Thursday, November 24, 2011




As of December 14 (or shortly thereafter), the Pelican Referee kit will be available for sale at the SFGG Clubhouse. Jerseys $50. Canterbury Shorts (what's left) $20. Gilbert shorts (some larger sizes remain) $15. Socks $10. Touch Flags $25. Society Ties $15. Society pins $2. I think this is the best setup as most referees pass through Treasure Island at least a couple times a year. Your chance of hooking up with me for kit individually is very slim, unless you want to make you way to Mill Valley prior to the 14th, where I'll force you to buy me a pint at Mill Valley Beerworks prior to any other transactions.

John Coppinger checks in:

October was a busy rugby month, and spilled over well into November.

10/15 & 10/16

First up was the New England Exchange 10/15 & 10/16. My wife and I both have extensive family living in New England and this made a typical exchange experience impossible. Instead of an all-encompassing rugby experience, this was a family experience with two interludes of rugby.

Torrential rain was falling Friday night upon my arrival; however, the rain was gone on Saturday morning as I drove 30 minutes to the Irish Cultural Center in Canton for my Saturday match featuring the Hartford Wanders, who just stepped up into the NERFU D1 from D2, to take on the Boston Irish Wolfhounds. The Irish Cultural Center has four fields, but only one was judged to be playable. It was a little short and a tad tight and I thought that it meant I was in for a forward fest. However, the field was firm, the wind was howling making both clubs reluctant to kick the ball, and both sides played an attacking style from all over the pitch. Wolfhounds were bigger, fitter, faster, and more skilled and while Hartford was committed early, Hartford was broken by the unrelenting attack of the Wolfhounds as the Wolfhounds won going away 67-6. Don Morrison was on hand as the evaluator and we enjoyed a Guinness talking about rugby and life in the comfortable bar that is just one small part of the impressive Irish Cultural Center.

Sunday morning found me driving down to Providence to handle the Brown v Princeton match. It was a beautiful, cool day and the trees were turning fall colors. The Ivies played back-to-back matches on Saturdays and Sundays this fall in order to get through the Ivy League season. Both Brown and Princeton sustained critical injuries on Saturday depriving them of important players; however, while Brown had played at home on Saturday, Princeton had to travel to Hanover to face Dartmouth, the league power. From the start, Brown attacked aggressively and Princeton was sluggish and committed silly penalties. Brown led at the half 19-0. Second half was very different as Brown went into a funk, while Princeton began to string together phrases of play and was able to score two tries and a conversion. Princeton was on the attack most of the final 15 minutes; however, Princeton’s front row was no match for Brown and any scrum became Brown possession and Brown hung on to win 19-12. Peter Watson was on hand to evaluate and we talked about the match for about 30 minutes and I left for Logan Airport and the long flight home.

Both Don and Peter were great to talk to about my matches and I took way a great deal from both gentlemen. The NERRS folks were welcoming and seemed disappointed they couldn’t do more for me in terms of hosting. My thanks to the Society for the opportunity.


My son, Jack, is a freshman at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and Parents’ Weekend at Whitman this fall was the weekend of 10/21-10/23. In early August I sent an email to DJ Heffernan, the president of the PNRRS, volunteering to do the Whitman game over Parents’ Weekend. Impressed by my credentials no doubt (or more likely stunned that anyone would actually volunteer to go to Walla Walla to referee rugby), DJ gave me the job.

The rugby pitch at Whitman is Ankeny Field, which is located in the central quad of the college surrounded by dorms and other college buildings, all red brick. Just like the week before in New England, the trees were changing colors and it was a beautiful sight.

As I warmed up, the Whitman Women were playing the Lewis & Clark Women. Apparently, a couple of rookies scored for Whitman because immediately after the match, two Whitman players took off on a Zulu run cheered on by both clubs.

Whitman Men played Seattle U. Seattle U. was a bit bigger and faster and had a couple of Islander kids who knew the game. It was a scrappy match with lots of management to avoid what could have been a penalty fest. Seattle dominated early, but Whitman came back late to score a 50 meter try on a quick throw-in that caught Seattle napping and made the score 21-19 in favor of Seattle with about 5 minutes left. After the kick-off, Seattle successfully counter-rucked and stole the ball to stop a Whitman threat, spun the ball wide, and scored the unconverted try in the corner to make the final 26-19 in favor of Seattle. It was not the best rugby, but the players seemed to enjoy the match and they all headed off to Whitman’s off-campus clubhouse for cookies and milk. Jack, my son (who plays baseball, not rugby), later told me that the Whitman players said I didn’t suck. I guess this means I can invite myself back next year.


Next up was the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara Mexico where I was appointed as the IRB’s Citing Commissioner. Also appointed were Brian Zapp of Colorado and Bryan Arciero of Canada, both as referees, Alan Hudson of Canada as the Judicial Officer, and Jim Russell, as the Appellate Officer. (Bryan prepared for this appointment by working the Pac 12 event at Stanford the week before.)

After a sprint to get the venue constructed, organized, and functioning, the event came off spectacularly and it was a great achievement for the Pan Am Games Organizers and the Mexican Rugby Union.

As for the rugby, Canada and Argentina were the class of the teams, with the USA just behind, but well above the rest, the tie with Brazil notwithstanding.

Old Guadalajara is a beautiful and inviting place and the people could not have been nicer, but I only wish my Spanish could have been better (i.e., existent).


St. Mary’s College put on an impressive show this past Saturday fielding four sides against opponents from Santa Rosa JC and UCSB.

I handled SMC Thirds against UCSB Seconds. Lots of rookies, lots of kids making the transition from football to rugby, lots of penalties (but not as many as there could have been) and a couple or three yellow cards for silliness, but everyone seemed to have had a good time. Both teams wanted to play fast and furiously, but as I told the coaches after the match, their ambition did not match their current rugby skill sets and rugby IQs. Score: SMC 38 – UCSB 19.

Phil Akroyd came down sick and George O’Neil stepped in for Phil in the SMC Seconds vs, UCSB Academy match. I am glad he did. SMC put up somewhere around 100 points on UCSB and I was dying running AR for George after my match. The Fourth side was reffed by Evan, a student at SMC.



Stanford 22 – MARITIME ACADEMY 29 Referee: Stephen Moore
Stanford was outplayed by Maritime forwards.

Seconds: STANFORD 34 – Maritime Academy 10 Referee: Jordan Bruno
The reserve side match kicked off on a rainy evening in Palo Alto. The intensity of the first side match carried over to the second side players, who started the match with a bang. Stanford had the leg up on experience and structure in phase play while the Maritime side had the edge in the set pieces, outweighing the Stanford side and doing a fair bit of bullying in the forwards. Stanford played with a man down after the first 20 minutes due to a dangerous spear tackle, but still managed to stay on the offensive, slotting over a couple of early tries. Until half, Maritime unsuccessfully made breaks downfield. With little support to offload, these turned into easy Stanford turnovers. Realizing their forward dominance, Maritime regrouped after the half and focused on rolling mauls and forwards picks, giving them a couple of unconverted tries and narrowing Stanford's lead. Stanford's backs proved too speedy and scored a few more tries before the end of the match, giving their side an easy win.

STANFORD women 82 – UC Santa Cruz 10 Referee: Dan Wilson
AR: Mike King
Driving North on a Friday night from the Central Valley, I planned ahead “just in case” I ran into the fun Bay Area traffic. Not only did I hit that traffic, but the weatherman lied and it rained. Thankfully, with my destination being a rugby pitch, nothing can take away the luster of the night. When I arrived, I realized that the Stanford Men’s B-side game was getting under way late allowing me to take my time in warming up.

I did notice that the two women’s teams getting ready were Stanford Women’s (check) and Cal Maritime Women’s...wait, it was supposed to be UCSC. Maybe, I thought, I had the A and B side opponents mixed up. Either way, I had the A game. As soon as I ran into the B-side referee Mike King, who luckily had arrived early, I was informed that UCSC had forfeited and Stanford was only hosting one game. Two referees and one game = someone not refereeing. Let me put out up front a large Thank You to Mike for allowing me to referee the game and being my helpful AR for the night.

Stanford decided to play a combination of it’s A’s and B’s...well, at least that is that they stated up front. At the kickoff of the first of three 30-minute periods, it was evident that Stanford’s strategy was to play the A side first and the B side afterwards. The first period was a track meet, with Stanford scoring as quickly as two minutes apart many times. Their largest obstacles were their own simple errors and the accuracy of their kicker. To end the suspense, the first period ended with Stanford leading 66-0.

The second and third periods were much closer. Stanford had almost a completely different team on the pitch and Cal Maritime changed their front rows. Both of these changes allowed the last two periods to be more of a rugby game and not a track meet. Stanford won these two periods as well with three tries scored, but Cal Maritime did score its lone try in the corner by the winger with 3 minutes left in the game. The jubilation by the Cal Maritime Women which resulted cannot be accurately described but that one try seemed to make the night's game worth their efforts.

Final Score: Stanford 82-10. More accurately: Stanford Women A’s 66 – 0 Cal Maritime Women & Stanford Women B’s 15 – 5 Cal Maritime Women.


Chico Holiday Classic
Pleasant Valley High School
Report by Ray Schwartz

24 matches played by 12 sides, 4 women, 4 college men, 4 men's clubs. Three smallish fields. Nice crowd. Tournament Director Mitch Jagoe reported he had to turn sides away. Games were all 40 minutes long, scores were not kept, no trophies awarded. Lots of preseason action for the rookies. Good to sharpen the skills of the refs as well. Sunny and almost warm to start, but then cloudy, a bit windy and then downright chilly to end the day.

I had hoped to referee coach, but only grizzled veterans who wouldn't take my input came to ref. Just kidding! But less than 24 hours before the opening kick off disaster struck, in Reno, and in San Jose.

Reno, literally declared a state of emergency with some 32 homes destroyed (Jerry Winter was lucky to make it through!), which meant no Lee Salgado or Phil Ulibarri, both public servants pressed into duty. And from San Jose, James Hinkin reported in with regrets, feeling sick and getting worse. Busy with my own end-of-the-week stuff, I could do no scrambling to recruit others, called to let Mitch release one hotel room, and I headed up expecting to run rather than write.

Mark Godfrey and Jeff Richmond helped with the other first matches, then Rich Boyer and JC Van Staden arrived and we just keep reffing... My first games were the university sides, Chico rolling over a very competitive UoP, San Francisco State then gave UNR a run. Lots of talented athletes on display, lots of rookies getting their first taste. UoP and SF St where both better than I had expected. With more depth and time together, they both may enjoy some success this season.

I then drew Vacaville vs. Shasta. A very dominant display by Vacaville, as they seemed to fire on all cylinders, whereas Shasta looked like a Chevy Vega w/ a blown cylinder head. Still, they fought to the end and scored one to Vacaville's ten. Phil Ulibarri then showed up; he was released from his duties only early Saturday. I finally took a break, saw some old friends, and got a surprise hug from Olo Fifita, who had arrived to watch a cousin play.

One last game, Chico vs San Jose Seahawks on the main pitch. A bit of a pressure cooker. Nice to see a couple of UC Davis ruggers I had coached (Dan Nagle and Brandon Taylor) playing for the Hawks. Lots of big hits and gutsy passes. Not a lot of structure to the game. Several unplayable piles. Didn't seem to matter what I called, the other team was gonna be unhappy. Even when I didn't make a call (correctly) someone was unhappy. The two sides had come tied 3 to 3 with 8 minutes left when the match ended abruptly.

At another rough tackle (in front of the thick of the crowd) with bodies flying everywhere, I observed the Chico center, try scorer, and arguably the best player on the field at the entire tournament, Austin Ernest, was rolling on his back, screaming and pointing to his boot. He had a brutal dislocated ankle. The seas parted, as I blew my whistle and came upon him. Unbelievable as he quickly calmed, and didn't pass out. The medic was right there, we called the game, his boot and sock was cut off, emergency services were on the scene soon enough, and poor Austin went off with his girlfriend to the hospital. Let's hope he recovers to run again. He was a bull!

JC and Rich headed home, as Jeff, Mark and I found our way to the Bear. The Celebration Ale... delicious. Not sure why Chico doesn't have a few refs of their own. They are going to need them, as a first ever Youth match was featured at Noon on the main pitch. Get a carload to the next ref clinic Mitch!

SF/Golden Gate 19 – SAN MATEO 34 Referee: Pete Smith
ARs: Mike Gadoua, Tom Zanarini
Your reporter arrived with five minutes left in the match. It was tied.

Having just refereed a game with 55 points in it and cultivating his thirst, he hoped perhaps the match would conclude with a common score.

[When a referee has a game that ends in the tie it is not good. Obviously, the point of all this activity is to score points and to win the game.

[So, when nobody wins the game the referee has failed to serve our Holy of Holies, the Object of the Game. The referee is then obliged to assuage the disappointment of all fellow blowers who witnessed this failure, and this is traditionally done at the nearest elbow-bending facility.]

But five minutes was plenty of time for a San Mateo side to run in three tries against a substitution-depleted SFGG, so it wasn’t even close. (The score is a guess. Someone thought the game had been 19-all prior to the late scores.)

Seconds: SF/Golden Gate 19 – SAN MATEO 42 Referee: Tom Zanarini
ARs: Mike Gadoua, Dave Newport
Miles: 3.75 (plus 2 miles as AR for the A match)
A pleasant early afternoon turned into a cold day as the B sides took the field. Many substitutes from the A match filled in, which was played with typical pre-season precision. San Mateo just seemed to have the finishing touch on the day for both matches. Special thanks to Mike Gadoua for car-pooling.

Diablo Gaels – Vallejo Referee: Unknown

St. MARY’S 46 – UC Santa Barbara 5 Referee: Aruna Ranaweera
Under soggy conditions, 2011 CPD quarter-finalist SMC met 2011 DI finalist UCSB in a preseason match in which the opposing captains were brothers.

Scrums were well-contested and the ball was moved around a lot in open play, but overall execution was indicative of a preseason encounter. SMC lead 15-5 at the break.

In the second half, SMC played occasional pick-and-go rugby but for the most part attempted to play 15-man sevens until they found a gap. UCSB tackled with commitment but squandered the little possession they got.

ST. MARY’S JV 99– Santa Barbara Academy 0 Referee: George O’Neil

ST. MARY’S thirds 38 – UC Santa Barbara seconds 19 Referee: John Coppinger
See the report in John’s October diary, above.

St. Mary’s fourths 5 – SANTA ROSA JC 39 Referee: Evan Schlinkert
(Evan is a student at SMC who is a fledgling Pelican. We’ll be seeing him at the December 4 Level One Officiating course at Campolindo.)

CALIFORNIA women 55 – UC Santa Barbara 0 Referee: Bruce Carter
ARs: Rod Chance, Robert Monforte
Witter Field on the Cal campus hosted this pre-season friendly.

The UCSB men played less than eight miles away and suffered nearly as bad a defeat.

With construction still underway of the Cal football facility, temporary offices for the athletic department take up the areas where spectators used to watch rugby games. The field is now artificial grass, which surface the football team needs for practices. But the dual scoreboards at least still announce it as the Witter Rugby Field.

It is a bit disconcerting to see a gridiron laid out on the hallowed turf in Strawberry Canyon, albeit with blue rugby lines superimposed.

The Cal women look to have a good season ahead of them. They were dominant from the front row through to the outside backs, and when Santa Barbara subbed in rookie front rows Cal
proved adept at dialing it back just enough to keep the scrums safe, which keeps the referee happy, while still dominating their opponents.

Of particular note was the quality of ball-handling and inter-passing when in open play: it was essentially flawless.

Cal Captain and #8 Jennifer Sever scored three tries and kicked as many conversions. She had one held up in-goal but then scored from the ensuing scrum.

There were some problems with lying near the ball after losing the counter-ruck and ‘hatching’ squeeze ball instead of properly laying it back, but Cal Coach Ellen Owens wanted to know about these penalty patterns afterwards and even took notes.

UCSB had some handy players, in particular #6 and #12, but couldn’t make their combinations work.

Cal/UC Santa Barbara combined Bs 0 – USF 66 Referee: John Pohlman
AR's: Paul Berman and Jennifer from Cal who is soon to be an official Pelican
Wittier Field at Cal is alive. The Cal. women hosted UCSB and USF at the field this weekend.

This has been my third time seeing USF this fall. They are being coached by Kathy Flores. Each time I am impressed with how much USF has improved.

The USF players are coached to step over the ball to gain possession. For example a tackler will get up and stand over the ball rather than try and poach it. Or at counter ruck the player will stop when you get over the ball. This led to loads of turnover in USF's favor.

Prior to the game I introduced myself to the USF captain Jess and asked center Sally, she had played wing and fullback before, how many trys she had in her today. The previous games she had scored three each. She just smiled and did not answer. A humble back, go figure.

Sally may be the best runner I have seen in woman's rugby. Great balance, pace and vision. USF scored 5 try s in the first half and another seven in the second half.

After the game a USF player who had overheard our conversation came up and said, "Ref I think she scored seven today."

Yes Sally had scored three in the first half at center. The coach moved her to scrum-half for the second half which led to another 4 trys.

It will be interesting to see how this team progresses throughout the season. And of course in a year of so if Sally stays healthy can work her way onto the Eagles.=

UC Davis 12 – CAL POLY 29 Referee: Paul Bretz
AR: Anthony Nguyen

Seconds: UC Davis 10 – CAL POLY 22 Referee: Jordan Bruno
The weather broke as UCD hosted Cal Poly in a hard hitting second side match that saw well matched phase play in the forwards and backs. Both teams remained evenly matched in the forwards for the first 20 minutes of play with the score tied 0-0. The Poly backline was much more physical and experienced, producing easy ball for their scrum half and allowing their backline to advance upfield in swift counterattacks. This allowed a few scoring chances for the Poly 2nd side which they capitalized on before half. UCD remained on the back heel for much of the second half, holding the Poly offense within their half while showcasing their gritty defense. UCD had a few breaks upfield by the forwards and backs, but lacked the support and organization to provide fluidity in phases. Overall, a clean, well-played match on both sides. A more structured Poly side gave them the easy win.

SAN FRANCISCO FOG 65 – LA Rebellion 5 Referee: Tony Levitan
Having sent my match scoresheet through the washing machine already, I'll be working on this report without a net. In the first match of a gathering of gay men's teams from SF, LA and San Diego, the Fog ran the Rebellion all over the pitch, running in 11 tries to 1. The match was actually contested much more closely than the score would indicate but the Fog's scrum dominance and talent in the backline was too much for the Rebellion who had a few too many inexperienced players attempting to shore up their defenses.

Favorite moment of the match was a light one: Ball thrown in from line out was off line so I blew my whistle and announced "Not straight." One of the players retorted, "What is that, commentary?" I'm sure he's used that line before, but it was a new one for me ...

SF Fog B 12 – SAN DIEGO ARMADA 34 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
This was played under grey winter skies on the lumpy but comfortable Fog TI field with great spirit and good cheer. The Fog made an initial tactical error of inquiring whether I had played with Mr. Ellis back in my salad days-but assuaged the slightest of hurt feelings with a boffo post match rum punch cocktail and including me in the team picture.

10-5 for the guests at half; Fog takes the lead early in the second half, but then a bit of a deluge of points. But the Fog win the mini B match. I was very sorry to miss the Occupy The DNA Lounge movement post match. New refs: these guys give a great drink up.

Mini-tourney at old Fort Ord:
Cal State-Monterey Bay 10 – SAN JOSE STATE seconds 12 Referee: Mike King

SAN JOSE STATE 29 – Aptos 10 Ref: King
Sunny day. Pitch on the small size. Good hard hitting and spirited play. Aptos valiantly answered the call, playing 2 matches in a row. They faced the buzzsaw of SJ State, soon after finishing their first match against UC Santa Cruz. San Jose fielded 2 full sides and seems ready to fare very well this season. Cal State Monterey Bay made a fine showing for a new club with many players new to the game.

Aptos – UC Santa Cruz Referee: Bruce Ricard
No report received.

CSUMB – UC Santa Cruz Ref: Ricard
No report received.

UC Davis women's round-robin

UC DAVIS 33 – UC Santa Cruz 5 Referee: Jordan Bruno
A crisp fall morning on UCD’s Russell Field allowed the UCD women’s side to display their clinical backline play and solid defense as they battled a motley crew from Santa Cruz in the first morning matchup. UC Davis provided easy ball with great rucking, allowing a mismatched UCD backline to outpace the Santa Cruz offense. UCD scrums were solid and produced good set pieces for the backs to gain ground. UCD forwards handled their opponents easily in defense and at the breakdown. UCD’s lock and kicker had a great boot on the day, converting all but one kick in the match.

UCSC 21 – Fresno State Ref: Bruno
In the final match on the day, Santa Cruz matched up well with Fresno. Forwards worked hard throughout the match, scrimmaging 15 times easily per half due to knock-ons and held up mauls. As the match continued, the backs were used less and the match evolved into a series of rolling mauls and pick and goes from the ruck. Fresno’s side saw streaks of brilliance but with little support to capitalize. Santa Cruz’s side communicated better and moved as more of a structured unit, allowing them to score as the backline broke through the Fresno defense. A close match to the very end, UCSC outplayed their opponents with more cohesive play in the backs.

There were some more games refereed by Rich Boyer, but no reports have been received.


Rushden & Higham 10 – RUGBY SAINT ANDREWS 38 Referee: Preston Gordon
League match in Midlands 3 East (South), which I believe is RFU level 8.

Since I was going to be in England with rugby on the brain this past weekend, after going to the Northampton Saints-Llanelli Scarlets match on Friday, I got in touch with our friends in the East Mids society and offered my services if they needed me. As it turns out, they did, and gave me this appointment in Rushden. Coincidentally, this is where I stayed when on exchange here in 2008, and one of the first people I saw when I turned up at 1245 was Duncan Clayton, my host 3 years ago. I had brought him a framed photo of him with that year's exchange crew at a Northants pub after the 2 games at Moulton College, so we had a happy moment before I headed inside to the referees changing room to get down to business.

Kickoff was set for 1415, and the pre-match stuff was well out of the way in plenty of time before that. St. Andrews were a few places higher in the league table, and had had a better string of recent results, and so I was not too surprised when they dotted down a try in the opening minute. The conversion followed, as did 10 more minutes of them holding possession and moving the ball upfield using their forwards to maul effectively. Another try followed at the ten-minute mark, unconverted, leaving them ahead at 12-0. At this point Rushden began to get into the game themselves, using their speedy wings and fullback in attack. The game seesawed back and forth for the next 25 minutes with few penalties and just a few more stoppages. Rushden let a certain try go begging when one of their number hacked on a loose ball and their wing knocked the ball on about a meter from the line after running well clear of his opponent. St. Andrews were the ones who finished the scoring in the half though, with another converted try at the 35' mark, so at the break it was 19-0 to the visitors.

The second half was much the same. Rushden opened the scoring with a 22m penalty goal in the 3rd minute, but again St. Andrews was dominant. The handful of substitutions on each side didn't make much difference, although one of the tries for each side was more of a result of the defense caught napping than creativity in attack. St. Andrews converted 2 of their 3 tries, and Rushden converted their only one, leaving the final score at 38-10.

Refereeing outside your own local area is always a pleasure, especially here. I would like to thank the East Mids referees for the opportunity to get a game in, and I was happy to find that this level of match, which challenged me when I last reffed here 3 years ago, was well within my capabilities this time. And it's always nice to hear both sides tell you "great job" afterwards. Unfortunately I probably won't get to referee again in England, due to other commitments, but I may get another 80 minutes with the whistle in while in France or Germany in December. We shall see!


He should have taken up with the oval ball:

SantaBarbra vs CalWomen
At Witter Field:

Rod Chance, John Pohlman, Bruce Carter, Robert Monforte


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris