Sunday, January 20, 2013




We are eight-ten refs short for January 19, and there are two A-side matches which are not covered. YOU CAN GET A GAME IF YOU WANT TO REFEREE THIS WEEKEND.

Let Pete Smith know of your availability:


Tickets are called ducats in Vegas. We know because we grew up there. The tournament is only three weeks away.

One of our refs bought a pair of Field level tickets for the event and would like to sell them. Contact Chad St. Pierre:

By Bruce Carter

Wednesday, January 9: 240 miles
This was the first Society meeting of 2013. It is always a pleasure to attend the meetings of the finest referee society in the USA, and Preston Gordon is doing an excellent job of organizing informative and interesting programs.

I car-pooled with Pete Smith, James Hinkin and John Pohlman. This extends the meeting for an hour in either direction.

One revelation: the IRB has finally figured out how to describe a forward pass. New guidelines for Television Match Officials were released last week, including this one:

“2.6 For forward passes the TMO must not adjudicate on the flight of the ball but on the action of the player who passed the ball i.e., were the player’s hands passing the ball back to that player’s own goal line.”

This makes it clear that a pass can travel forward without having been thrown forward.
Here are the three things the passer is not responsible for:
The wind blowing the ball forward
The ball bouncing forward from the ground
The passer’s momentum carrying the ball forward

The fact that the ball was caught ahead of where it was thrown in not germane to whether it was a forward pass. You have to determine this by watching the movement of the passer’s hands and wrists relative to his body.

Saturday, January 12: 220 miles
The first game of a new year is a time of reflection for me. This year I am beginning my 26th season as a full-time referee, embarking on my second quarter-century of reffing.

This year began with a perfect clear day, rain having been followed by cold air and unlimited visibility. What that visibility reveals driving down the Salinas Valley is views of the nation’s fresh produce for the next few months, and as you go farther south, next year’s wines.

Paso Robles plays on a lovely field, agriculture-grade, manicured and leveled, with room for four full-size pitches. Unfortunately, not enough of their CIPP folks turned up to field a full side.

But Monterey Bay, having traveled with plenty, loaned them enough to have a match including some of their better players. (Match report below.)

Afterwards, I found myself the first one at the pub because everyone else seemed to want to enjoy the sunshine pitch-side, talking rugby. With no-one to stand me a pint, I hit the road for Fresno.

Thirty-three rugby years in California with as many as 30,000 automobile miles in some years means that it’s not often that I find myself on an unfamiliar road. But Highway 41 in the no-man’s-land between Highways 101 and I5 was such a road.

California has more attractive corners than a Playboy club. Gorgeous scenery surrounds the road, pleasant valleys leading to hills and mountains which stair-step into the blue-shift that atmospheric distance provides. Rain plus sunshine in our winter equals chlorophyll: they should put some cattle or sheep up there, who would be perfectly happy.

I got to Fresno about the time the 49ers playoff game started, which was ideal: not being a fan of sports other than rugby and bicycling, I had the restaurant almost to myself.

Sunday, January 13: 150 miles
Scott Wood and I taught a level one officiating class at Wawona Middle School in Fresno to sixteen students. It’s a real pleasure not having fifty or more to deal with.

Most of these folks are interested in the youth and high school game, which is of course where rugby’s growth is.

As always, it was a lot of fun and a day spent with ruggers who are interested in refereeing almost makes up for being away from home.


The season is off to a pathetic beginning, to be honest.

Lots of forfeits, and both the men’s D1 and the D3 schedules have been altered willy-nilly by the teams after the schedules were sent to the NCRRS for appointing referees. Teams have simply decided not to play, or to switch home and away, without telling us.

Our commitment is to do the best we can with the information we have. We do not promise to overcome the efforts of those who would thwart us.

SFGG – Barbarians
This game doesn’t seem to have happened. No idea why not. We had two refs assigned. This is a luxury we cannot afford, refs twiddling their thumbs while other games go uncovered.

EPA BULLDOGS over Olympic Club by forfeit

Baracus – Berkeley Referee: Rich Anderson
This was just a practice scrimmage to knock the rust off. No score to report.

St. Mary's 17 – SFGG 40-odd Referee: Wesley van der Linde (visiting from South Africa)
ARs: George O'Neil, Ray Schwartz
PR: Kat Todd
On Saturday the 12th January I had the privilege of refereeing a pre-season warm-up match between St Mary’s College and SFGG, hosted at the St Mary’s Pat Vincent field. What a beautiful day it was for a game of rugby, albeit a little on the cold side. Ray Schwartz and I took a drive down to the game early on Saturday morning and we were able to make a stop off at a Farmer’s Market near UC Davis. It was great being able to take in a few of the sights, sounds, and smells of the local scene en route to our destination.

St Mary’s itself was quite stunningly beautiful. The playing field was green and a pleasant crowd was gathering for what would be a grueling encounter. The teams were both looking up for the match and I was very excited, although a little nervous too! I have been told that nerves (or butterflies) before a rugby match are a good thing. Once the pre-match talks and preparations had been completed, we were ready to take the field. I was fortunate to have Kat Todd at the grounds to watch and review my performance, and I had the trusted assistance of Ray and George O’Neil on the sidelines.

The match got off to a flying start and I had to quickly adapt to the situation, having found that my positioning wasn’t quite right at first. A lot of the players were big and physical and you could feel that with every hit, every tackle. SFGG got off to a flying start and they rang in a few, well worked, early tries. St Mary’s were able to get on the score board too thanks to some brilliant backline play. Both teams were a little rusty and so handling errors and timing were always going to be an issue. This though did not detract from the passion and desire that both teams had to play some entertaining and hard rugby.

As much as St Mary’s tried hard to keep up with play and add to a thrilling contest, they were outdone on the day by an SFGG side had more game time under their belts. There is no doubt St Mary’s will improve and learn from this, their first match of the year. The score ended up about 40 odd points to 17 in favour of the visitors.

I thoroughly enjoyed refereeing the match and felt that the quality of rugby was right up there. It was definitely one of the fastest games I have refereed before and I certainly can take a lot out of the experience going forward. I felt very welcome at St Mary’s and had a number of people come up and introduce themselves to me. There were a couple of matches after mine and those too were good entertainment and much needed practice for both players and referees. After the day’s play Ray and I made our way back home but couldn’t resist a stop at Thompson’s Corner in Cordelia Junction, to catch a bit of the 49ers football match versus the Packers. An interesting place indeed!

From Thompson’s Corner we were off to the UC Davis Alumni dinner, organized by Barry “Demon” Beuhler and Donal Walsh, who brought nearly 100 old mates together from the 1970s. A great little function, we broke bread with Don Goard, Steve Gray, Jim Crenshaw, John Tomasin, Billy Ekhern, to name a few.

I’m looking forward to refereeing some more local rugby in California and I appreciate all the efforts by people to make me feel right at home. USA rugby is definitely stronger than people back home in South Africa realize and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be here.

ST. MARY’S seconds 60 – Marin 0 Referee: George O'Neil

St. Mary's 3 – Marin 2 Referee: Ray Schwartz
“Score was about 12-10.”
Which means – we don’t know who won.

State of Jefferson – Colusa Referee: Kevin Brown
This is one of the games that the teams seem to have thought better of.

This is not the kind of game your writer knew: all we ever wanted to do was to play rugby.

MENDOCINO over Redwood by forfeit. Referee: Sandy Robertson
The Mendocino Redwood match did not occur. At the 1PM scheduled kickoff time Mendocino was at the pitch ready to play but only 2 Redwood players had arrived (they'd been there for half an hour or more). By 120PM no additional Redwood players had arrived, nor I believe, had anything been heard from Redwood.

Mendocino decided to play some 7s. While playing 7s more Redwood players showed up. Their coach/organizer said that Redwood thought the game was scheduled to start at 2PM. Mendocino declined to play. I expect that the two teams will discuss the issue w/NCRFU and decide about rescheduling.

[Editor’s Note: E-mails showed that Redwood had acknowledged the scheduled 1 PM start.]

Humboldt – Shasta Referee: Cary Bertolone
This is another of the games that the teams decided not to play. WTF???

Reno – Vallejo CANCELED
This one was due to weather. Presumably, the spirit of rugby lives on in these two sides.

Blackhawks 7 – SIERRA FOOTHILLS 64 Referee: John Coppinger
Sierra Foothills decisively beat Blackhawks at the Danny Nunn Field 64-7 in Sacramento in a match that was never in doubt. Sierra Foothills had a steady ball possession game plan, which they executed very well. Blackhawks were completely out of sorts with a number of Blackhawk players having only CIPPed in the morning before kickoff. Foothills were led by evergreen Mike Dopson who scored three or four tries and kicked 7 conversions.

Paso Robles 28 – MONTEREY BAY 45 Referee: Bruce Carter
Officially, this has been reported as a forfeit because the home team only had nine players. But on a weekend where fully one-third of the matches scheduled featured either one or both teams who wussed out, Monterey Bay wanted to play. I’m proud to say that this was the last team whose jersey I wore as a player.

It was sunny and calm at Paso’s perfect pitch, with lots of wives, kids and dogs in attendance. Monterey Bay loaned enough players, including some of their best, to get things underway.

Refereeing for more than a quarter-century prepares you for days such as this: rank beginners packing down next to or opposite skilled and accomplished players. Do you hold everyone to the same standard and have a whistle concerto, or do you make allowances? Didn’t Aristotle say that treating unequal things the same is not justice?

For example: five minutes in, I found myself penalizing Paso’s #12 for the third time for playing the ball from the ground. This guy was built like a prop. Give him a card, let someone explain the nuances of the tackle law to him for ten minutes?

But before I was a referee I was a coach (of the All Army team) for four years. Here’s a big, fit young fellow WHO’S MADE THREE TACKLES IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES. This is a guy we want playing as much rugby as possible.

Between me and his captain, I figure we can teach him the tackle law on the fly: I’ll yell in his ear at every subsequent tackle, and his captain will make sure he knows to pay attention.

Monterey led 26 – 7 at the half. They took back some of their newer players, to let them work with teammates, and lent out some of their stars. Paso Robles then actually won the second half, 21 – 19.

Note to young refs: you can enjoy the game on your way up, and you can enjoy it just as much on your way down.

As long as God gives me breath to breathe and legs to run, I’ll be happy doing games like this.

Fog 0 – SFGG 2nd/3rds? 60 Referee: Bryant Byrnes
On the Fog's TI home pitch on a day that reminds us of why we live in the Bay Area-absolutely pristine. I actually called my daughter on the East Coast to rub it in.

Rugby can be odd to the point of being unfair. For reasons beyond their control Gate's very good D1 team of last year is now a D3 team-and they played like it. It was something of a clinic of excellent skills.

And yet the Fog did not roll over. To their credit, it was a contested match for 80 minutes. There were no cheap tries by Gate. As usual, the social was excellent.

Fog seconds 0 – SFGG 3rds/4ths MANY Referee: Bruce Bernstein
I reffed a very loose scrimmage b/w the Fog's "2nd" team against whoever from SFGG 3rd division team wanted to play more (another 30 minutes after the first regular season game) hosted by the Fog & reffed by Bryant Byrnes, who also gave me a few goodpointers/coaching advice for me to get the rust off. Just like his match, mine was a blowout for SFGG many points to zilch.

SOUTH VALLEY 36 – Harlots 31 Referee: John Pohlman
Often when I sit down to write my rugby write-up I'm at a loss if there was nothing special about the game, drive, weather.

This week I had a few interesting items.

This was my first game of 2013 and no injuries.

I visited a new rugby pitch. South Valley is playing their games at the Kirigin Cellars in Northwest Gilroy. The drive was pleasant from 101 south to the Watsonville highway. Beautiful farms, vineyards and sweeping vistas.

Then I arrived at the Kirigin Cellars winery to a brand spanking new rugby pitch. The pitch was pretty close to perfect from the size to the well-marked lines to the padded goal posts. Oh and a brand new tasting room with bathrooms.

South Valley was hosting their first home game at their new field. It was a friendly against the Modesto Harlots, formerly Stanislaus. This was a bit confusing because Northern Cal has them listed as Stanislaus and South Valley said they were Stanislaus. But no Stanislaus CIPPed. Modesto is CIPPed.

OK, on to the game.

South Valley, SV, scored first with a bit of an intercept try by their speedy wing. This try was answered a few minutes later by Modesto. And so it went. Some pretty decent and competitive rugby for a pre-season friendly.

Half time had SV 17 Modesto 12.

Somehow SV ratcheted up the intensity for 25 minutes to open the second half with three unanswered tries. SV 36 Modesto 12. Seemed like a runaway.

Then with well less than 10 minutes left the Harlots found their rhythm. They scored two converted tries to make it SV 36 Modesto 31 with a few minutes to play. But the whistle blew and South Valley had the win.

As I walked off, you would have never known who won. Modesto buoyed by their two late tries were jubilant, whereas SV was disappointed with almost losing.

One more of the items which caught me was the true friendship between these two teams. Many players having played together before and a real rugby bond.

The last interesting item was a try for S.V. being confirmed by the video referee. The only fault of this field was pretty short try zones. On SV's last try their #10 scored by diving on a lose kick. This was one of those bang-bang plays were I wished I had a better view or help from my touch judges. When the try was scored I thought the player had grown the ball properly, but I stopped and looked to see if anyone had a better
view. No one did, so I awarded the try.

After the game, I was taking to Modesto's captain and coach Paul and one of their second rows who I knew had seen the try. The second row stated he thought it was past the dead-ball line, thus no try. But he had the try recorded, so the video replay would confirm. On Sunday he e-mailed me the picture....TRY. Finally proof that I got one right.

UC Davis 17 – CAL POLY 45 Referee: Jim Crenshaw
Crisp day in Davis Saturday and a tale of two halves.

Davis scored first on a long breakaway try to take the lead 7 - 0 at about the ten minute mark. Cal Poly tied it and then took the lead (12-7) late in the half. Both teams showed early season rust, with turnovers and inconsistent play ruling the half.

The second half started out well for Davis as they tied it up about 10 minutes in. Cal Poly regained the lead for good with a converted try a few minutes later and then padded their lead with an unconverted try.

Cal Poly were much more organized in the second half. Davis, on the other hand, were still trying to get it going and a red card for a tip tackle from the neck didn't help late in the half.

They did make it closer with another unconverted try, but the rest of the day belonged to the gentlemen from San Luis Obispo.

Seconds: UC Davis – Cal Poly Referee: Rich Boyer
No report received.

Santa Rosa JC 12 – SANTA CLARA 17 Referee: Tom Zanarini
For Pete's Sake Field, Santa Rosa
Beautiful Sunny day in Santa Rosa. A preseason match-up between D1 and D2 squads. Good contest for the ball, lots of action from the backs. Santa Clara had just a slight edge breaking tackles for tries, otherwise a pretty even match. SRJC scored all their points in the first half, SCU scored all of theirs in the second half. Maybe a fitness edge as well?

Seconds: SANTA ROSA JC 27 – Santa Clara 15 Referee: Stephen Valerio
Since I am still getting around to many of the NorCal pitches for the first time, I looked forward to heading up to Pete's Sake Field. I had seen the name many a time, but now I finally got to see it. Very sturdy posts. I'll leave it at that.

The match was the story of 3 games. Santa Rosa, dominated the first third. Keeping it in tight and banging away they opened up a 15-0 lead off of 3 tries. Santa Clara finally got the ball into the hands of their backs who put together some knifing runs and scored a try before the break to in down 15-5. They continued their impressive back runs after the break and scored 2 more tries evening things up with about 10 minutes left. Fatigue finally made its appearance in the final third and things got sloppy. The lack of clean ball deprived Santa Clara the opportunity to use their backs and suited Santa Rosa's forwards. Santa Rosa scored the final 2 tries, including one on the final whistle. On a day when most of the kicks at post went everywhere but between the posts, the last conversion was good.

SANTA ROSA 53 – Sierra Renegades 10 Referee: Rob Hendrickson
Santa Rosa's For Pete's Sake field hosted 3 games this weekend, the last of which was Santa Rosa against the Sacramento Renegades in a final pre-season tune up game of 3 X 30 minute halves. Santa Rosa showed up with almost 3 complete sides, allowing almost line change substitutions at each half, while Sacramento had to make do with 17 players and a limited ability to substitute. The weather was clear and cool, and the pitch was soft, but not muddy, a great day to play rugby. I unfortunately had to miss the social afterward to be able to drive home in time to catch the 49er's vs Packers (although I caught the interception on the radio waiting in traffic on 80 in Berkeley)

Stanford JV 12 – PENINSULA GREEN 55 Referee: Bruce Ricard
We played U19 rules. Very good game on a beautiful pitch, as usual in Stanford. Pen Green dominated the whole game. Their forwards were turning over rucks impossible to win, and their backs were stronger and faster than the Stanford ones. Two tries were scored on a kick and run from their 22, Stanford had no full back.

Stanford got a penalty try on maul collapsed 2m from the try line, and managed to score another try in the second half.

Pen Green's biggest problem was their indiscipline at mauls, which cost them several penalties, a penalty try, and a yellow card.

STANFORD 15 – U. of San Diego 8 Referee: Tony Levitan
AR: Neil MacDonald
Referee Coach: David Williamson
On a c-c-c-cold night at Stanford's always well-kept rugby pitch, Stanford and USD opened 2013 with a non-league battle that showed both rust from the holidays and promise for the season. Things looked a bit ominous for the visitors when Stanford ran an easy try over with less than 2 minutes gone to lead 5-0. But USD regained their composure and fought a tough first half, scoring 23 minutes in off a long penalty by their talented #10, 5-3. Stanford extended its lead again with some stout forward play, dotting down with 3 minutes left in the half, 10-5. Even with USD down a man due to a yellow card, the first half ended with the brick-outhouse-built USD #13 swinging into in-goal 5 meters in from the left touchline and work to get in closer to the posts only to fumble the ball once pressured by the pursuing Stanford defenders. Halftime whistle, much to USD's consternation.

Halftime distractions included watching an ambulance take USD's flyhalf from the pitch, the training staff having been unable to return a dislocated elbow to its socket. Tough blow for USD, losing one of its best players. But they soldiered on admirably. Mostly ...

Play got a bit chippy mid-way through the second half thanks to USD's #1 whose disposition was more blockhead than loosehead. Sent off after a yellow for repeated offenses late in the first half, he re-offended less than 10 minutes after his return, the ensuing red card leaving his team shorthanded for too long, which proved to be especially punishing in the pack where every scrum either went to Stanford or USD on its heels. Nonetheless, a multi-phase concerted effort resulted in a USD try midway through the half, 10-8 Stanford. Stanford finally iced the chilly night's match with one more unconverted try, the forwards bulling over from a lineout from 5 meters out, 15-8.

When the whistle blew, this ref wasn't the only one to notice that the final margin was equivalent to the possibly converted try that USD fumbled away right at the half.

Great thanks to Dave Williamson for coming out on this biting cold evening, as well as for his always insightful recap of my match highs and lows. And especially large helpings of appreciation to Neil MacDonald who stayed to AR after a number of runs at the daytime Stanford Women's Invitational.

Sunday, January 13:
Stanford GSB – Seahawks Referee: Bob Polito
No report received.

Saturday, Sunday
Referee: Bryant Byrnes, Lois Bukowski, Pete Smith, Neil McDonald, Tony Levitan, Lee Bryant, Byrnes, James Hinkin, Giles Wilson

Giles Wilson:
Vallejo decided not to travel to Reno and when I got to Reno for business that evening, the rental counter described Friday as "the worst weather he'd seen with ice and snow" - since he was an "experienced" gentleman, I had to decide that Vallejo may have made a wise decision. This game is pending a make-up date.

Pete asked me to fill in for one game at Stanford so Cal vs Western WA it was. Cal have good speed and organization in the backs and a very solid forward pack. The greatest impact comes from a prop who is also the kicker but also made several devastating tackles - hard, legal and putting a stop to anyone running into her channel; the best choice was to try to make a move to avoid some of the contact.

Cal pulled out to a 19-5 halftime lead with 3 tries (2 conversions), a scoring pattern they would repeat in the second half. WWA managed to score twice in the second half, in each case well supported sequences with good off-loading but they were not able to maintain this against Cal's defensive aggression and pace in the backs.

Sunday Results for James Hinkin

STANFORD 25 – Oregon 20 Referee: James Hinkin
With special rules on the second field (no posts so no kicking for any points – not much in the way of lines) the game was fast – it almost had a 7s feel. Breakaway tries followed by the scored upon team getting back to midfield right away to kick off. Stanford dominated play in the first half scoring 5 unanswered tries but showed some depth issues as subs were run in for the second half and didn’t perform at the same level. Oregon dominated the scoring of the second half with 4 tries of their own but ran out of time to complete the comeback.

California 7 – UCLA 17 (Semifinal) Ref: Hinkin
California dug themselves a hole early when their fullback was issued with a yellow card in the 3rd minute for cynically killing the ball 2 meters from the goal line. UCLA were able to score a try with the woman advantage and continued their scoring ways - combined with a sterling defensive effort that included 2 Cal surges that were held up in goal - to build a 17 point lead by the half. Cal played much better in the second half and clawed back a try but could not overcome their first half mistakes.

UC-Los Angeles 7 – CHICO STATE 15 (Final) Ref: Hinkin
UCLA scored first in an action packed final but that seemed to galvanize a solid Chico St squad. Chico were able to get a penalty on the board to reduce the half time deficit to 7-3. In the second half UCLA were having difficulty in defending the Chico attack and after Chico scored twice to take a 15 – 7 lead they started resorting to penalties to slow down the ball. This eventually led to a yellow card for their influential (albeit often out of control) #3 and they would never recover. A good sign for both UCLA and Chico was on the final play of the match with Chico holding an eight point lead, insuring the result was not in doubt. UCLA continued to attack until the UCLA winger was put into space for a 70 meter sprint to the try zone. The Chico #13 chased her all the way and tackled her just inside the 22 to save the try, with more Chico defenders arriving to force a knock on and end the gamer. 100% effort from both teams on a cold, crisp winters day.


PITS 17 – Berkeley Rhinos 10 Referee: Rob Hendrickson
Berkeley hosted Piedmont to a crisp morning pre-season scrimmage at Gilman Field, as both the varsity and JV sides had a chance for a good run. Berkeley lent Piedmont a couple of backs and forwards to make the game more competitive, and both sides took advantage of the opportunity to dust off the cobwebs of pre-season and improved their play as the game progressed. Lots of good productive play, punctuated by early season mistakes that they will learn to overcome.


John Pohlman is proven correct, courtesy of the Modesto video. And full marks to the Harlots for being up-front in providing it.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris