Tuesday, May 04, 2010




The most recent USA Rugby national appointments, covering the bulk of the playoff and all-star seasons over the next six weeks, put eight Pelicans to work.

This is a testament to the work of eight people primarily and many, many more secondarily.

Your writer is choking up. All those hours - worth it.

Thank you.


The Wine County Sevens will be held this Saturday at For Pete’s Sake, from 9 AM until 4 PM.

Sixteen teams have signed up and a few more are expected by match time.

So far we’ve only got five referees, and could use about three more.

We will also need ARs for:
Olympic Club hosting Los Angeles on Treasure Island (CR1 playoff)
Bellarmine hosting Snow Canyon (Pacific Coast single-school HS playoff)
Lamorinda hosting Hayward (NorCal U19 semi)
Vacaville hosting Golden Gate (NorCal U19 semi)

Please let us know if you can help out!

Wine Country Classic at For Pete’s Sake field

So far we have four referees for this tournament, for which more than 20 teams have signed up, and could use at least four more. Six more would be better.

Come visit one of the nicer pitches in the North Bay, the fruits of the dream of the late Pete Eiermann. Get an early jump on summer!


The University of California won its 25th rugby championship Saturday at Stanford, in an epic match against BYU.

In a couple of years the Bears could catch the New York Yankees in number of titles, and the Yanks have been at it a lot longer!

Semifinals on Friday:

DII women:
TEMPLE – UC Santa Cruz Referee: Kurt Weeder
ARs: Pete Smith, Bruce Carter

WASHINGTON STATE – Norwich Referee: Leah Berard
ARs: Scott Wood, Tom Zanarini

DII men:
CLAREMONT COLLEGES – Miami University Referee: Gareth Morgan
ARs: John Coppinger, John Pohlman

TEMPLE – Univ. Mass Amherst Referee: Dana Teagarden
ARs: Scott Wood, Tom Zanarini

DI women:
STANFORD – Brown Referee: Brian Zapp
ARs: James Hinkin, Rich Anderson

PENN STATE – Army Referee: Marc Nelson
ARs: James Hinkin, Rich Anderson

DI men:
BYU – Army Referee: Tim Luscombe
ARs: Pete Smith, Bruce Carter

CALIFORNIA – Arkansas State Referee: Tom Lyons
ARs: John Coppinger, John Pohlman

Finals on Saturday:

D2 women: Temple – WASHINGTON STATE Referee: Tim Luscombe
ARs: James Hinkin, Rich Anderson

D2 men: CLAREMONT – Temple Referee: Gareth Morgan
ARs: Scott Wood, John Coppinger

D1 women: Stanford – PENN STATE Referee: Dana Teagarden
ARs: Leah Berard, Kurt Weeder

D1 men: CALIFORNIA 19 – Brigham Young Univ. 7 Referee: Tom Lyons
ARs: Brian Zapp, Marc Nelson


PC Men's D1 playoffs:

SAC LIONS 55 – North Side Tigers 17 Referee: Chris Tucker
ARs: JC van Staden, Mark Godfrey
Evaluator: Mark Koiwai

Beach rugby at its finest was played for 80 on Danny Nunn field in South Sacramento.

A mid-70s temperature and a light northerly breeze greeted the teams, with the local Lions electing to receive into the wind for the first half. The kick was caught, ruck set and ball spun: 1-skip 2-3 5-in almost worked well, except for the poaching defender who picked off the long pass and jogged in untouched for the first try after 53 seconds.

After that point the Lions knuckled down and played a little less loose, and their quick recycling and deft passing created opening after opening, resulting in 5 tries in the first half, all but one centred and converted. The visiting Tigers managed a couple in return, and should have had another, but sadly the ball carrier stepped over the dead ball line just before touching down. A shame, as the movement to create the would-be score was sublime.

The half came and went (33-17), the second period was a little less organised, with both teams showing a clear preference for playing 7s. Neither wished to set a ruck, let alone counter, so offside became an occasional phenomenon, and the structure broke down. Notable incidents in the 2nd half included a blocked conversion -- the kicker stepped back, took a good look, then returned to address the ball. I informed him that the defenders were charging, but he didn't react swiftly, and the ball was taken away. I'm pretty sure he didn't like how I handled it, judging by his vocal criticism. Your first amendment rights have been exercised. Now we will restart with a penalty the other way in addition to your failed conversion. Please, continue...

A dangerous tackle by the Lions, and players repeatedly throwing away the ball after a penalty by the Tigers led to matching cards, but these were mere bumps in the road. The Lions were dominant all day, delivered on their game plan and had much fun to boot. The next round beckons, and their opponents should beware.

Thanks to Mark Godfrey who stepped up after a late cancel by the assigned AR, and to JC for policing his sideline with aplomb. Mark Koiwai told me what I suspected in his eval of me, and then took off to try to get to Stanford for the finals at 7 PM. Traffic willing, I hope he made it.

Olympic Club BYE

Bay Barbarians 6 – PROVO STEELERS 40 Referee: Don Pattalock
Steeler Field, Provo, Utah
Barbarians traveled to Utah with 16 healthy players, played valiantly but had no answer for Provo's powerful forwards. Great match with music, announcers and quality rugby.

EAST PALO ALTO won at Salt Lake City


O Club hosting LA Referee: Jim Crenshaw
Provo Steelers hosting Santa Monica Referee: Pete Smith
Belmont Shore hosting East Palo Alto
Las Vegas hosting Sac Lions

Thursday: VACAVILLE 48 – Santa Rosa 14 Referee: Dave Ellis
Vacaville hosted Santa Rosa under the lights at Al Patch Park on Thursday night in the NorCal HS/U19 Playoffs. The late afternoon threat of rain held off, and conditions were just about perfect for a game of open, running rugby. The fans in attendance did not go home disappointed.

Vacaville started strongly, opening the scoring with a try on the 5 minute mark. Not content with one early score, Vacaville continued to pressure. Santa Rosa was finding it difficult to contain Vacaville's hard-running forward trio of locks Earl Collier and KoleSiaki and hooker Daniel Gill, and it did not take too long for Vacaville to score their 2nd try of the night. Santa Rosa responded as best they could, but Vacaville's pack took control, providing a steady stream of quality ball for not only themselves but also for their hard running back line. Three more converted tries ensued, and the half ended with a score of 31 - 0 in Vacaville's favor.

Santa Rosa came back after the half with a renewed sense of intensity, and the game settled for a while with Vacaville still controlling the bulk of play but Santa Rosa pressuring at times with tactical kicking. It was Vacaville who again drew first blood, however, with Kole Siaki powering in for a try in the 17th minute. Santa Rosa responded quickly with their first try of the evening courtesy of flanker Russ Van Anda. Santa Rosa tried to open things up when offered the opportunity, with their fullback and Captain Tyler Laron showing flashes of his speed, toughness and elusiveness, but it was Vacaville who maintained control, although Santa Rosa flanker Blake Ratto did keep the 2nd half scoring close with a late try. In the end, a strong win for a well coached, well disciplined and well rounded Vacaville team against an overmatched Santa Rosa side that competed until the final whistle and played with heart and class.

Many thanks to Ray Thompson and Jim Crenshaw for their AR assistance. The three of us must have made one of the most 'experienced' crews of officials ever, having a total of 189 life years between us and 97 combined years of playing, coaching and refereeing with the NCRFU. Include Vacaville and Santa Rosa coaches Britt Hensley and Lynn Meister in the computation and the totals approach in excess of 300 life years and 151 years combined association with NCRFU rugby. Playing, coaching or refereeing, Northern California rugby truly is the gift that keeps on giving to us all!

LAMORINDA 64 – East Palo Alto 5 Referee: Tom Zanarini
Assistant Referee: Bryant Byrnes
A warm day in Moraga for the U-19 playoffs. Traffic was considerably terrible in Berkeley/Oakland where I witnessed a classic rear-ending of a pickup truck smashing into a Honda Accord who then chain reacted into a compact car. Thank goodness I switched lanes 2 minutes prior! Honda trunks crumple very nicely, by the way.

EPA was also affected by the traffic, but managed to have 15 players at kickoff. Lamorinda came out to make a statement and put 3 tries on the scoreboard in the first 10 minutes. EPA had flashes of great play, but unstructured as it was Lamo kept their cool and capitalized on every opportunity.

Thanks to both teams for an excellent match, despite the score. Many thanks to Bryant Byrnes for AR'ing, I hope he made it to the Final at Stanford in time.

Peninsula Green 12 – HAYWARD 91 Referee: Bruce Carter
It was clear, warm and beautiful Saturday afternoon at Woodside High School for this playoff tiff.

Hayward has a number of players who proved difficult to tackle, but #13 Sione Tupouata stood out. I was reminded of reading about the young Wayne Gretzky skating and passing around age-grade opponents, scoring at will.

Tupouata will be playing football for the University of Utah come autumn. Imagine his pairing in midfield next spring with Thretton Paloma!

Marin Highlanders 10 – SFGG 18 Referee: John Pohlman
AR: Cary Bertolone
I remember my first game this season: a well played and very competitive game from start to finish. My comment at the time was you may only get one of these a season.

Well Saturday took me to Redwood High School in Larkspur where Marin was hosting Golden Gate in a high school playoff. The game was moved from an 11:45 AM start to 3:00 PM kickoff to accommodate SAT testing.

This knock-out game was played on the artificial turf football field. The field also seemed like a wind tunnel.

Golden Gate won the toss and elected to receive the ball into the wind.

The game was a battle from the kickoff. Both teams playing aggressive in the tackle. Marin's second row Luke Becker scored the first try twelve minutes in.

Golden Gate won their lineout around 35 meters from the try line. Coach Wells has the GG forwards well schooled in driving mauls. And yes they drove the maul in for their first score at 30 minutes.

Marin slotted a penalty right before half to make the score, Marin 10 Golden Gate 5.

While both teams seemed totally matched to me, I thought the wind might be worth more than 5 points.

So on to the second half.

GG pack was bigger and really ran well together. Four minutes in GG second rower scored a multiphase forward attack with a nice pick and drive for a try.

Ten minutes later GG winger finished off a play were close to ten different players handled the ball. Marin had plenty of opportunities but very time GG would regain possession they would boot the ball 75 meters or so. Like I said the wind tunnel.

GG lifted a bit of pressure with a converted penalty kick with five minutes left.

Again Marin had numerous drives to the line only to be stymied by penalty.
GG kicked for touch and game over.

Thanks to both Captains Jake and Augie for a well managed game.


Lamorinda – Hayward Referee: Preston Gordon
Vacaville – Golden Gate Referee: Aruna Ranaweera

JESUIT 71 – Bellarmine 0 Referee: Phil Akroyd

Jesuit advances to the California State Cup against Fallbrook on May 15 and to the nationals in Salt Lake City in May 21-23.

Bellarmine will host Snow Canyon of Utah on May 8, the winner also advancing to the nationals.


MARIN LIONS 19 – Piedmont High 7 Referee: Bjorn Stumer
This was a tale of two halves with PITS coming on strong on the first half, versus a combative Marin Lions side. PITS had plenty possession, but could only put one converted try on the scoreboard due to Marin's determined tackling. Marin's lack of discipline also saw them at the receiving end of numerous penalties, but Piedmont could not fully capitalize on the fact. The second half was a total opposite of the first, Marin regained composure, cleaned up their game, and played with effect scoring three tries, two of which were converted, thus running away with the match. It was a tough and frustrating match to officiate, because both sides had much difficulty listening to the referee, while providing said referee with much unwanted feedback. I understand that both sides struggled this season; staying on their feet, knowing where the offside lines are, and not back chatting to the ref., would go a long way to provide the required improvement.

SFGG silver – Pleasanton

LAMORINDA silver 24 – Alameda 12 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
A beautiful late afternoon match at St Mary's-and a nice way to end the season. These teams were analogous to middle weight boxers-of some heft but light on their feet-and came out swinging. It was 12-12 at half, but the Lamos backline was a bit more deft in the second half.

And then everyone grabbed a hotdog and raced down to Stanford for the national championship.


Q: When is it better to finish second or third than first?
A: When you are going to the Pacific Coast men’s D2 championships.

Santa Rosa and SFGG have qualified for the nationals by dint of each winning their first games at the playoffs in Boise. They played each other next, but das macht nichts: both advanced regardless of the outcome.

But Fresno, who won every one of their eleven games and many by large margins, then had to win two games in order to qualify for the nationals. They won the first one but then had to play Pacific NW champions Snake River, of Boise, at Boise.

Hard luck for the resurgent Fresno RFC.



SF Fog 12 – SACRAMENTO AMAZONS 29 Referee: Bruce Bernstein
Amazons, led by their halfback & flyhalf, beat the Fog women at TI in two 25-minute halves.

Santa Clara women – Alumnae CANCELED


SF/Golden Gate won on the road, beating the Chicago Lions 63-23 to run the table. They will host New York Old Blue in a quarterfinal on May 15 and will host the league championship game on May 30.

If they win May 15, they’ll also host a semifinal on May 22.

From the Grapevine Independent

By BILL HICKS, Jr., Sports Editor & SHELLY LEMBKE, Sr. Staff Writer
The traditional transition of sport from one generation to the next often involves a father playing catch in the backyard with his son—or shooting hoops out on the driveway or sitting in the bleachers together to watch a ballgame.

For some kids in Rancho Cordova, life doesn’t come with the luxury of a dad to play catch with, a glove and a ball, a basketball hoop or a sunny day in the stands with a bag of peanuts and a soda, so coming to know the joys sports can provide is a daunting challenge.

However, while some of those conditions might exists for some of the players on the P.A.L. youth rugby club, the real obstacle doesn’t exist in finding a dad, uncle or brother with the appropriate qualities of interest and involvement, the real problem is finding someone who knows anything at all about the sport to begin with.

Luckily, the P.A.L. rugby program, a 14U youth team that plays other area rugby clubs, is coached by former Jesuit High star Matt Foster, former Lancer rugby club veteran Tyler Farnsworth and England-native Phil Akroyd. With all due respect to the neighboring club in the foothills, PAL has seemingly hit the Mother Lode.

“It’s really been amazing,” said Zach Hatch, a Rancho Cordova police officer who runs the PAL program. “We’ve had such a difficult time finding coaches in our others sports, but we’ve had guys coming out of the woodwork wanting to help with rugby.”

And Hatch couldn’t be happier with how the program has developed. Many of the players have had some struggles with various things—schoolwork, discipline and so forth—but many of those woes have gone by the wayside since joining rugby.

“The kids are all really good kids,” Hatch said. “I think it’s good that they have something to focus on and be involved with.”

Of course, the tough nature of the sport might have an appeal to any middle school boy trying to chisel himself into a man, but where any of the improvements in schoolwork, conduct and overall attitude might lie is with the detailed nature of the game.

“If someone thinks this game is all about grabbing a guy by the collar and slamming him face-first into the mud, that just tells me they don’t know much about rugby,” Foster said. Rugby, though very physical, is a rigorously nuanced game and it is through the mastery of those nuances that the kids have shown the most growth.

“It was certainly frustrating when we first came out here,” Foster said. “You wish you can just transfer everything you know into them, but there has been a remarkable difference in the kids from when we first started.”

The players attest to the changes themselves. Thirteen year-old Journey Fatu and fourteen year-old Erick Jarquin, both students from Mills Middle School, are playing rugby for the first time, but each has found something for himself within the game.

“We started out with 50 [players]. Now we have 28. All these kids have heart. They have something in them – potential,” said Fatu. “The first time I came out here I didn’t really like the game because I didn’t really know much about the game. But you know, I see all these kids. They are my usos – my brothers.”

“I used to play soccer and basketball, but this is my favorite sport. It gives me more self discipline,” said Jarquin. He also recently spoke before the Rancho Cordova city council on behalf of the P.A.L. program. “It wasn’t necessarily scary. I just didn’t want to say the wrong thing.”

One of the team’s youngest coaches is Tyler Farnsworth. Farnsworth graduated from Cordova High in 2009 after playing four years of rugby on the CHS team.

“Coaching is much harder. Playing, you work on your own stuff,” he said. “When I heard about this [program] I was really happy because I wish I had started younger. I would have been that much farther along.”

The details of the game might take repetition and practice, but for everyone involved, the love of the game seems immediate—and in the case of lifelong devotee Akroyd, the love is indelible.

“It’s my sport. I can’t just do nothing,” he said. “So I decided to get into reffing.” Akroyd’s three-year affiliation with the Northern California Rugby Referee Society is what introduced him to P.A.L.’s rugby program. He brings a global perspective to local rugby.

“The difference is that they (players) start earlier in Europe – in big rugby nations,” Akroyd said. “This [team] wouldn’t have happened here even three years ago.”

“It’s really taken quickly,” said Akroyd. “Rugby is just exploding, particularly here locally.”


Too much technology: the Pelicancam took movies instead of stills at Stanford and we can’t figure out how to embed a video and still fit through the narrow slots into people's mailboxes.


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