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FRIDAY-Saturday, October 12-13
Fiji Day Sevens on Mare Island in Vallejo – two refs so far, need several more
Saturday, Oct. 13
Three-team round-robin at UOP from 10 – 2. Need one more ref.
SUNDAY, Oct. 14
3PM – Stanford Grad/Biz school hosting McGeorge
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17
4:30 – 7:30 PM at Stanford – Sevens, probably seven games
Saturday, Oct. 20
Donkeyfest in Ukiah
Men’s Slugfest at UC Santa Cruz
SUNDAY, Oct. 21
Stanford-Cal women's sevens - six games or so
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24
6:30 PM – Stanford Grad/Biz school hosting EPA Razorbacks
Saturday, Nov. 4
Mittry Memorial Tournament in Redding – we’ll be taking the Pelicanmobile on the long trip from Salinas. Anyone want a ride?
SUNDAY, Nov. 5
4 PM – California Maritime Academy alumni game
Saturday, Nov. 17
NCRRS AGM at Golden Gate clubhouse on Treasure Island.
SACRAMENTO AMAZONS 33 – All Blues 29 Referee: Lee Salgado
20th Annual Chico State Alumni Weekend
Refs: Ray Schwartz, Bo Kaihu, Mark Godfrey
Report by Ray
Two matches plus were played; a brilliant, sunny day; pitch in great shape; nice, festive crowd, w/ lots of friends and love to go around.
Bo reffed (4) 20 minute periods that saw the Alumni women thump the undergrads 10 tries to nil. Amazingly dominant stuff. The undergrads rarely enjoyed possession, and then rarely retained it when they did get their hands on it. Late in the game they finally crossed into the attacking 22 for just the 2nd time. But were never a threat. The alumni had fierce, skillful attackers at most every position, and subbed in studly players too. Near the end, Mary T. struck a sweet drop goal from the 22 in the flow of play. Eagle Nai Reddick was one of many outstanding alum on the day.
Bo is going to be a decent ref, and he certainly enjoyed this run... but lots to work on. Alex and Mary are coaching the college side again. They've got lots of work ahead of them!
Ray then reffed the 1st four of (5) 20 minutes periods on the men's side, with Bo reffing the last 20. This game was very different, a fierce match from the start, hard and fast on both sides of the ball, with the undergrads taking the lead 14-10 early in the 2nd period, and extending it to 28-10 by the end of the 3rd.
The alumni were grousing. This was not how the alumni game's scripted to go. I asked if I should penalize the youngsters for break away runs? But as the rookies cleared the bench for the college, the vets smelled blood and came on strong to finish w/ 4 unanswered tries and a victory, closing out the 4th period ahead 34-28. Mitch Jagoe's son was a three-try scorer, turning in a man of the match performance.
Mitch now is coaching the youth, the high school side to be coached by Beau McSwain, while Jeff McCreedy and Danny Lacko are coaching the college men. Finally, youth and high school rugby in Chico!
Great to have AR Mark join us, and great to have been able to offer a team of three refs all day long. We were nicely rewarded as the party rolled over the world famous Madison Bear Garden for pitchers of fresh Sierra and Bear Burgers. I have to say, with all sincerity, I am reminded how good the guys and girls have it there in Chico.
Not 100% sure this is the pinnacle, but cannot imagine there is a healthier mix of men's and women's rugby anywhere in America. To see so many good looking, athletic girls hanging with the equally fit guys... it is rare! Truly a treasure and every one of them seemed to know it, and revel in it! This was at least my 4th Alumni Day reffing at Chico, and I look forward to more!
Humboldt State 5 –ALUMNI 35 Referee: Sean Peters
Stanford men – ALUMNI Referee: Bruce Ricard
A first game between the men alumni (in red) and the current students (in white). The alumni hooker was too big to fit in the red jerseys, so he took a white one. The game started with me wondering why someone was always offside and pushing the rucks the wrong way, before realizing that he definitely couldn't be a student. The alumni were dominating the first half, scoring several tries, before the students score their first points by a try on the line, at a ruck, by their scrum half. The second half was pretty much the same. At the last minute of game, the alumni get a turnover ball at a ruck in their 22, and start running forward. The ball is beautifully passed from a back to another, which finally ends in the hands of a winger, who gets tackled 5m from the Grail, but who manages to pass the ball to... his prop ! who followed the whole action, and scores a try after a 80m run. The alumni won the game by about 8 tries to 1.
Stanford women – ALUMNAE Ref: Ricard
A second game in three thirds of 15 minutes happened next between the women alumni and the students. Again, I am amazed how women are able to keep the rucks up and stable. They must have some powerful balance gene that men don't have. In the first third the alumni crushed the students. They shuffled the teams to try to have a more fair contest, which worked because no points were scored in the second third. They did another shuffle before the last third, which was again very balanced. There is not really any score because of the shuffle, but the students know for sure that they still have a lot to learn.
Sunday, October 7
BERKELEY 48 - New York 0 Ref: Phil Akroyd
ARs: Stephen Valerio & Giles Wilson
An 8am kick-off on Sunday morning at a foggy Mare Island. I was only partially joking when I asked the home team if there was a way to switch on the flood lights before we started.
One of those games where the play was actually closer than the score suggests. Having said that, New York barely even troubled the Berkeley try line at any point during the game.
Berkeley are a pretty complete team with strength in depth and key players in key positions. Their two flankers ruled the breakdown throughout, and like you would expect from well coached Eagles, they were frequently on the wrong side of the law... and they knew it. Special mention for the home team's inside center who blew through the opposition back on many a crash ball.
New York had especially poor delivery and distribution all day. Their scrums were often going backward with possession, and the half-back had trouble delivering a decent pass to her colleague.
Sunday, September 30
NORCAL TRIPLE THREAT 43 – Emerald City Mudhens 42 Referee: Tony Levitan
What an engaging 15s match with which to being the latter 2012 campaign, a total see-saw event that ended with the visiting Mudhens being pushed out of bounds threatening the NorCal line ...
A magnificent day in Corte Madera started a bit sketchy when this ref pulled up to the pitch an hour before kickoff only to find two squads and no pitch. The nomadic Triple Threat were relying on the Marin Reds to set up the pitch in a new park where, apparently the Reds hope to play this season. While off to a limping start on their field set-up duties, the Reds pulled their effort together under the able leadership of Whitney Blake and had the pitch ready to go only 30 minutes after the scheduled 11am kick-off.
A running affair from the opening whistle, NorCal scored a converted try before the first minute was up, and then proceeded to dot down 3 more times to the Mudhens' 1 converted try for a 26-7 halftime lead.
Apparently either the home side thought they could set things to cruise control or the downhill grade benefiting the Mudhens in the second half truly kicked in as Emerald City unleashed barrage after barrage, using 3 unanswered converted trys to take a 28-26 lead a mere 11 minutes into the second half. The match saw strong set play and dynamic efforts to remain active in the loose with plentiful quickly recycled ball from both sides and long breakaway runs. Shaken from their stupor, NorCal answered with 2 converted tries to retake the lead 40-28 before the Mudhens added another converted try (40-35) to once again pull within striking difference.
The match proved to hinge on a NorCal penalty kick from just outside the 22 with just under 7 minutes remaining, awarded after the Mudhens were again offside at the ruck (a repeated offense which also came with a team warning for an impending yellow should the Mudhens infringe again), 43-35. Undaunted, the Mudhens tried to wrest control of the match with a furious display of determined running, dotting down with 4:30 remaining (43-42). The final play was to be at a scrum between the halfway and the Mudhens 22, but hard running and repeated penalties against NorCal found the teams still battling some 2 minutes later, only to have the Mudhens winger pushed into touch a scant 5 yards from the NorCal line to end the match.
The high-quality of play, wide-open offense which saw 12 tries, strong tackling and rapid recycle of the ball made for an entertaining 80+ minutes. Of note for a women's match managed by this ref was the outstanding kicking by both squads which collectively converted 11 of the 12 tries and the one penalty kick attempted.
EAST MIDS EXCHANGE
Two reports follow. Read ‘em and weep. If you haven’t been yet, set your sights on two years from now and do some referee hosting in the meantime.
9/20: We (James Hinkin, girlfriend Emily and Jordan Bruno) took the ten hour flight to London and were collected by Richard Parrish and John G. The flight is very manageable considering Virgin Atlantic provides up to 60 movies (free) from which to choose. We were treated to tea after the 75 minute drive to Bedford. Afterwards we went to the local pub where four referees were strategizing about onboarding new referees. Hand pulled ales made the setting all the more better.
9/21: We awoke to eggs and bacon (actually ham), with tea. Richard Parrish's wife Jill is a great cook. After breakfast Trevor McCarthy took us all, including the Parrishes, through Bedford's major park; through the narrow streets to his former high school, to a few churches, including St. Peter de Merton with it's 1,000 year old Norman arches, and along the Ouse River, which housed two crew rowing clubs.
We then walked to the Bedford Blues pitch. Last year the Blues lost out to London Welsh, who were promoted to the Aviva Premiership this year. We met Mike Rayer, former Welsh international fullback and Blues director. We drank pints of Red Stripe while taking in the beautiful pitch, which had a 9 degree slope.
After that Trevor took us to a church that housed information on John Bunyan (no relation to Paul), a 17th century travelling handyman turned preacher. He wrote allegories which were subsequently translated into 150 languages and purportedly remain popular to this day. We also walked through Bedford School (high school), where we would later ref. It is a beautiful school with 8 pitches, a 1500s church, and an administration building that looks like a palace.
We then proceeded to a play after a fantastic dinner. The play re-enacted various parts of Monty Python shows and was quite funny. British humor. They closed with a scene and song from Life of Brian, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
9/22: I arose at 7:00 for ham and eggs (and tea). I find it difficult to travel East, and had two consecutive nights with 4 hours sleep. Watched an ITM Cup game, then put on my number ones and Richard deposited me at Ampthill, about 25 minutes outside Bedford. There I was escorted to a large referee changing room where I met Maurice Skermer, my evaluator. He departed after we made friendly conversation and the Ampthill President, Dave Williams, then entered to share with me Ampthill's club history and how Americans from the nearby air base would join the club and play.
I then went outside and addressed both teams, spoke with captains, who delegated AR duty, and subsequently was asked for water breaks every 20 minutes since "it was so hot". The temperature was perhaps 70 degrees and the pitch was in perfect condition with the 2 story clubhouse along one side....We then began the match. Ampthill were an older club with players up to 45 years old, and Milton Keynes were the younger club. Ampthill were relentless with their forward play while Keynes would swing the ball wide at every opportunity.
I found that the players worked out scrums and lineouts (numbers and spacing) so that my part during these stages was very easy. Every tackler tackled a little lower than chest high and went for the ball. Consequently many rolling mauls ensued. The Ampthill forwards offloaded magnificently in tackles while Keynes backs threw long passes and made incisive running lines. Keynes ended up winning 28-15.
I then went back to the (locked) ref changing room where I was let in by the barkeep from upstairs, who presented me with the club tie and a momento pint glass (empty...). Inside the room I was greeted with a tray containing tea, lemonade, biscuits and a Kit Kat bar (but no water, which seemed to be in short supply everywhere I traveled).
I used the referee shower, put on #1s, then went to the party upstairs. It's really cool in England rugby clubhouses in that players offer the ref a drink at every opportunity. This clubhouse puts every clubhouse I have been in to shame. Multiple rooms, large bar with at least 8 different beer options, food, and various club memorabilia including decades' worth of team photos and hardware/plaques.
A quick point: talk about a small world. The players informed me two Americans were upstairs viewing our game. I met the husband and wife and it turns out the husband is Mike Purcell's (former Eagle wing) cousin. They were in England for their honeymoon, didn't know much about rugby, but decided to attend the match. The locals showered the lady with many momentos (and beer).
Paul Dannett then collected me and drove me to the Bedford Ath (short for Athletic Club), Richard Parrish's haunt. I met up with James, Richard and a few well oiled others. We were provided pint after pint after pint. We then walked home singing songs for a late dinner provided by Jill.
9/23: I finally had a sound sleep and awoke to eggs and ham and tea. I had an 11:00 game at Bedford Ath, where the U-15s were playing. Bedford vs. Dunstable. Bedford won going away 28-5. The crowd was delightful (no soccer moms...) and the coaches were respectful and quiet. After showering I was treated to a lunch cooked in the kitchen, numerous pints of beer, and great conversation. The Bedford Ath has four pitches, games played concurrently. But what a sight to see! All the age grade kids afterwards dressed in their number ones taking in the club atmosphere. I awarded the two captains keychains in the shape of California. Their eyes lit up and they were thankful.
Up until this point it had not rained. But once in the clubhouse the famous rain began to fall. After some time we drove back home where Jill treated us to a proper English Sunday roast complemented with JC Van Staden's finest red wine, followed by nightcaps of Benedictine.
9/24: We awoke to more rain and reports of floods in nearby counties. After another fantastic breakfast we departed for the town of Rugby. What a sight to behold! Beautiful pitches, and a school built in the early 1800s. We were met by Guy Steelebodger, former Northampton hooker and captain, now an economics professor at Rugby school. Interestingly enough, the school does NOT place an emphasis on rugby, nor on rugby academies. It formerly consisted of 600+ males but was integrated some time ago and counts 400 females and 400 males as its students. Some board at Rugby while others commute.
After a quick school tour we drove to Rugby Museum, where, California Bald Eagles players may be interested, a Bald Eagles pin is proudly displayed in a glass case. The museum was much smaller than anticipated, but it nicely outlined the history of rugby, from original pigs' bladder balls, more akin to medicine balls than the ball of today, through the world wars, to rugby league.
After a quick tea time we then drove to Warwick Castle where we took a dungeon tour. It was pretty creepy to experience (nearly firsthand!) the dungeon conditions and instruments of torture used on the dungeon inhabitants.
We then drove to Olney, location for the refs meeting. But we arrived early, so we had the best fish and chips to date. Then on to the society meeting where many gents were keen to introduce themselves and speak of their time in California. Max Barnard and Richard Parrish presented a fine power point presentation outlining their March visit. James, Jordan and I briefly touched on our perceived differences between American rugby and English rugby, then James presented Colin, president of the society, a pelican carved from a golf club driver. We then retired to the bar, where I met Max's father Stuart who impressed me with a story when he began reffing. He was assigned a Vets (Old Boys) v. prisoners (Villains) game. The Villains had 13 prisoners and two wardens. Stuart said the Villains hooker had the fastest feet he had ever seen, so fast in fact he thought the hooker was wearing shinguards. So at the beginning of a scrum Stuart kicked his shins, hard, to determine if said shinguards were present (they weren't). The hooker crumpled, his mates began laughing, Stuart turned away only to find the hooker coldcocked two of his fellow mates for laughing and was chasing after a third. Stuart asked the hooker afterward what he was imprisoned for. "Four murders, for life" was the response.....
9/25: We awoke to no rain. I took a quick walk through town to replenish supplies, then off the Bedford School, where three schoolboys provided a quick school tour. We were then treated to a very good lunch in the dining commons one hour prior to the game.
I refereed Bedford IIs (effectively the Bedford Varsity Silver side) v. Tonbridge, a rival school. Trevor volunteered to run touch but the other side remained without an AR. The forwards showed a little better technique than our high school forwards on lineouts and mauls, but back play was similar to ours. Despite being penalized more frequently, Tonbridge eventually asserted their dominance and won 45-0.
Jordan and Jame's games ran concurrently with mine, so that after we showered we all entered into the HeadMaster's "suite" on the second floor. This "suite" was 60 feet by 20, with wall memorials to all Bedfordian School boys who lost their lives in the wars. Eight comfortable leather couches were in the suite, with beautiful, ancient, huge oak tables. Just outside the "suite" was the obligatory bar as well as glass cases with war trinkets/memoirs/paintings. We had a few beers, ate from the foodline, discussed the game with all coaches, then departed. We treated the Parrishes to a nice meal at a pub.
9/26: We awoke early for a 60 minute trainride to London to meet up with Max Barnard, who would serve as our tour guide/comedian for the day. We visited the British Museum, which was fascinating, then Buckingham Palace in rain. We dined in Covent Garden (fantastic Cornish Pasty), then toured Westminster Abbey, which is in my opinion a must. We had a few pints at a local pub, then took the train back home.
9/27: Richard delivered us to Steve Wormersley's in Huntingdon, where Andy Croson was already waiting. They both drove us to Cambridge whereupon Steve acted as our tour guide. Cambridge is comprised of 15-20 colleges abutting cobblestone paths on which rode numerous bicyclists. Most buildings were built in the 15th century. We saw the likes of Kings' College and Trinity College. Upon passing through the beautiful arches the remainder of each college was visible. The grounds were meticulously kept, with large grass quads and flowers about the perimeter. We had a great lunch at a pub, toured Wren Library, which houses the oldest know music scroll dating back to 1420 along with writings from the 1400s, including Sir Isaac Newton's (1600s). Andy then negotiated a great price for punting, that is, taking a flatbottom boat on the river Cam, propelling it by pole a la the gondoliers in Venice. The river Cam provided riveting views of more colleges and was also the sight for many hilarious moments as tourists attempted to guide the punts along the river.
Afterward we retired to Stamford, Andy's home town, where we had fantastic fish and chips and then a good old English pub crawl. We were met by Andy Malpass. Fifteen pubs in three hours. Fifteen different beers.
9/28: Morning came much too quickly. We met up with Bruce Benyon at a great outdoor market serving fabulous food. We drove to Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's "home". The palace grounds sit on hundreds of acres, and the palace is truly a palace. At this point in our stay it was kind of like "ho hum, another beautiful, old palace". Bruce then drove us to the tiny hamlet of Hook-Norton, where he gave us a tour of the brewery at which he works. We then drove an hour to meet up with the ubiquitous Richard Parrish in Northampton to watch the Northampton Saints play London Wasps. 12,900 supporters in attendance. Saints played well and won convincingly 24-13. The atmosphere was much like that at a college football game. Afterward we met with ref Dave Pearson and also Samu Manoa, formerly of SFGG and American lock making a name for himself in Northampton.
9/29: I slept in til 9:00, took another quick tour of Bedford, then prepared for my 3:00 game at Bedford Ath. Bedford Queens, a team that shares the Ath with Bedford, hosted Stockwood. Once again, many mauls ensued, great forward offloads in tackles, quick play and little backchat. Queens won 33-24, with Stockwood gaining a bonus point for a try in the dying minute. Andy Croson, my evaluator, then drove me to Rushden, where we were to have our final dinner amongst our new friends.
9/30: My last day refereeing. Where has the time gone? I reffed Bedford U-15s vs. Hitchins Hedgehogs. It's nice to see the Bedford coaches from last week meeting me with quips and thoughts. Both teams played really well, and they were tied for the last 20 minutes of the game. My thoughts went to having to buy everyone in the clubhouse a round, but in the dying seconds Bedford knocked on five meters from their tryline, Hedgehogs sturdied a scrum and the eight man picked and dove over for a final score of 17-12. Whew!
Jane Parrish outdid herself that night with Paella, Spanish wine and sourdough bread. Philip and Michelle, good friends of the Parrish's, came by afterwards for a few nightcaps.
The tour was absolutely splendid! The English were very hospitable, and my wallet was not allowed to open. They were thankful for the California momentos and jumpers/ties I provided and replied in like fashion. The assessor's opinions were spot on. The games were a joy to ref, the post party and clubhouses just as good. And the weather pretty much cooperated as it rained three days, but never on gameday. Finally, the tradition and history of towns/cities visited and of the rugby clubs refereed is rich indeed.
Never Above. Never Below. Always With You.
I was lucky enough to experience this year’s East Midlands Exchange and I was pulled aside and told by numerous pelicans that I would have the time of my life. And they were right.
The tour started with Jordan Bruno and Rich Boyer meeting the Better Half (Emily) and me at SFO. We were all excited and looking forward to an adventure that we wouldn’t ever forget. After a pleasant flight we were met at the airport by our hosts and whisked away. The compact size of the English automobiles caused some minor discomfort as we struggled to fit Richard Parrish (host and driver), Rich Boyer, Emily and me in the car and still maintain possession of all of our luggage, but the excitement of being on the Sceptered Isle overrode all mundane irritants. Thursday was pretty relaxed with a brief afternoon nap and a trip to the pub to acclimatize ourselves to the local beer.
Friday the 21st was also rather relaxed as we were adjusting to the 8 hour time shift and spent the day on a walking tour of Bedford lead by the garrulous and knowledgeable Trevor McCarthy, ably assisted by Our Hero, Richard Parrish. Unless it was the other way around – truth to tell, they both kept us interested and entertained all day. We were treated to a local comedy review show in the evening and seeing Monty Python skits live is loads of fun. Even after 40 years they are still hilarious. An early night and then off to bed, because Saturday’s a Rugby Day.
Saturday the 22nd was the official Assessment Day to determine how our American rating corresponded to the English system, which has several more gradations in it. Details can be found in the match report section. After the match and some convivial beverages in the host clubhouse I was transport back to “The Ath” – the Bedford Athletic Rugby Club and home club of Richard our host. More beers were consumed in an effort to get the Yanks up to speed. At this point Rich Boyer presented the bar with a shot glass to commemorate out visit so we had to start drinking out of it. After all, it would be rude not to and we were guests in that country. Combine that scenario with the previously unmentioned results for the Ath’s A and B sides (the first won by 90 points, the seconds by 50) and the evening ended with the highly predictable stumble back to the Parrish Palace singing “American Pie” in 4 separate keys all at once.
Sunday the 23rd was an earlier start for Bedford Blues youth games followed by a traditional Sunday roast prepared by Richard’s wonderful wife, Jill. Prawn and salmon starters followed by a pork roast with potatoes and veggies. Finishing off dessert with a wee drop of Benedictine had us all happily in bed, dreaming of the week to come.
Monday the 24th was an off day so Rich, Emily and I met up with Jordan and were taken up to Mecca, Eden, Aman: the source of the game played in heaven, Rugby School. We were given a guided tour by Guy Steele-Bodger, son of Micky Steele-Bodger, president of the Barbarians, that ended at the Webb Ellis Museum. Now that we had been shown the really important part of history, we moved on to some other bits of history that some people think are important and toured Warrick Castle. A true castle out of the middle ages, it was impressive enough to us modern folk and I wondered how it appeared to the people of the era that it was built for who didn’t have our modern sense of scale and technology. Truly awe inspiring. That evening we attended the monthly meeting of the East Mids society where we listened to a presentation by the youth academy manager for Northampton Saints and the exploits of Richard Parrish and Max Barnard on their visit to California. Then it was our turn and Jordan, Rich and I each gave a quick speech outlining our experiences so far and the differences we see as well as the similarities which were many as well. We presented our Main Gift at that point and each received a lovely framed poem. Emily also received a framed poem that was customized to her experiences – including the ones she hadn’t had yet. Impressive.
Tuesday the 25th was one of the highlights of the trip for me, refereeing at Beford School. Bedford is a classic school in the grand English tradition: centuries of history, uniforms, architecture and, of course, immaculate pitches. We were given a tour of the school by a couple of sixth form boys (essentially high school seniors) and had a cafeteria lunch that would rival several restaurants. Once again, details can be found in the match report section. After the match we all showed up in our #1s for a relaxing drink in the Master’s Lounge. The smell of oiled leather and the susurrus of quiet conversation were in perfect keeping with the occasion. The room itself was dominated by a roll of honor on the front and back walls listing the Old Befordians killed in action in the First and Second World Wars. The sheer number of names was humbling.
Wednesday the 26th was a London day. The gang took the train into London and met up with Max Barnard who some of you may remember from the last group who visited us from the East Mids. He sends his regards to all of the Pelicans, especially Eric “The Wizard” Rauscher and his family. We started at the British Museum, continued on to Buckingham Palace (wouldn’t let us in even though I told them the Queen and I are old drinking buddies), on to Westminster Abbey (just kidding about the drinking buddies thing), and then Dim Sum in a restaurant called Ping Pong. A train back home and we were done with another day.
Thursday the 27th was a day that was circled on the calendar from the very beginning for reasons that will be made known. We started off with a tour of Cambridge – ably guided by Steve Womersley who also happened to be my referee coach - and managed to poke our heads in to some of the colleges. It’s no UCSB, but it wasn’t bad at all (joke). Seeing notes written by Sir Isaac Newton himself in the library in Trinity College was awe inspiring. Keeping an eye out for bicycle traffic was a necessary activity as velocipedes were moving fast and from the wrong direction. We ended the afternoon punting down the river Cam much as I suppose students have done for centuries. Then we were put into the hands of Andy Crowson and went on a pub crawl of Stamford.
1. The George (Trelawny Ale)
2. The Jolly Brewer (Battle of Britain Ale)
3. The Green Man (Inferno Golden Ale)
4. The Punchbowl (Timothy Taylor Landlord Ale)
5. The Otter’s Pocket (Fuller’s London Pride)
6. The Golden Fleece (Tiger Ale)
7. The Cozy Club (Toga Man)
8. The Cellar Bar (Brains IPA)
9. The King’s Head (Wherry)
10. The Tobie Norris (Southwold Bitter)
11. The London Inn (Doombar)
To steal a line, no, we didn’t have any fun.
Friday the 28th started with a late breakfast and a tour of the Hook Norton where we saw a horse with a Twitter page and the tasting room. Really, it was all we needed. Kind of like the 7s of brewery tours - we cut out all the unnecessary bits and left the essence intact. Then off to the Northampton Saints v Wasps game. We were treated well: seats in Row F behind the try zone. A great game with the home side winning followed by access to the player’s lounge to meet up with local hero Samu Manoa and the referee for the match, Dave Pearson, who is probably most famous for calling off the France – Ireland match last year 5 minutes before kickoff.
Saturday the 29th is a rugby day and the match report is in the appropriate place. After the match and a few pints in the host clubhouse we were treated to dinner by the East Midlands Referee Society. A nice dinner followed by more speeches and gifts and several offers from both sides to keep sending volunteers across the Atlantic.
Sunday the 30th was our last full day and started with more youth matches at the Ath. A few happy pints after the game put us in a festive mood and we arrived back at the Parrish Palace to feast on a paella expertly prepared by Jill. Grain and grape were in abundance and we talked long into the night until reality set in and an early morning departure started nagging for our attention.
Monday the 1st. Flight home. Sleep. What a trip! There are so many people to thank it seemed like the entire East Mids society helped us out in some way at some time. To steal (and slightly change) a line from Sir Winston Churchill, “Never before has so much been owed by so few to so many.”
Sat Sept 22:
Leyton Buzzard 29 – Stewart and Lloyd 36 Referee: James Hinkin
Some slight confusion had my original game cancelled (well, not really confusion – one team said they weren’t going to be able to field a team) so my host Richard Parrish “took one for the team” and gave me his match. Much appreciated. Got to the changing room and put on the kit and went out to meet the captains who were already on the pitch. Speeches were made and the coin was tossed and then I had a little time to myself. This was my first match in England and some butterflies were definitely present. Once the game started, however, that all went away as we were just playing rugby and that is universal.
The home side (Leyton Buzzard) started brighter than the visitors but they had the wind and the slope to their advantage. They were able to use this advantage to score 4 tries (2 converted) while only giving up 2 tries (1 converted) for a halftime lead of 24 – 12. The second half was an entirely different story as the visitors took advantage of the conditions. Also, S&L were a noticeably younger team and the fitness of the older LB players was starting to get tested. S&L ran in 4 tries (2 converted) to just the single reply and took the match 36 – 29. The pivotal moment in the game was midway through the second half when S&L kicked to the corner where the ball was
finally chased down by a young winger playing his first senior match. Faced with 3 defenders and no support he tried sidestepping and was caught, so he threw the ball into touch. The resulting penalty was quickly taken and our young hero compounded his error by immediately tackling the ball carrier. This resulted in a yellow card and in that time period 2 tries were scored giving S&L a lead they would not relinquish. (As a side note, this was only the second time I have given that particular penalty, the first being at this year’s Tri Tip 7s. I was planning to use that incident as part of my “Differences Between USA Rugby And English Rugby” speech at the Society meeting but that went out the window. I guess we aren’t so different after all).
Final Score: Leyton Buzzard 29 – Stewart and Lloyd 36
Sun Sep 23:
Bedford Blues U16 36 – Watford U16 12 Referee: James Hinkin
I worked out a deal with the Weather Priestess that whenever I was
refereeing there would be no rain. She kept her promise throughout the tour but cut it very close with this match. I think she was just messing around but still, she was true to her word. To fulfill my end of the bargain I sacrificed a chicken last night… in a nice sauce with butter, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, more garlic, sausages and clams over fresh pasta. It does not do to offend the gods.
In any case, the weather held and the conditions were perfect for a fast game and that is what I got. Bedford had a size advantage in the pack and a speed advantage in the backs – a lethal combination. Watford played hard and clean, but had to succumb to the inevitable as Bedford were just too much.
At the end of the game there were hand shakes all around and off to the clubhouse just before the rain started. I hope the Weather Priestess appreciated her sacrifice.
Final Score: Bedford Blues U16 36 – Watford U16 12
Tues Sep 25:
Bedford School 15 – Tonbridge School 27 Referee: James Hinkin
This is what it is all about. My personal highlight of this exchange was the honor of doing the First XV at one of the premier schools in England. The history of the place, the immaculate grounds, and the centuries of rugby played here all come to a head for a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon.
Bedford kicked off to Tonbridge who proceeded to keep the ball for 5 minutes without Bedford getting a chance to see it. Excellent recycling by Tonbridge kept possession but Bedford’s defense matched them and no real gain in ground was made. Finally Bedford got their hands on it and immediately scored a try (unconverted). Tonbridge regrouped, however, and started their attack once again. The game was evenly matched until Bedford attempted to use the boot to gain some position but failed to tackle the Tonbridge backs in an incisive counterattack. This happened a few times resulting in a pair of tries as Bedford struggled to contain the Tonbridge counter. Finally giving up on the kicks, Beford was pinned in their end and tacked manfully but pressure resulted in more points. The half ended with Tonbridge up by a score of 24 – 5.
The second half was a different story as Bedford made the adjustments necessary to contain Tonbridge. This time it was Tonbridge who were struggling to contain the Bedford attack as pressure mounted. The home side was rewarded with a pair of tries countered only by a single penalty kick (the only one I had for the entire tour, oddly enough) but Bedford had dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of.
Final Score: Bedford School 15 – Tonbridge School 27
Sat Sept 29
Rushden 108 – Northampton Men’s Own 0 Referee: James Hinkin
My second Saturday promised to be an exciting match between two teams with similar records. Unfortunately, one of the Men’s Own players decided to go sky diving and several of his mates went to go watch. Seriously. They must have been key players because the team that showed up to play were timid and directionless, only giving strong efforts in individual bursts. Rushden scored early and often: within the first minute of the first half and off the opening kick of the second half without getting touched – just two passes to beat the entire defense. With a score of 108 – 0 there really isn’t much to say. Both teams were pleasant in the clubhouse after for the required pints, though. Just goes to show once again why this is the best game in the world. In what other sport will a team take that kind of thrashing and
then go have a few beers with the opposition?
Final Score: Rushen 108 – Northampton Men’s Own 0
Sun Sept 30:
Bedford Blues U15 (A) 12 – Fitchley U15 29 Referee: James Hinkin
The Bedford U15 have enough players to field 2 U15 sides, but just barely. They had 15 players suited up for the game and actually played the last 15 minutes of the first half a man down as one of their forwards was getting treatment for a leg injury. He did return for the second half, though. The Bedford pack was bigger and stronger than Fitchley – to a point where they were admonished and finally free kicked for excessive pushing in the scrum (the hooker/captain for Bedford was trying to get his team to stop pushing after the initial shove but his mates were getting a bit excited), but the difference in the match was the fly half and the outside backs for Fitchley.
The visitors had a fullback who, once he got going, was nearly impossible for Bedford to stop. He was big and fast and used it well. The right wing for Fitchley was the fastest player on the pitch with a killer step off his left foot, scoring one try by taking a kick in his own half near the left touch line and then stepping through the defense before turning on the speed to score in the right corner. The final try came from a scrum and featured the Fitchley flyhalf stepping through a gap inside his opposite and then floating a perfect 30 meter pass to his onrushing wing, catching him in stride and the speed did the rest. That was the best pass I saw all tour and I told him so after the match.
Final Score: Bedford Blues U15 (A) 12 – Fitchley U15 29
Ithaca College men 10 – GENESEO 15 Referee: Eric Rauscher
Once again I asked for and received an appointment(s) on my annual trip to Ithaca, NY. I got to do the Ithaca College men again this year, this time against another closely matched team from Geneseo. This is div two, and the game was played on a slightly widened football field, but the play was still at an enjoyable level.
Geneseo was a team with a player-coach while Ithaca has a female head coach (AnneMarie Farrell). The Geneseo men seemed to have the size advantage, but Ithaca had better general play skills. They were twice able to turn the scrum 90, and twice able to hold a maul. The difference in the game was an intercepted pass 15 min into the second half that Geneseo ran 70 meters for a try. Low scoring games can be kind of dull, but not if both teams are moving the ball up and down the field in close-matched play.
Ithaca College women 7 – SYRACUSE 12 Ref: Rauscher
This was a div two match. I have never done a div two women's match so was not sure what to expect. Both teams played with spirit, but as can be guessed, low skill level. Most of the play involved the scrumhalf taking the ball out of the ruck and handing it to someone standing behind them who would then crash into the oncoming defenders. At one point, the Ithaca # 11 made a great break down the side with a sole defender in hot pursuit. A near-tackle was made about 15 meters from goal, and she did a clean roll out of it and I yelled "Not held, not held" upon which she placed the ball back towards her own goal. The one very bright spot was the Ithaca #9. My friend that I stay with and takes me to the games doesn't really know rugby very well, but at the half he commented to me "There is a little blond girl from IC
who is all over the field" and he was right. Her work rate was incredible, and she was fearless in the tackle. I saw her take on opponents twice her size and take them down. The sun finally peeking through the clouds and her play were the bright spots.
THIS WEEK’S PHOTO
At the monthly society meeting of the East Midlands RRS, Ian Baggett smiles as Colin Wright brandishes a tour memento he’s just been presented by Rich Boyer, Jordan Bruno and James Hinkin, who have conveniently lined up alphabetically by height.
For the Senate