Saturday, December 22, 2012




Christmas and New Year are upon us. Hot on their heels is Rugby 2013, with games beginning January 5.

Out with the old and in with the new: Pete Smith will be taking over assignments.

Your scribe has done this since 2000. It’s a big job, but it has its rewards: allocating some of the best games in the United States to some of the best referees. It has been my privilege do to this and to play a part in the development of several referees who did Internationals.

We appreciate all of the volunteers who make it possible to fill in the spreadsheet blanks, and trust that they will continue to do so for Pete.


Please let Pete know your availability for the Saturdays in January:

For new referees: this is how you get games. E-mail Pete that you are available. Same for old referees.

Pete cannot read your mind any better than I could. IF YOU DO NOT LET HIM KNOW YOU ARE AVAILABLE, YOU WON'T GET AN ASSIGNMENT.

We need about ten refs on January 5, twenty on January 12, and then forty or more thereafter until mid-April.

Plus the following non-Saturday/evening opportunities:

The Stanford Invitational will be Saturday-Sunday Jan. 12-13.
Friday, Jan. 18: two games at Cal Maritime.
Wednesday, Jan. 23: one game at Cal
Friday, Jan. 25: two games at Maritime, one at Stanford


We have even more games that are remote from the Bay Area/Sacramento nuclei, where most of our referees live.

This is where we demonstrate our love of the game the most: driving to do these games.
For example:
January 12: Home games in Yreka, Ukiah, Arcata, Reno, Turlock, Paso Robles
January 19: Redding, Colusa, Arcata, Turlock
January 26: Fresno, Yreka, Ukiah, Reno, Paso Robles
We’ll need everyone to travel at least twice this year. Get in the running for Pelican of the Year by raising your wing for some distant games!


December 8
SIERRA FOOTHILLS MEN 10 – Sierra JC 5 Referee: Rich Boyer
I met up with Jim Goddard, new head coach as Sierra JC, and we walked from there nearly a mile, or so it seemed, to the pitch in Rocklin.

Both teams had a number of new players and the coaches requested a brief session illustrating tackle, gate, last foot on D. It was agreed no kicking, except for touch, for the first 10 minutes. This mutual agreement last about one minute and no complaints/offsides arose.

Sierra Foothills were a little surprised at the intensity and tackling of their younger foes. SF pushed hard with pick and drive, using their strong forward pack, but Sierra JC would not break. First try went to Sierra JC off a free kick for early scrum engagement. The Mens club was challenged to get back 10 and the Sierra JC backs took full advantage with Pate scoring under the posts. The kicker (hooker) forewarned me that his kicking style was "unorthodox". No tee was used; he held the ball upright on the ground with his index finger and simultaneously kicked. Needless to say it missed....

The Men’s club woke up after that. They were much stronger and experienced in the scrums and it showed, damp ground adding to the effect. After sustained pressure and pick and drives the Men’s club #8 Nate scored a converted try using brute strength and straight forward running. 7-5 Men’s club.

The remaining two periods saw good forward play and rather limited back play due to the slick conditions. Sierra JC tackled like no tomorrow, and the Men’s passage of play was many times inches away from a big break then little issues would crop up: knock on, penalty, etc.

Close to half the Men’s club took a penalty conversion. 10-5.

Try as they might, neither team came close to scoring for the remainder of the game. 10-5 Sierra Foothills Men in a physical game played with great sportsmanship.

Sierra JC #12, from South Africa, had the hit of the day off a Men’s runner from ruck play.

I enjoyed refereeing Pate, Niko, David and Jordan, four young men I coached in summer sevens a few years back. I also enjoyed refereeing Luigi, Brent Bueno and Dopson.

Jim Goddard is doing a great job with the JC and Dave Faingold has instituted a great pattern of play for the Men’s club.

FRESNO STATE women 17 - UCSC 7 Referee: Bruce Bernstein
Match/scrimmage got moved to Marina because of last week’s rain.

Fresno State in its first year has some great players who knew what to do including a big center with nice moves & dominant #8.

When they play together even more & get scrum downs better they should be fighting in the playoffs.

University of the Pacific 22 – FRESNO STATE 35 Referee: Giles Wilson
UOP hosted Fresno St - the hosts were much smaller than the visitors but tacked hard and attacked the contact zone to great effect which knocked Fresno off their stride in the early stages.

Both teams were well drilled and eventually the effects of making tackles and missing some conditioning during the recent storms wore down the very game UOP players. The first half ended 20 - 12 and the final was 35 - 22 in favour of Fresno.

The teams then played a "third half" to get all the players on the field, many players from the first game carried on. This was played as two 20 minute halves with Fresno leading 21 - 0 at half time and 33 - 0 at the end.

I was good to see Walt from Fresno and Kreg from UOP coaching these college teams; both have well drilled teams and they were a pleasure on the sidelines.

ST. MARY’S 58 – Diablo Gaels 24 Referee: John Coppinger
ARs: Rich Anderson, Bryant Byrnes
It was a beautiful day for rugby at St. Mary's. Diablo Gaels roared out the gate to score two quick tries against St. Mary's, which seemed to unsettle the home side for the first part of the match. Diablo did not have the fitness to sustain the effort and sloppy handling and aimless kicks by the Diablo Gaels allowed the young Gaels to settle and then attack with power, pace, and advantage in numbers as the young Gaels of St. Mary's ran away 54-28. Diablo Gaels battled throughout scoring at the end of the match after the clock had expired fighting through many phrases of play and penalties by St. Mary's.

Thanks to Rich Anderson and Bryant Brynes for their services as ARs.

Olde Gaels 0 – DUENDES RFC 31 Referee: Jordan Bruno
ARs: Matt Hetterman, Eric Rauscher
A touring Argentinian side stopped off in Orinda on a crisp Wednesday evening to play the Olde Gaels. The Argentines arrived fresh from airport and seemed to be a bit jet-lagged during warmups--this quickly wore off as their side scored early, breaking through the Gaels defense and slotting down with a forward drive. The next try of the first half was handy work done by the Duendes backs, who were able to offload with ease in the tackle. The Gaels had a few opportunities to score in the first half, but were unable to secure ball in hand, leading to lost momentum. The start of the second half saw more speed in the Duendes backs leading to a couple of more tries. A more stalwart Gaels defense prevented the Argentines from running up the score, and great forward crashes saw a structured pack move upfield with progress. Overall, a great exhibition match. Many thanks to Matt Hetterman and Eric Rauscher for running at AR, to David Williamson for post match commentary, and to John Compaglia for hosting a great match.

St Mary's 3rds 42 – Diablo Gaels 2nds 15 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
A beautiful day for a fistful of games in Moraga; this was the first match of four.
This being early days for both teams, the younger fellows were well matched by the Gaels forwards in the pack and lineout. But in spite of Tim's earnest claim of ''new guys'', the St Mary's backline literally galloped against a backline that really was shaking hands for the first time.

EPA RAZORBACKS 46 – Bay Barbarians 10 Referee: Bruce Ricard
The game started 30 minutes late, on a nice grass pitch with freshly drawn line. Apparently the line drawer was drunk, and the pitch looked a bit like an Australian football field with its curvy lines. The 2 inches wide lanes also gave me a lot of trouble during the whole game...

The game started on a nice pace, with the Barbarians scoring a try in the first minutes of the game. The Razorbacks passed a penalty kick from the 22 a few minutes later. The Razorbacks had a difficult start, someone who knows the team could say "as usual", but they had a very good game after the first 10 minutes. The game was pretty even the whole game, but the Barbarians were way to undisciplined, maybe due to the quite large amount of new players in the team, which gave the home team a lot of penalty kicks.

Some of the new players in the Razorbacks' senior team had their skill level improve a lot in the last year. Especially one prop, who made a few 10m breaks though the defense, and pushed his team forward.

UC Santa Cruz women 7 – FRESNO STATE 17 Referee: Bruce Bernstein
Match/scrimmage got moved to Marina because of last week’s rain.

Fresno State in its first year has some great players who knew what to do including a big center with nice moves & dominant #8.

When they play together even more & get scrum downs better they should be fighting in the playoffs.

CHICO MIGHTY OAKS 34 – Sacramento Capitals 22 Referee: Ray Schwartz
Dec 8th, after a 3-hour volunteer workday w/ 30 shovels helping to grade out the pitch at Bidwell Middle School, Chico

I was originally scheduled to ref in Santa Rosa but opted instead to go ref where two teams were legitimately registered w/ USA Rugby. Hard to believe these guys would not have had a ref if I hadn't switched at the 11th hour.

I arrived at Bidwell Middle School (the site of a gopher infested rolling moor of a pitch John Coppinger had declared "the worst field ever" last spring) to see not enough cars to represent two teams, but an old baby blue Mt. Zion Baptist school bus. Made my way to the pitch and sure enough two sides were warming up, and the fence was lined w/ 30 well used shovels.

Though the bus surely helped, this match surely proved how tough it can be for a DII to travel in the preseason. I had reffed the Caps at home just a few weeks earlier, and this side was missing some key players. But, opportunity for others to step up. Out of the gate, however, Chico was sharper, and jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. Chico always seemed to have the upper hand, though the Caps appeared dangerous at times. Lots of hand-to-hand combat and fierce tackling.

The Caps got in the try zone once but failed to convincingly dot it down. The same player did not make the same mistake again when in the tryzone next. Midway though the final 20 the Caps brought it to within 3, at 20-17. But Chico finished strongly w/ 2 converted tries.

A nice BBQ at the pitch, some time to relax in the sun, and then the Caps (and the bus) were gone. A relaxing shower and beverage lead to the Bear where the spirited Mighty Oaks held their annual Ugly Xmas Sweater party.

December 15

Chico Holiday (hypothermic) Classic
Dec 15th, Bidwell Middle School
Refs: Favor Taueva, Mark Godfrey, Sean Peters, Ray Schwartz
This poor event seemed destined to be rained out! First scheduled, then rescheduled and finally rescheduled again as a rain or shine event... the field dwindled as the timing now conflicted w/ Finals week at schools. Chico Mighty Oaks started out at 10am vs Colusa, w/ Favor at the whistle, and as I diligently tried to take referee coaching notes, the light drizzle started and never stopped. My pen eventually failed! Sean Peters reffed Shasta v Vacaville as I debriefed w/ Favor. Mark Godfrey would ref the Chico Women v Humboldt St, but Humboldt was snowed in, unable to come over the pass to attend, so Chico women played a good intersquad match and then went home to shower, warm up and study.

As the Men's games resumed it was now a light rain, constant and cold. Favor handled the Mighty Oaks v Shasta, I took Colusa v Vacaville, Favor got Chico Mighty Oaks again, this time v Vacaville (playing back to back). But whereas Vacaville stayed warm, Chico could not warm up... hypothermia was setting in! No 2nd women's game, no Colusa v Shasta... we ended early, took long showers and enjoyed the warmth of good company at the Bear soon enough. Favor made some good adjustments on the day. He will make for a very good ref this season, very useful.

Colusa, not the strongest team on the pitch, clearly won the party! Hats off to the fighting rice farmers!

SF/Golden Gate seconds 28 – OLDE GAELS 43 Referee: Paul Bretz
Gaels beat SFGG2 43-28 in their preseason match. Both teams showed a lot of potential. On a personal note Gaels started 4 players that played for my high school team several years ago.

SFGG 84 - EPA Razorbacks 0 Referee: John Coppinger
This match was billed as the EPA Bulldogs at SF/GG and SF/GG and I were surprised to see the EPA Razorbacks stroll into the SF/GG grounds on TI.

The Razorbacks fielded a young side with relatively little experience and never really put SF/GG under pressure as SF/GG ran past and over EPA 84-0. SF/GG was slowed by the weather conditions as a steady rain fell throughout the match.

Santa Rosa 18 – SAC LIONS 32 Referee: Phil Akroyd
There were two main headlines to this game. The first being that Santa Rosa were all over this game for the first 35 minutes and the second that mistakes dominated.

The field was heavy, conditions cold and wet with plenty of knock-ons. In fact there were three occasions of attacking players knocking on in-goal. Rosa scored first, Lions countered with two tries, then Rosa kept it interesting with a penalty goal just before half, making it 10-12 to the Lions at half. They turned it on in the second half but there were still plenty of mistakes from both sides. A pretty entertaining pre-season game.

Seconds: SANTA ROSA 29 – Sacramento Lions 17 Ref: Akroyd

Stanislaus 12 - SIERRA FOOTHILLS RENEGADES 39 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
An early season match in lovely Turlock on a gray day in its sunken fields (part of the Pacific Flyway?). At half, the new guys led 15-5 over Stanislaus. Stanislaus went to the D3 playoffs year, but is experiencing the bane of Valley rugby-reloading every season. For this match they fielded 8, 9 new guys to replace that number who are not back.

On the other hand, Sierra Foothills Renegades are the offspring of the junior college team of the same name; at least half played with the JC team. They also had an interesting infusion of Sac City JC football players, studs but new to the sport.

The Renegades won fair and square, but Stanislaus made them work for it. Game highlight-several excellent red zone defensive stands by the Renegades.

SEAHAWKS 26 – Sierra 25 Referee: Bruce Ricard

Seahawk B 0 – SIERRA A (playing again) 22 Referee: James Hinkin
On a cold wet Saturday there was still rugby to be played and only the Mayan Apocalypse could stop it. Fortunately that is the following Friday so after the A side match the teams regrouped and did it all again. Sierra was expecting the local JC to travel with them and play the B side but that never materialized leaving the A side to play both matches. The captains agreed to 20 minute halves, the kickoff and defensive ends were decided and we were off.

The Seahawks have a squad deep enough to fill out 2 sides comfortably in December so that is a good sign for them, but at this point there are too many inexperienced players. This, of course, is why they need to play these games but the lack of rugby nous was exploited by the veteran Sierra side. Case in point: I called a “rookie reset” on a scrum because the Seahawk flanker kicked the ball out of the Sierra scrumhalf’s hands as he was putting it in. Things were explained and we moved on. The Seahawks never really looked like scoring because every time they started to get close to the Sierra 22 they either foolishly kicked away possession or bad passes/knock ons would kill the move. Sierra, while making their share of mistakes as well, were far more clinical and had a couple of runners that were very hard to stop. Look out for a dreadlocked center (or flanker?) who is a powerful runner and a strong tackler when he remembers to use his arms.

That being said, there are some athletes there on both sides and with coaching and experience they will do well.


This reminds us of why we need to get away from the keyboard now…