professional than when I played in it ten or eleven years ago. They looked more athletic, bigger and faster and it was actually quite shocking to think that a teacher would have to step in to ref such a good quality game. I mean no disrespect to the teachers, but a dedicated, impartial ref was really needed.

Crossley Heath opened their account with a penalty kick at goal, followed by two unanswered converted tries. Otley responded with an absolutely fantastic try by their captain and outside center (Naz), who ran from a lineout move, deep inside their own half, breaking five or six tackles to score under the posts. The comeback was on at the start of the second half with an unconverted try to make it 22 – 12 and to spur on the visitors even more, Crossleys got into penalty trouble at rucks with stupid offenses, such as a player on the ground kicking the ball back to his half-back. After a warning, a further offense saw the home team down to fourteen and Otley took advantage of the extra man and converted a try to make it 25 – 19, with twenty minutes to play.

The score stayed the same until seven minutes left on the clock. Crossleys were deep into the opposition half and the 10 put in a wonderfully weighted cross field kick to the (onside) left wing, who had acres of space. He took the ball on the fly, five meters infield and fifteen from the line. The backtracking defensive full-back was way out of position and he came barreling across field, along the 5 meter line. There was no way he could slow in time to make a good tackle and inevitably he went way too high on the ball carrier, knocking him to the ground. There was no other choice but to give a penalty try and send the distraught full back off for the rest of the game. At 32-19, with fourteen men, the comeback was never going to happen, but it was a great cup game that never let me switch off for a second.

THIS WEEK’S PHOTO
Second That Emotion
Phil Akroyd likes what he sees as he prepares to run on.

HAIL, PELICUS!

For the Senate
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