Author Archives: James Hinkin

Pool Is Closed For The Season


Pool Is Closed For The Season

Yes the World Cup has completed pool play and, as expected, there were some fantastic games as well as some duds.  The New Zealand – South Africa game was high quality as expected and the New Zealand – Namibia game was a one sided affair as expected.  Wales – Australia was a nail biter and Fiji – Australia was great fun.   What was a surprise was the host nation, Japan.   Their match against Ireland was a bellwether for what was to come as they displayed high tempo attacking rugby against Ireland’s pedestrian one off crashes.   Ireland did manage a pair of quick tries with brilliant cross field kicks within the first 10 minutes, but Japan adjusted and the Irish had no other arrow in their quiver.   I fancied Ireland as a contender before the Cup but after the final 60 minutes of that match I had to revise my opinion.   They did themselves one better against Scotland, thoroughly outplaying the Scots throughout the game, with the exception of a desperate second half surge from Scotland that made the score closer than it should have been.

Unfortunately this World Cup’s pool round washed out as expected, with the same teams making the quarterfinals again.  Also, as expected, there was 1 outlier that crashed the party at the expense of one of the Power Teams from the Tri Nations and the 5 Nations.   Fiji has done it in the past and the last couple of RWCs it was Argentina, which earned them a spot in the Rugby Championship.  This year it is Japan who made it at the expense of Scotland, and deservedly so, but look at the rest: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, France, Wales and Ireland.    Looks familiar, no?  

The gap between the Tier One nations and the rest of the world is still significant and until there are some major changes at World Rugby this will continue.   The proposed World League was shot down because the 6 Nations insisted that Italy be invited, even though Italy doesn’t even belong in the 6 Nations.   The Pacific Islands are regularly stripped of their top talent by the bigger nations because of the ridiculous residency qualification rule rugby uses.    Just living in a country for 3 years qualifies you to play for that country?   What is the point then?  Why not just make the World Cup about the top club teams because your nationality is irrelevant.   Yes, I know that the rule will be increased from 3 to 5 years in 2020 but that doesn’t affect this Cup.  Until this changes the top teams will continue to steal the top talent away.   You can’t blame the players because who doesn’t want a chance to play for the best team possible?  They are just following the existing rules.

 All sports have this issue, of course, but at least FIFA forces a player to become a citizen of the country they are playing for.   This is a growing problem, however, and if a solution doesn’t present itself soon the World Cup will remain an 8 team race, with an occasional invited guest from outside.

Golden Slumbers

Once there was a way to get back home, and the fastest way is to do this is to not earn a point at the World Cup (again).  The recent resurgence under Gary Gold was put to rest as the rugby world saw that the proverbial Sleeping Giant remained so, singing “Sleep pretty darling do not cry/And I will sing a lullabye”.

For the first time ever the United States had sent a fully professional side to the World Cup.  That is progress.   Unfortunately, most of these professionals came from a league that is in its second year.   We are relying too much on players who can dominate with pure athleticism in a nascent league.   Paul Lasike was badly exposed in the centers.  I love his athleticism but he doesn’t have the skills or the lateral movement to be a back.  Make him a prop and let him use his strength there, pounding the scrums and bashing off the side of the breakdown and, most importantly, tackling fellow forwards who will run straight and hard but rarely sidestep.    Then we get to AJ Maginty.   He is a marvelous player at his club in England but in this Cup he was either brilliant or horrible.  He doesn’t seem to have a middle ground when playing with the USA.   Maybe the players around him are not making the same reads or maybe he is trying too hard to pull off that million dollar move, but he turned over too much possession to justify the few bright spots.

People point to Japan and say “Hey!  Look what they are doing!  They are a tier 2 nation as well so we should be as good as they are!”.   The problem with that is that Japan has had a well funded professional league since the 1990s when the game went professional worldwide.   It has taken them 2 decades to get to the point they are now and this is a process that can’t be sped up by much at all.  After 25 years the MLS soccer league has grown to the point where is it amongst the best attended leagues in the world and on solid financial ground.   The USA is still no threat to with the FIFA World Cup, however, and didn’t even qualify for the last one.  

We must be patient.  We have barely begun our quest towards rugby relevancy; I only aske these few things:

  1. Don’t get too excited when overseas players at the end – or even the middle of their careers – decide to come over to play in MLR.   Yes, they are great players but they will not have the same quality around them that they had in their respective counties.  
  2. To get too jaded when overseas players at the end – or even the middle of their careers – decide to come over to play in MLR.   American rugby players, coaches and fans need to see what a true rugby professional looks like up close and learn from him.  Habits, skills, physicality, but most important, the mental toughness needed to excel at top levels.  
  3. Speaking of mental toughness, when you have that available… USE IT!   Our 7s team is tried and tested on the world stage.  They play everyone without fear and win.  They are #2 in the world after having held the top spot for nearly 6 months.   They have the mentality to overcome adversity and win.  Why was Pinkleman not starting every game?   When he was on the field he was an impact player and possibly our best player.   Iosefo was stuck out on the wing and starved of the ball as we constantly kicked possession away.   Put those two in the centers and you have a pair who know each other well and can operate in open spaces.  As 7s players, their position is wherever they are on the field so don’t tell me that Pinkleman is a forward and Iosefo is a wing.  
  4. For the love of any god that may be listening STOP WITH THE BOX KICKING!   American scrumhalves are obsessed with this tactic and all it does is give away possession.   Defensively we work very hard to gain possession and then knock out a few phases where we gain some ground and recycle the ball.   Then what?   Mr Scrummy strolls up to the breakdown and makes sure everyone is in place – checking and double checking – then eventually kicks the ball to the opposition for an uncontested catch and counter.   I say uncontested for ALL of these kicks because even when we did have someone near the ball as it came down, they generally watched the opposition catch the ball and then tried to tackle.   There are some teams in the world that box kick well and accurately.  We are not one.  Stop doing it.   If I see someone box kick in a game I am refereeing this year I am going to penalize them for being an idiot and playing “against the spirit of the game” see if I don’t!

All A Board!

Last week was the NCFURS AGM and we elected a new Board of Directors.  Congratulations to Pete Smith, Neil MacDonald, Lee Bryant Powers, Tim Lew and Grant MacDoogle.   As is required, the first act they performed was to elect a President.   With Paul Bretz moving to the Pacific Northwest the position was vacant and filled by…

Great Scot!

Congratulations to Neil MacDonald on his selection as President of the Northern California Rugby Union Referee Society.   He is replacing Paul Bretz who served us well and will become the 6th President the NCRFURS has had since its inception.   As Bruce Carter pointed out, this is quite an exclusive club and they, by tradition, refer to each other by number, and the Roman numeral at that.  Thus, Ed Todd was III, Bruce Carter was IV, Paul Bretz was V and Neil MacDonald becomes VI.

To honor our new president I have designed a salute that we all can use to greet him: raise your right hand palm inward with your index and middle fingers extended but spreading away from each other while clenching the rest of your fingers in a fist while at the same time raise your left hand palm inward with only your middle finger extended.   This will make a very respectful VI pattern to honor and recognize our 6th Society President and should be used at any and all opportunities.

Exchange Report: Aspen Ruggerfest 2019

(Report submitted by Steven Fenaroli)

Did you know it takes 4 hours to drive from Denver to Aspen? On exchanges, I don’t do a lot of research. I tend to let others guide me and try my best to go with the flow. The drive to Aspen, while long, is absolutely gorgeous. Crossing the continental divide is more mundane than it sounds, but still pretty amazing if you think about the engineering feat that it is.

When we arrived in Aspen Thursday afternoon, there was a men’s match in progress. The pitch is in the middle of town in what might be some of the most expensive undeveloped real estate in the country.

Next to the pitch, there is a playground where children are enjoying themselves every part of the weekend. This playground is part of the rule that a  No F-bomb rule was instituted. If a player cussed in general or at his/her team, it was a yellow card. If they cussed at the ref, it was a red. Players were reminded each game and most took it very well when there was an incident and a player was sent off. Coupled with families who didn’t have to explain adult words to their children, the swearing rule seemed like an overall success.

In aspen, matches are two 20 minutes halves. Some guys like the Open division want to play more. Some players in the over 55’s are ready to be done halfway through the second half.

My frist match was 8am with some over 50’s. I understand that rugby laws have changed over time, but these guys had no desire to roll away after a tackle. To be fair, I’m not sure they knew they had to. This culminated in giving a yellow card to a 75 year old man, and Paul Santinelli (right at home for his age division) harassing me for being heartless. I told him the integrity of the game comes above all.

The night before at dinner, we were told in jest that there would be no changes to the schedule. The next afternoon, I was filling in for a referee who had an injury. That is usually how tournaments go and you don’t get to take off your boots until the end of the day when you know you’re done.

My afternoon was spent refereeing another 50’s match. This time around there were no cards, and the game was moving much faster. Maybe the warmer weather let the guys loosen up? Regardless, the game between the Cardinals and Relics was a fun one to watch and referee.

Later in the day, some 35’s got a game to play. The rugby was much quicker and much more physical. There are all skill levels in Aspen and it is a challenge to see how refereeing transitions between the different age levels and skill ranges. Dark and Stormy Misfits, a ragtag group of players, versus Time made for a sharp match that although the score differential didn’t change much throughout the match, every game is played with Sunday’s final in mind.

Saturday saw the start of the Open division. Open tends to be the most fit division, with players who are at the tournament for exposure and might be in contention for MLR or other contests. Throughout the tournament, there are a handful of former Eagles on the pitch at any one time. Some you know, some are pointed out. It is truly an honor and an experience to be on the pitch with players who have that knowledge and that experience.

Saturday’s first open match between Dark and Stormy Misfits and Boulder was one sided to say the least. Boulder put up a fight, but were no match to the speed and thoughtfulness of Misfits.

Boulder would later play NA Rugby, an academy sponsored by RAN who is working to ready players for the next level. Academy took control and never let go. The game was fast, physical and full of players ready to make their mark on the game.

Sunday morning meant the end of Ruggerfest and the finals. I was assigned the 55s final. The match was going well with two teams who seemed to be playing 10 years younger. As we were playing, my AR radioed in to stop the game for foul play. I turned around and there were two men lying on the ground, one on top of the other, punching eachother to holy hell. I stopped the game and got them separated. Both were asked to leave the pitch and finish their day somewhere else. Paperwork for this type of thing seems silly as these guys probably won’t play rugby for another year. Regardless, I wrote a little love letter summary. We finished the game with 14 players on each side in what was otherwise an uneventful rest of the match.

My game grew throughout the weekend. I was still feeling a WPL game where I didn’t love my control and standards. This weekend gave me 6 opportunities to try different things and work on some much needed areas. I felt my growth over the weekend was tremendous. I have a tough time thinking of any other three day period where I have grown as much and seen as much development. I recommend this exchange

Much and many thanks to Rocky Mountain Refs for hosting the exchange, their President Brian Zapp, Ruggerfest wrangler and planner extraordinaire Gilligan for all of their amazing work that weekend. The coaching cannot go unnoticed and unmentioned. Every game had a coach and the feedback was stellar and helpful towards a successful weekend. Coaches Mike Swank, Brian Zapp, Gilligan, Jim Russell, Mark Huff, and Joe Zevin. I was not coached by everyone, but everyone deserves recognition for the hard work.

Thanks to all the other great refs I was able to meet and friendships forged.

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

The various competitions all have their own disciplinary chairs and this will make it difficult to centralize the communication and data.  To help we have developed a form that will centralize the process, regardless of the competition.  The link to the discipline form is

  1. Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.
  2. When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.
  3. He/she may contact you latter for more details.
  4. If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

Nothing going on locally until this weekend so all our reports are coming from strange and distant lands.   Keep sending them in!

Date: 08/22/2019
Wanstead 19 – Hackney 14
Referee: Preston Gordon
Location: Centenary Fields, Roding Lane, Woodford Green
Competition: Preseason friendly

This assignment was a bit of a surprise, for two reasons. First, I wasn’t expecting to ref again until the following week, but I got the call on Wednesday at lunch for a Thursday evening game. Second, this was a level 7 assignment with two teams in the London 2 leagues, which is the highest level I’ve done in England. I wasn’t sure what to expect after being moved up to level 8, but it didn’t include doing a level 7 game as my second one of the (pre)season. But duty called, and after a somewhat unpleasant 20-minute tube ride stuffed onto a central line train at rush hour with a large bag, I caught an uber the last two miles and rolled up to Wanstead’s clubhouse.

The pitch here has a mellow slope, but a very interesting one: it’s right on the crest of a hill, such that all four corners of it are lower than a point on the center of one 22m line. In other words, everything is a little bit downhill and a little bit uphill. But it was a warm, 70F and beautiful evening, and after the prematch chats, we kicked off at 1945, just before sunset, for a really good 4 x 20′ game of rugby.

These two sides were matched extremely evenly, and that was reflected on the score sheet. Wanstead got the only try of the first quarter in the 12th minute to lead 7-0. Hackney got the next one 3 minutes into the second quarter to draw even at 7-7, but Wanstead replied with another converted try at 16′ to take a 14-7 lead. This lasted until the 12th minute of the third quarter, when Hackney tied the scores again, at 14-14.

There would be no more scoring until several minutes into stoppage time in the fourth quarter. Wanstead kept the ball in play for many phases, looking for the win, but then turned the ball over. Hackney then did the same, and before long had a penalty advantage coming for a high tackle. They put together another 5-6 phases, and not one second after I called advantage over, lost the ball forward at a tackle, into the arms of a Wanstead back around the halfway line. They proceeded to run in the winning try after some great offloads and supporting interplay. A couple of the Hackney players were waving their arms at me, but I made sure to explain the advantage-gained decision to their captain, who understood. Everybody was happy afterwards, which is the most important thing.

Despite the relatively low scoring, this was a fast, hard-hitting, and clean game with basically zero foul play or any other nonsense. I only had to have an occasional quiet word to let players know I’d seen something, to explain a decision, or to ask someone to modify their behavior. Team skill levels and the pace of the match were noticeably higher/faster than what I saw of level 8 last season, but the gap wasn’t quite as big as what I noticed between levels 9 and 8. Hopefully I’ll get to increase my sample size over the next several months!

Date: 09/14/2019
Northeastern 62 – Rhode Island 3
Referee: Tom Zanarini
Competition: Liberty Conference D1A
Location: Northeastern University, Boston, MA

Northeastern hosted this match at their new Club and Intramural Sports complex on campus. There are two new turf fields and a playground build in conjunction with the City of Boston. Also, in the C&I building is a squash club designed to get inner city youth involved in squash. Pretty cool thing to have. Rugby is played on a shared field with soccer and lacrosse lines. While it is about 10-14 meters short, it is regulation width. The other option was to play on the football lined field that would have regulation length, but less width. The rugby club opted for the former. So, the age old question of length or width being preferred has been answered. 

Saturday started out magnificent. Cool and crisp with blue skies. With the late start I was able to wander around Plymouth, MA where my in-laws reside prior to driving into Boston. Then of course, the clouds came. Then the rain just in time for my hour long drive. But, God loves rugby and decided that since there are no locker rooms, we’ll cut Tom a break. As I parked on Columbus Ave., the rain stopped. Why am I telling you all of this? Because the match was 62-3. Not much to see here other than URI missing tackles and NU running in tries. URI in their defense have only one senior, and no players have seen a rugby ball prior to arriving on campus. NU has a fair amount of foreign players, and Boston players that played some high school club rugby in Massachusetts. I expect URI to get blooded this year and be better for it next year. I’ll personally see to it since they are on my schedule 3 more times this season.

Date: 09/14/2019
Brentwood School 17 – Judd School 55
Referee: Preston Gordon
Location: Brentwood, Essex

I had the chance to ref on these lovely pitches for the second time in two weeks. This U18 match was a friendly against another school that had made the trip up from Kent on a really nice and warm day. Most schools play their league rugby on Wednesdays, so this offered an opportunity for me to work on some technical aspects of my game while getting a decent run.

Judd were the stronger side on the day, scoring the first points two minutes into the game with a penalty shot and then adding six tries and four conversions before Brentwood responded with an unconverted try after time had expired. The halftime score was 5-41 and the visitors had full control of proceedings.

In the second half things were very different, mostly due to the frequent rolling substitutions. Brentwood scored the first try at 19′ before Judd put up another one at 24′ (both converted). Three minutes later Brentwood scored another try (unconverted) to get into double digits. Judd had the last word with their eighth try in the 31st minute, which they converted.

I gave my new neon yellow boots a good breaking-in in this game. For the record: I needed some new boots for hard ground and artificial turf. Most importantly, these ones fit correctly and are very comfortable, and the rugby shop in Bath where I bought them didn’t have any normal colors in my size. That will be my defense at the next kangaroo court, anyway!

Date: 09/18/2019
Latymer Upper School 0 – St. Cecilia’s Church of England School 35
Referee: Preston Gordon
Location: Wood Lane Playing Fields, White City, London

The first thing to mention about this game is that it was played upon what was perhaps the finest pitch I’ve ever seen anywhere. I could hardly believe it was real grass when I first walked onto it while inspecting the pitch – it felt like the latest artificial turf, but the green bits growing through the dirt were real grass, and someone had obviously taken a laser leveler to the entire complex. It was so flat as to be a carpenter’s dream, and I was really lucky to be allowed to put boot divots into it with my boots. I made sure to let the groundskeeper know as well.

Anyway, onto the game, which kicked off at 1430: It seemed like both teams used relatively simple one-pass-and-crash-ball tactics for most of the game. St. Cecelia’s had the stronger side, however, and scored two converted tries in the first half at 12′ and 34′ to be comfortable at halftime while I ran (back) to the loo to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of something poisonous I had eaten the preceding Sunday. In the second half, the stomach cramps didn’t slow me down too much, and I was on top of the additional three tries that St. Cecilia’s scored (16′, 28′, and 32′). Their kicker added those three conversions. After another well-done to the groundskeeper, and a quick clean-up, I was on the way home just in time to dodge most of the rush hour crowd on the tube.

Date: 09/28/2019
Stowmarket 32 – Wymondham 7
Referee: Preston Gordon
Location: Chilton Fields, Stowmarket, Suffolk
Competition: London 2 North East

This exchange appointment went very well. Thank you to the Eastern Counties assessor for coming out to watch me in my first English level 7 league match. Taking the 2-hour train ride from London to Suffolk and back worked out perfectly. The entire day was really good, in fact, and despite a 20+ mph breeze that never let up, the weather was pretty nice for rugby.

Wymondham’s forwards were significantly larger, and while it took me some time to ensure their dominance in the scrums was safe, Stowmarket nabbed an early converted try and never gave up the lead. They had the wind behind them in the first half and really used that to their advantage, scoring another converted try and two penalties to lead 20-0 at halftime. In the second half Wymondham seemed to run out of gas a bit, and although they did score one try, Stowmarket got two more, including their fourth for the bonus point on the last play of the game. The latter one was the only one that wasn’t converted by either side – attesting to the skills of these kickers.

Results in these leagues usually make the local news (e.g. and Stowmarket were kind enough to share their match video with me too:

Good luck to both of these teams in what looks like a very competitive London 2NE season!

This Week’s Photo

All hail our new President Pelicus Caledonius, shown here being disappointed by a player yet again.

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

Summertime Blues


Summertime Blues

The San Luis Obispo Tri Tip 7s has passed marking the end of the summer season.   Games were won and games were lost.   All of them were refereed.   Thus concludes a successful summer.   I have no idea how our Pelicanland sides did in the National Championships because even after several weeks the USA Rugby site listed the 2018 championship results and as of this writing the website is down.   We know for a fact that it isn’t due to traffic, so maintenance?   Of course, usually that generates a “Please be patient we are maintaining the site” message or something similar.   All I am getting is a “504 Gateway Time-out” error.

Sadly, rather typical of USA Rugby.   Noting that Christina Gein is the Northern California representative to the USA Rugby congress, I called my congressman and she said, quote, “I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote”… which really confused me, but it was catchy an I could dance to it.

So since I have no on field 7s action to discuss our attention turns to the World Cup.   The USA has recently moved up to 13th in the rankings and has a chance to finally beat a team not named “Japan” in the tournament.   I apologize to my Tongan readership, many of whom I played with and against and became friends with, but we’re gonna kick your butts.   Gary Gold has the team playing as well as it ever has and we are finally seeing some benefit from overseas professionals as well as the MLR, even as it struggles with its larval stage.   England, France and Argentina will be a much tougher ask.   As always, I will be sporting my colors and cheering hard for the U. S. of A.   Our match schedule for the pool round is here:

England v USA

Thursday 26 September
03:45 Your Time
19:45 Local Time
Pool C Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City

France v USA

Wednesday 02 October
00:45 Your Time
16:45 Local Time
Pool C Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium, Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka City

Argentina v USA

Tuesday 08 October
21:45 Your Time
13:45 Local Time
Pool C Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama Prefecture, Kumagaya City

USA v Tonga

Saturday 12 October
22:45 Your Time
14:45 Local Time
Pool C Hanazono Rugby Stadium, Osaka Prefecture, Higashiosaka City

Until then we wait for the World Cup to start.  As Eddie Cochran famously sang, sometimes I wonder what am I gonnna do, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

Ed Todd – Celebration of Life

Ed Todd passed at his home July 6, surrounded by family, being sung to by his wife Berry, with an attending chorus of sympathizers all across the oval planet.   His wife Berry is hosting a Celebration of Life for him at the SFGG Clubhouse this Saturday, 6pm, Sept 14.

Please let her know if you can come so that enough food is there

Reach directly at 925-788-4834 or

The Other Shoe Finally Dropped

As many of you heard the US stop on the World Sevens Series was (finally) announced to be held in Carson, CA at the home of the LA Galaxy soccer club, the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly the Home Depot Center and StubHub Center) located on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills.   Of course, all of the press releases listed the location as “Los Angeles” but in reality the stadium is 15 miles south of LA.   15 miles isn’t so bad, one might think, until one considers the notorious LA traffic.   The current capacity is 27,000 (as opposed to the 36,800 that Sam Boyd held).  Also, one must consider the fact that there is no draw there.   There is nothing but boring, endless suburbia around the location.

Now that the news is official the question has to be asked:  Why?   Las Vegas had become one of the most popular stops on the series and with the new Raider stadium being completed for 2021 plans were already being made to move the event there – a modern facility in every way that would easily accommodate a full sized rugby pitch.  There were rumors that the players didn’t like being in casinos or the condition of the field but were these actually true or were these straw men to give a fig leaf of legitimacy to the move?   After some conversations it seems to be the latter.

And finally, why, after 9 years, move a proven, wildly popular, money maker from an established destination out to the badlands of LA suburbia where it failed before?

As with everything in life, the answers are complex and no one reason will suffice.   Let’s start with the beginning of our tale, when United World Sports bought the rights to host the USA Sevens.  

United World Sports

United World Sports was the brainchild and passion project of Jon Prusmack, who started his rugby career in 1965. He played until 1978; then refereed and coached. He wrote the first American Rugby Coaching Book: RUGBY: A Guide for Coaches, Players and Spectators. (source: United World Sports bio page).   After a successful business career he started UWS to stage major rugby events in the USA and raise the profile of the game.  UWS bought the USA Sevens hosting rights in 2006 from USA Rugby after they failed to generate any profit or buzz with the original location (where the event is now returning) and moved it to San Diego and Petco Park.   They layout of a baseball stadium wasn’t ideal but the facilities were excellent and, more importantly, the location was a major upgrade: downtown San Diego, right smack in the middle of the Gaslamp District.   The event started to grow and the addition of the San Diego Invitational to lure in teams who would then go to the main event was a stroke of genius that boosted attendance.     After 3 years in San Diego the city of Las Vegas came to UWS with an offer they couldn’t refuse (add sinister Vegas mob image here) and so the tournament moved to Las Vegas and the San Diego Invitational – now the Las Vegas Invitational – really came into its own.  Over 200 teams participated in the LVI and attendance at the main event grew every year until the peak of 80,691 in 2017, for an average of 35,901/day, not bad for a stadium that fits 36,800.   

There were problems, though.  The field was small and narrow and grass had to be installed every year over the artificial turf that Sam Boyd normally has (with one notable exception in 2016 when artificial turf was installed over the artificial turf).   Also, the field was a long way away from The Strip and while shuttle busses were provided, it took some time to get there.

And then tragedy struck.   Jon Prusmack lost a long battle with cancer and passed away in 2018.  Control of the company fell to his wife Patrice but the day to day operations were now handled by Jonathan First.

Jonathan First

Jonathan First joined UWS in 2010 and was part of the rise of the Las Vegas Sevens.  He was part of the UWS team that brokered deals with NBC and generally rode the rising tide, so what happened?   According to sources within World Rugby and the international rugby community, he has managed to piss off just about everyone he has ever worked with and not only burned bridges, but salted the earth behind him so nothing would ever grow again.   A bit harsh?  Not when you consider that a WR source told me that “we will never do any business with (Jonathan First) again”.   As further proof of his acrimonious relationships he is currently suing both USA Rugby and World Rugby because they took his toy away from him.   He has also been the reason so many experienced employees – people who built up the USA Sevens and the LVI, people who organized and staged the CRC – have left the company.  Some resigned, some were laid off, some did both, but that has left UWS with a skeleton crew that had no chance at getting and maintaining a high profile international event.

AEG Rugby

So who now has the hosting rights?   The bid was awarded to AEG Rugby, headed up by Dan Lyle.   AEG seems like a solid choice until you look a little closer at their track record.   They have made great strides working with NBC as a broadcast partner and putting rugby on American television sets, but as event managers they have a very poor record.   The Premiership games they have tried to stage in the US have failed miserably and, to my knowledge as of this writing, do not have anyone on board who has any experience with successfully managing an event of this type.   While Dan Lyle was the USA 7s Tournament Director for several years he doesn’t have the team behind him that was in place at UWS.  They were less than spectacular handling 2 teams, how will they handle 16?   With 16 separate training schedules and 16 separate agendas and 16 separate meal and hotel requirements, etc.  It isn’t as simple as it looks and going from 2 team managers to 16 team managers is not a straight geometric progression, but get exponentially more complex.   These things take a year to plan and they have 5 months.   Add to that the travel plans for fans (which need to be made now for any international fans), media credentials, etc there is a shocking lack of information that is currently available for every other stop on the series.  Searching online brought me no joy – even at the official World Sevens Series site there is no information about the tournament except for a date:


So what happens to the Invitational tournament?   Will there be a Los Angeles Invitational?  Looking at the campus of CSUDH there are a few athletic fields surrounding the stadium, but not near enough to host an event the size of the LVI, plus teams would need to know now if there is a tournament so they can plan out their travel budget and set their schedules.  So far I have not heard anything regarding this so I have to assume their will be no amateur tournament at all.    This not only affects the attendance – they will now be relying entirely on people who will travel just to watch the rugby, but it also affects the core teams’ development sides, the international teams on the outside looking in and the academy/select sides that all played in the Elite bracket of the LVI – both men and women.   This was a great opportunity to get players exposed to high level rugby even if they weren’t in the main tournament and is an opportunity lost.   It is not just players who are missing out – the LVI was a way for referees to get exposed to higher level matches and get seen and coached.  All that is now gone.

So What Of The Future?

Nobody knows for sure, but my guess is that attendance will be disappointing (for the reasons stated above) and this will be seen as a temporary fix while the legal issues are dealt with and the stadium in Las Vegas is finished.   In 2021 I would not be surprised to see this event back in Las Vegas in Allegiant Stadium, with their new, modern facilities and ready to start another 10 year run of success.

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

The various competitions all have their own disciplinary chairs and this will make it difficult to centralize the communication and data.  To help we have developed a form that will centralize the process, regardless of the competition.  The link to the discipline form is

  1. Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.
  2. When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.
  3. He/she may contact you latter for more details.
  4. If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

Date: 08/24/2019

Bremer County Bucks 52 Iowa City Ducks 0

Location: Waverly, Iowa

Referee: James Hinkin

It is late August so you know what that means?   15s league games!   Or at least it does in the Midwest, so since I was working out in Iowa I let the local society know I was available for a match and they generously offered me this fixture.    So I hopped in my rental and drove up north from Coralville, past Cedar Rapids, all the way to Waverly, Iowa.   The day was perfect, the pitch was fantastic, well-marked with actual rugby posts, and based on the history of these 2 clubs I anticipated a close, hard-fought match.

The first sign that the match wasn’t going to go as expected was when Iowa City showed up with 16 players, including a few debutantes.   The home side, the Bucks, had a full bench and loud support from their fans so they looked to hammer home their advantage.   After the appropriate pre-match duties, everyone was ready so I blew my whistle and started the match.  Iowa City was immediately on the back foot and couldn’t seem to get possession, or when they did, they couldn’t seem to get out of their own end.   A couple of early off side penalties established my standards and the Bucks took control, only pausing to execute one of Australian rugby commentator Sean Maloney’s favorite moves, the Referee Falcon (look it up).   No harm done and a quick laugh later the Bucks were attacking again and this time got pay dirt – a converted try.   On the ensuing kickoff Iowa City put their best phases together to push into the Bucks half to get rewarded with a penalty on the 22.  Surprisingly, they opted to go for touch and then unsurprisingly lost the lineout.   I say unsurprisingly because the Ducks had not practiced their set pieces very much and both lineouts and scrums were a sore spot.   The Bucks gladly took possession and proceeded to dot down 4 more tries in the half, converting all but one to go to the break up 33-0.  

The second half was more of the same, with Iowa City using their lone sub in the front row at the intermission.   The new blood did not improve the scrums at all so there was more of the same in the second half.  The Bucks used their bench liberally getting as many players a run as allowed and never lost a step.  The Ducks’ cause was not helped by their left wing injuring himself (later found out it was an MCL tear) and being forced to play with 14 for the last 20 minutes.   Bremer County put across 3 more tries to post a final score of 52-0.

That being said, Iowa City never gave up, played hard and committed to everything.  The lack of practice was obvious and the lack of numbers hurt.  Both of these conditions can be corrected so I believe they will do much better in the reverse fixture.   Even with the lob sided scoreline both sides played hard but fair with no foul play.  It was a joy to referee.

Date: 08/17/2019

Kings Cross Steelers 44-22 London Scottish Lions
Location: Kings Cross Steelers RFC, West Ham, London
Referee: Preston Gordon

Having not reffed any rugby since April 28th, I was keen to get back on the pitch. During the summer it seemed like every time a sevens or tens tournament came up, I either had friends in town, other obligations, or I was out of town myself. But a new 15s season has dawned here, and the second half of August is just the very beginning of the journey through to May of 2020. This was the 27th match I’ve reffed for LSRFUR, and there will be plenty more to come – I’ve already got 3 more assignments on the calendar. I’ve also been promoted one level, which will mean higher expectations, more frequent challenging matches at level 8, and a new set of clubs to visit as the season evolves.

I got a good workout during this fixture, which was played over the course of three 30-minute periods in order to allow both teams to make use of all their players. KXS was having a big club day, with a barbecue going, an outside bar, a bake sale, and all 3 of their sides scheduled to be playing in front of the friends/family/supporters who numbered about 150. The visitors, from southwest London, were the amateur side of the club whose pros play in the RFU Championship (1 level below the Premiership). KXS are level 8, Scottish are level 9, so fairly close together. Weather-wise, it had been pouring all week and was forecast to continue on Saturday. I brought all my rain gear only to find that the sun was out and temps were in the low 70s, and the pitch was in perfect condition.

After the first period, things were very even at 10-12, with KXS opening the scoring with an unconverted try after 15 minutes. Scottish responded with their own at 20′, and each team got one more in the same order, at 26′ and 29′ (converted). The second period was very similar, with the teams trading one try each at 6′ and 10′, and KXS adding another at 22′. Scottish converted theirs, and surprisingly kicked a penalty to make the result 20-22.

The third period was where the storylines diverged, however. KXS had established dominance in the scrum early on, and this pressure led to one pushover try and a couple of penalties that led to large gains in ground. Scottish had a smaller bench, and/or newer players on, and this led to KXS scoring four tries in the 7th, 19th, 24th, and 31st minute (converting the last two, finally). Scottish had a couple of chances, but didn’t make it over the line.

The post-match atmosphere in the clubhouse (shared with East London RFC) was roaring, with the Argentina-South Africa match on TV. I shared a pint with the lads, chatted with the other ref present, watched some of the hijinks, and then hopped back on the tube to finish off a great day. The game had relatively few penalties, it was pretty fast, and played in good spirits throughout. It’s great to get back into it!

Date: 08/28/2019

Hendon 24-21 Harrow

Location: Allianz Park, Hendon, North London

Referee: Preston Gordon

Hendon, who will play this year in the Herts/Middlesex 1 league (level 9) hosted Harrow, who will be in London 3 NW (level 8),in my third preseason fixture. Instead of using one of Hendon’s two very nice grass pitches in front of their clubhouse, they hosted the match at Allianz Park which is just a few hundred yards to the north. Having been to both places before, getting there by train & uber in time for the 1930 KO was pretty easy.

The teams decided to play three periods, with mostly first teams contesting the first and third, and the second being contested mostly by the second teams. I think each team had a few of their colts playing as well. Despite some threatening skies, the weather was nice, and the lights in this stadium are very effective after the sun goes down.

Somewhat surprisingly, Hendon were the stronger team in the first 30 minutes, scoring an unconverted try at 6′ which turned out to be all of it. Good defense on both sides and lots of ball movement made up the rest of the action, but at 5-0 there was no other scoring.

In the second period, the scrums were a struggle to manage because of Harrow’s dominance. I had to spend a lot more time than I would have preferred getting the engagement sequence right, and keeping it safe for all players. This meant that I had less attention to give the backlines, who began to close down the 5m space. The defenders were able to get to the ball carriers faster than they should have, which naturally slowed the game down somewhat and led to an increased level of player frustration. Being a preseason match, I was less inclined to penalize people as much as I probably should have been, in hindsight. There were only a few occasional moments of unkind words between the teams, and I didn’t lose control of the game, but I could have managed this a little differently for a better outcome. Regardless, due to Harrow having the clearly stronger team in the second 30 minutes, they scored two converted tries at 5′ and 20′, while Hendon only got one more unconverted at 30′, to leave things at 10-14 to Harrow.

In the third period, which was (oddly) 25 minutes, I was again less concerned with the scrums and better order was restored. Hendon scored a converted try at 11′ to retake the lead, but were then leapfrogged by Harrow with a converted try four minutes later, leaving Harrow up 21-17. Hendon, however, had the last word with another converted try at 20′ to finish ahead three points at 24-21.

The score was probably less important to these two teams than having a decent preseason challenge, which I think they each got. I also got a decent preseason challenge, and as we all try to do, learned a couple of things about refereeing during the game. And having a run on the Allianz Park pitch on a Wednesday evening under the lights is never a bad thing either.

Date: 08/31/2019

Brentwood School Tournament

Location: Brentwood School, Essex

Referee: Preston Gordon

The school’s Director of Rugby invited 9 other schools to this corner of Essex for a day of hard-hitting and very fast U18 rugby. These were the first teams (mostly) of each of the schools, who played a round-robin of 4 20-minute matches on two perfectly manicured and totally flat pitches. The groundskeeper was even kind enough to cut the grass slightly shorter along each of the lines on the pitch, so that it was easy to know where the ball was after it was kicked 40m and was still bouncing. It’s one of the great little touches that I’ve only ever seen at English schools with decent rugby sides (and, obviously, knowledgeable groundskeepers).

The weather was in the mid-70s and sunny before the first match kicked off at 1000. I was on the sheet to referee four, but only did three because the two schools scheduled to play in my last one (near the end of the day) had both packed up and disappeared by then. Once I realized what had happened, I made myself useful by ARing the last two matches of the day. These were the results in the matches I reffed:

Colchester 5-12 Richard Hale

Colchester 12-19 Ipswich School

Brentwood 0-31 Royal Hospital School Ipswich

The quality, size, and speed of these players was impressive for a preseason tournament, and not surprising given that this was a level 8 assignment. At the moment, I’m scheduled to referee a full 15s match at Brentwood School again on 9/14, and am looking forward to another 80 minutes on their outstandingly well-kept pitch. That one will be a league match against another good rugby school from Kent.

One possible small world moment: I’m not certain if this Colchester school was the same one I reffed almost 11 years previously against Moulton College while on exchange to the East Mids (see but it would be pretty cool if it was!

Date: 09/07/2019

Staines 5-86 Weybridge Vandals

Location: The Reeves, Snakey Lane, Feltham

Referee: Preston Gordon

This fixture was my fifth and last preseason appointment, and it featured a couple of unusual occurrences. It was in LSRFUR’s west region instead of the north region where I am based. Hannah and Robert were kind enough to allow me to play in their sandbox, which I requested to do because both Joel Rubin (sporting a Bald Eagles jacket and a classic NCRRS jersey) and my mom were flying into Heathrow that morning, and coming to watch the match which was just a few miles southeast of the airport.

The weather was forecast to be very rainy, but it turned out to be a perfect day for rugby, with sun, some cloud cover and temps in the mid 60s. Staines offered some of the best referee hospitality I’ve ever seen anywhere, starting with their fixtures secretary calling me earlier in the week with all the relevant information, continuing with both coaches seeking me out to welcome me upon arrival, followed by an iced tub of beverages and a personalized letter in the changing room laying out the timing of prematch formalities (and, of course, the usual post-match food & drink). Their clubhouse and pitch are in great shape, and their efforts to make me feel welcome and well looked after were much appreciated!

For the 2019-2020 season, Staines will play in the Herts/Middlesex 2 league at level 10, while Weybridge Vandals will be in London 3 South West at level 8. A gap of two levels isn’t that unusual in the preseason here, and Weybridge were promoted from the Surrey 1 level 9 league after finishing in the #2 spot last season, while Staines were relegated from the Herts/Middlesex level 9 league after finishing at the bottom of that table last season. So I was hoping that this match of four 20-minute quarters with mixed first/second teams from each club wouldn’t be too one-sided.

We kicked off shortly after the U17 match concluded, with a crowd of 100+ onlookers. It took Weybridge just two minutes to score their first try, with another one two minutes later, converting both to race out to a 14-point lead. The match then settled down, with some good rugby being played by both sides. It seemed to me that both teams were testing out different tactics on offense and defense, and both were pretty well drilled. Staines allowed another try to leak through at 18′, although this one wasn’t converted, leaving the score 0-19 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, things were largely similar, but with more 2nd team players on the pitch. Weybridge opened the scoring at 27′ with an unconverted try, before Staines broke through to score their only try of the day in the 11th minute (conversion missed). Weybridge added two more converted tries at 16′ and 22′ to end the half ahead by 33 points at 5-38. I headed back to my changing room to enjoy some well-chilled coconut water and Lucozade, waving to my entourage along the way.

The second half began with Weybridge scoring in the 4th minute, and again at 49′, 56′, and 61′, but their kicker missed all but the last one. With the score now at 5-60 and Staines running out of players, the challenge for me was to maintain high energy levels to keep up with the frequent breakaway tries while ensuring the game was being played safely. Aside from a couple of penalties for high tackles or contact off the ball, there was no foul play to deal with, so I tried to manage the breakdowns by arriving early enough to use my voice to prevent infringements.

The fourth quarter began to degenerate when we went to uncontested scrums due to Staines last prop taking a knock and going off. After Weybridge scored three converted tries in the first five minutes, the captains and coaches decided that Staines’ restart kick would be the last play of the day. The upcoming season is a long one, and I wasn’t about to argue or suggest that they play the full 80 minutes: both sideswere happy and had accomplished their goals for the day. So, about three minutes after that restart, Weybridge worked the ball up the pitch and scored again, but missed the conversion. The match ended, wisely, just short of 70 minutes.

After shaking hands with everyone and clapping the teams off the pitch, I got Joel’s take on my day’s work. That was appreciated, especially since he hadn’t evaluated me for perhaps 10 years. We got a photo together, with one of the NCRRS touch flags I used, and then I headed off for a shower. This excellent outing – one of my favorites here – was capped off with one pint that I wasn’t allowed to pay for, and enough time to catch up with Joel in the clubhouse. Naturally, if anyone else from NorCal happens to show up at Heathrow and I know in advance, I’ll try to arrange similar suitable entertainment. Good luck to both these teams in the upcoming season!

This Week’s Photo

Pelicans showing up in Iowa

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

Loss Of A Legend


Loss Of A Legend

The morning sun has risen oer the hill
And dawn is golden, pale as sifted wheat
Now every flower holds up its cup to fill
With dewy sun, the morning’s rays, replete
With rainbow’s hues. But I awaken, chill
From sorrow that our minds no longer meet.

“Death Of A Mentor”
Sheena Blackhall

The Game That Is Played In Heaven just got another teammate last week when Edwin Todd, Pelicus Editorem Minimus, Ex Dux, passed after a long battle with cancer.   Very few know of his condition because Ed wanted no outcry or a string of maudlin testimonials or extended, sad goodbyes.   That, of course, is one of the main reasons that so many people would have wanted to produce such writings and phone calls – for all of his expertise, knowledge and gifts, Ed Todd was both humble and self-effacing and I believe would have been rather embarrassed by all the attention.  Make no mistake – he knew who he was and the value he brought to any situation, be it a conversation, a rugby match, a law discussion, a writing discussion (yes, he was a published author), or any scenario that he found himself in.   He was a man of confidence, humility, reason and kindness.   I can not do his legacy justice to I will pass the quill to Dr Bruce Carter, Pelicus Scriptoris, Dux Deux.

Ed Todd

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,
and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Hamlet, 5.2.358-359
William Shakespeare

We’ve all been brought a little lower this week, having lost one of the giants upon whom we built this city, that of the Northern California Rugby Referee Society and of USA Rugby refereeing.

Ed Todd passed at his home July 6, surrounded by family, being sung to by his wife Berry, with an attending chorus of sympathizers all across the oval planet.

As one who spent many hours with Ed singing, for we played together on a team renowned for singing, I’d like to add my measures’ worth.

People hope to make a difference in this world. Some do. Let us count some of the ways we find this a changed place as a result of Ed having spent time with us.

At birth, Ed took up a characteristic which was to remain with him throughout life: he was at the leading edge, in this instance of the baby boom. A child of Southern California, he had quite a different perspective on the world than did his cohorts. Some of this was a result of attending school at Fettes, a boarding school in Scotland, and having played rugby there through his childhood. The standards of such a venerable institution, having since produced a Prime Minister, found a student capable of bearing them forward.

When he returned to the USA to attend college in the sixties, he chose USC, which had one of only a few score teams in the country at the time. As scrumhalf, team captain and kicker he led to them to a Monterey Tournament victory, which in those pre-USA Rugby days was considered the national championship.

In the early seventies he attended Hastings College of the Law, as it was then known, in San Francisco. To his consternation there was no rugby team there and to his credit, there soon was. He and another experienced player formed this professional-school side, a novel idea in those days.

The initial group of players in the years that Ed attended almost all had no previous exposure to the game. As in: never having encountered the word ‘rugby’ previously in their mostly well-read lives. Yet dozens of these fellows have based their social lives and professional networks in large part on rugby ever since and join us in our chorus of discontent at Ed’s passing.

A story recently shared among this crew was of the one time that Hastings beat Cal. Recall there were no national competitions, and teams played whom they wished. Cal played a variety of clubs. Hastings was rarely among the elite but on that day, Ed converted from the touchline for a victory his teammates might have thought beyond themselves.

Perhaps his greater, more deeply-bred understanding of the game and his exposure to higher levels of referees in his youth led him to take up the whistle. He obviously advanced quickly: three years after founding the Hastings RFC he was one of four signatories of the NCRRS Articles of Incorporation in 1976, as ever ahead of the crowd, a crowd with those happy and willing to follow such a natural leader.

It should be noted here that, from a team which existed 15 years, fourteen Hastings players became referees. This is a level that has probably only recently been surpassed by the San Jose Seahawks, coming up on fifty years as a club. Three of those from Hastings refereed at the USA level. To my educated guess probably four of the fourteen had any rugby experience prior to playing on Hastings, which means ten of them might never have found our game in those pre-Internet days but for Ed.

His obvious strengths, among them an innovative mind, led to his election as Chair of the NCRRS.

A history lesson: Northern California was one of the first areas in the USA to organize rugby and refereeing locally, there being no greater organization. While Ed was still in college in SoCal in the sixties, the NCRRS was formed. (The Incorporation referenced earlier came ten years later as a result of organizational maturity and changes in the tax laws.)

Denis Shanagher (Sr.) was our first chairman until his demise in the early 80s, followed by Bryan Porter.

Let’s review the bidding. One: USA Rugby’s highest honor for referees is the Denis Shanagher Award.  Denis was a Test referee, and the first so named by merit (there were some who were grandfathered in ab initio).

Two: Bryan Porter had numerous responsibilities with USA Rugby and our society’s profile benefited as a result. These grew to the point where Bryan stepped down from the NCRRS and Ed was elected to leadership. Bryan is a Shanagher Award winner.

Three: Our hero has now taken USC to a national title, co-founded a team which changed many lives and grew our game, helped found our referee society, and then been named to lead it. He was to also be named a Shanagher laureate.

He came to office wearing his usual head, the one spilling out a cornucopia of ideas. One of these was based on the time-honored response of rugby players to being recruited as a ref: “But I would miss my teammates.”

The society would henceforth be a team, with kit and nicknames and meetings and training, with traditions, tours and exchanges. We would do everything including occasionally singing together. We took the NCRFU Pelican as our mascot and became the Pelican Refs.  The Hastings spirit lit another wick. The genie-genius of Ed Todd continued to illuminate lives.

It was in this time that I stopped playing in order to take up the whistle. Ed was very generous, giving me his ‘compendium’: a scrapbook of things he’d learned the hard way, refereeing articles clipped out of print publications, lecture notes, and other exotica in those fax-was-tech days.

He also explained to me one of his dreams: to organize and systematize the training and supervision of referees as a professional manager might, modeling it after what was done abroad, and stating that he hoped he would be writing his own job description.

Just as he played for a national champion, he refereed at the Test level in the mid-nineties, into his own fifties. There were no misfires in his magazines.

Ed stepped down as chair of the society in 1999 and I was elected. The standard was passed to Paul Bretz in 2013. Thus, from a body formed in the mid-sixties, Paul is the fifth to lead it. This stability owes to the character of our leaders, most crucially to a lack of the self-serving that characterizes so many non- and for-profits. This is why Ed referred to me in email as Four, and Paul as Five.

This restless rugby spirit was not sated after playing and refereeing at the top. He took up coaching players and decided, in this case, to start at the top: he worked with Lamorinda and then St. Mary’s.

Ed found that the Laws of the Game appealed to him more than the regular laws, and only practiced law briefly after obtaining his degree, becoming a manager of construction projects. The reader will not be surprised to learn that he did well enough that, when another of his dreams came to fruition and USA Rugby was looking for a referee manager almost twenty years after he’d begun planning for the possibility, he was able to take advantage of an offer to move to Boulder and help set up the national office at a salary that might not have been otherwise convincing. He had a wife and two children to think about, but again the results spoke to his perspicacity and they have all become enamored of Colorado.

There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of looking back in Mr. Todd, except to past traditions of excellence.

Prior to our current suite of IRB-sponsored referee training courses, Ed developed such things independently here in NorCal and for USA Rugby. He was instrumental in setting up the Referee Development Program which developed a rugby-generation of referees for the greater game. Many of the ideas and innovations of this program have been co-opted by the current referee management, leading to a youth wave in our ranks that will likely see no more quinquagenarians appointed to Tests.

In time-honored rugby fashion, Ed recruited his own replacements.

If Nigel Owens could maintain his standard a few more years he would likely be the last to join this final club of Ed’s.

We will miss one of the sowers of the fertile rugby fields of Northern California and beyond, yet rest easier knowing that the crop is strong and the future bright, in no small part owing to his efforts, to a life well-lived and a job well-done.

Let us raise our voices to honor this leader, this creator and innovator, this organizer of games.

Let us sing of the days of our glory, the days of our youth, made brighter by the pursuit of rugby excellence on, off, and around the pitch.

Let the harmony of love, of friendship, of camaraderie and commitment rise to the skies to honor our mate and to echo his name, inspiring those who pursue our craft for years to come.

Fare thee well, Three, knowing that your many mantles have been passed and will be faithfully borne hence.

-Bruce Carter

A Final Word

There are many bits of verse that pay homage to those who have affected our lives, but this one speaks more to me than most.  I like to see it as an encapsulation of the NCRRS mission and the philosophies established by Ed Todd and carried on by Bruce Carter and Paul Bretz.  May the future leaders of Pelicanland take heed of these words.

as Mentor
let the mentor gives an advice
full of concern with values likewise
shows counsel as a noblest teacher
who design youth’s future
full of love valor and vigor

as Molder
let the teacher molds children’s wit
making him an instrument in harnessing intellect
developing the innocent with word of respect
motivating and molding future’s best
on gaining knowledge kit

as Educator
an educator, the teacher is
who heals ignorance which people faced
in his hands lie great opportunities
of ambitious youth heading
towards dreamway

no brilliant lawyer without a patient teacher
nor comes a great doctor
without an intelligent educator

let us honor and exalt such effort then
let us pray God shall bless all of them

“Mentor, Molder, Educator”
Rommel Mark Dominguez Marchan

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

The various competitions all have their own disciplinary chairs and this will make it difficult to centralize the communication and data.  To help we have developed a form that will centralize the process, regardless of the competition.  The link to the discipline form is

  1. Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.
  2. When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.
  3. He/she may contact you latter for more details.
  4. If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

I got nothing.

This Week’s Photo

Requiescat in pace, Pelicus Editorem Minimus, Ex Dux

Hail, Pelicus!

For the Senate

Pelicus Pedem Referre

Pelican House


Pelican House

The eye of the camera settles on a solemn scene.   The Board of Directors of the Finest Rugby Referee Society in the land were staring morosely into their beer, looks of dejection on their faces the order of the day.   Heavy sighing and sad looks were all the rage.   Things were bad, indeed.  

But the entire board hadn’t assembled yet.   Preston Gordon (as played by Jon Belushi) sauntered in to the boardroom fresh off a plane from England sporting strange and outlandish kit and a nat – the opposite of a tan.   (What do you expect from someone who just spent 6 months in England?)

Preston:  What’s going on?   

Lee Bryant (as played by Bruce McGill):  Season’s over, man.  They played the big one.

Preston:  Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Cal won the National Championship? Hell no!

Paul Bretz (as played by Tim Matheson):  Cal?

Pete Smith (as played by Peter Riegert):  Forget it, he’s rolling.

Preston:  And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough… the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!

Preston charged from the room yelling the Pelican War Cry.   The rest of the Board looked at each other but never moved, except to take another sad swig of beer.   Eventually, Preston stalked back into the room.

Preston:  What the family newsletter happened to the Pelicans I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Preston, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this.  The Amazons?   Still playing!  Olympic Club?   Still playing!   The crew for Marin 7s…

Paul Bretz:  Refereeing! Preston’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta support these bastards. Now we could do it with a conventional banquet that could take days and cost thousands of dollars. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

Preston:  We’re just the people to do it.

Lee Bryant:  Let’s do it.

Preston:  LET’S DO IT!

Paul Bretz:  You guys up for a toga party?

Preston:  Toga!  Toga!

Paul Bretz:  Ah, I think they like the idea, Neil.

Neil MacDonald (playing himself):  It’s not gonna be an orgy! It’s a toga party.

Thus, with a plan to save Pelicanland and honor the efforts of the finest flock ever to blow a whistle, the Board of Directors returned to their (now) well-earned beer, drinking the night away and slowly leaving one by one, reminiscent of the final scene in Ocean’s 11, until only two of these mighty heroes were left.

Lee Bryant: Why am I wearing a mustache?

Neil MacDonald:  What are you complaining about?  I only got one line, and not even as a character.

Banquet Details

The Annual NCRFURS Banquet will be held Saturday, June 8  at the Up and Under Pub, 2 West Richmond Ave. Point Richmond, CA 94801. As always, NCRRS will cover the tab for officials. You are responsible for covering the cost of your guests, $50.00, and drinks. The society is also looking to find discounts for those wishing to stay the evening in Point Richmond. More information on that will be forthcoming from our noble leader, Pelicus Iudex Pennipes.

Please fill out the below google doc to let us know if you are coming and your choice of dinner.  There will be a no host bar and appetizers starting at 6:30 with dinner to commence at 7:15 and our awards presentation starting around 8:00 PM.

As detailed (accurately, I am sure) in the previous section, the board agreed to change up the format and the dress code this year is formal Roman. That’s right. It’s a toga party!  Guests are highly encouraged, but not required, to don their finest togas.

A Chance At History

For as long as rugby has been played the USA has been a second class citizen in the rugby community.   Women’s World Cup?   It’s only women and the rest of the world wasn’t taking it seriously yet.   The Olympic golds in the 1920s?   Didn’t count.  We weren’t playing rugby the way gentlemen do, we were just a bunch of backwards colonists mindlessly bashing about, not playing with style and elegance as a man from Eton would.  Since those long ago lofty heights we have rarely made any splash on the international rugby stage, only securing a win over a “top tier” nation for the first time ever last year.    The rugby elites looked down their noses at us and tolerated us in the hope of getting into the vast American

But no longer.

Our 7s team has spent the majority of the World Sevens Series at the top of the table, as gleefully reported here, and only a semifinal loss to Fiji allowed the Pacific Islanders to pip us at the top of the table by 2 points.   Nobody else is in the hunt so now, with one final tournament this weekend in Paris, it comes down to who does better, USA or Fiji?   Everyone is hoping for a USA-Fiji  final that will not only determine the Paris champion, but the Series champion, but I would settle for a semifinal place if Fiji gets knocked out in the quarters.   It wasn’t too long ago when we were struggling to stay in the series and then “Magic” Mike Friday took over and molded a championship program.  It just goes to show what people have always said, we have the athletes here in America, we just need to learn the game.

I advise everyone to tune in on ESPN+ to watch the games.   If you don’t have it set up a free 7 day trial then cancel it on Monday.   Find a friend who has an account.   Find a bar that will show it and is open at 5:00am. (Good luck with that, but I can tell you from past experience with soccer World Cups it is possible.  Just not legal.)    Fortunately, you don’t have to watch live – ESPN+ offers replays.   Just stay off social media until you have seen the matches.

As a 7s bonus you can also watch the Collegiate Rugby Championship, whose motto is  We Are Not The USA Rugby National Championship But An Invitational Tournament Designed To Maximize TV Revenue.   (It sounds better in Latin.)    This event will also be going on all weekend and you can check out the 7s stars of the future.   Do you doubt me?  Ask Madison Hughes where he first shot to prominence.

And if you want live 7s, there is always the first tournament of the season going on up in Marin.

A full weekend of 7s… heaven.

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

The various competitions all have their own disciplinary chairs and this will make it difficult to centralize the communication and data.  To help we have developed a form that will centralize the process, regardless of the competition.  The link to the discipline form is

  1. Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.
  2. When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.
  3. He/she may contact you latter for more details.
  4. If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

I got nothing.

This Week’s Photo

Live schedule of this weekend’s 7s rugby on ESPN+.   Personally, I am watching the replays.

Hail, Pelicus!

For the Senate

Pelicus Pedem Referre

A Story Of Kit


A Story Of Kit

Summer is here so you know what that means: Sun’s Out Guns Out!   Time to pick up all your summer Pelican Gear.    Yes, this also includes tracksuits and everything else for summer or winter and it will delivered in time for the 7s season. 

But time is running out!

The store will close Friday May 10 so get your order in now because that is the end of the Story of Kit.   Purchases will be delivered by May 31.   Go to to check it out or click on the banner below.


This past weekend saw a number of Nor Cal teams in the playoffs and the teams done did us proud.  

In the D3 Men’s Western Regional Napa absolutely crushed Budd Bay 183-0 (all scores are approximate because USA Rugby doesn’t have results on their website and, in fact, still lists the 2018 brackets.    At least they have the 2018 results posted.   Well done, USA Rugby!).

In the D2 Women’s Western Regional the Sacramento Amazons, for the second year running, stomped the Emerald City Mudhens 55-10 (still approximated).

In the PRP final Life West outlasted Belmont Shore 1-0 (a difficult score to pull off in rugby, but there are no scores on the USA Rugby website).

In the D2 Men’s Western Regional Olympic Club did something, but nobody knows what it is or who they played because the game isn’t even mentioned by USA Rugby.

Great stuff, everyone!

Unfortunately it isn’t all sugar and spice and everything nice as in D1AA action the Chico St Men, after scrambling to raise funds to travel to North Carolina to use an inappropriate bathroom, dropped a heartbreaker to Dartmouth 46-5.  (I have a score AND there is a map of the facility linked.  Hooray!)

So finally we get to the game that was played in our backyard.   Cal v Life in the D1A final at Santa Clara University.   Unfortunately for Pelicanland, Cal dropped a nailbiter 29-26 with Cal taking the lead for the first time late in the match and Life responding with 2 minutes left to retake the top position.   A cracker of a game.   I watched this game from the stands and I must say I was impressed with Life’s size and athleticism.   My biggest takeaway, however, was total and complete astonishment at the tactics that Cal employed.    Cal was dominant in the scrums yet constantly chose to kick for touch from penalties despite the fact that they only secured about 50% of their own lineout ball.   Why?   Call for a scrum, destroy it, get the penalty, call for a scrum, rinse and repeat until Life starts to lose players to the bin.   That seemed obvious from the stands.  

Another rather puzzling decision was the robotic insistence on playing a forwards pick and go game when close to the goal line.   While they did score doing that, by my count Cal butchered at least 2 golden try scoring opportunities by failing to give the ball to the backline.  Life was committing everything to stop the pick and go and with their size it was  meat and drink to them.   Cal would end up with a 4 or 5 on 2 in the backs but never passed it out.   The wing or center would have walked in untouched, yet the pick and go was done ad infinitum until a try was scored (twice, I think) or a turnover (3 times, at least).  Even when Life had a man in the sin bin (twice) Cal refused to exploit the man advantage.   To put the cherry on top, these tactics would grind out the time of the sin bin, something that Life was more than happy to help with.   An astonishing lack of rugby nous was displayed in these situations.

The last puzzler was a bit more subtle.   Life quite obviously had a defensive game plan of flying off the line and rushing up to deny Cal ball carriers space, yet Cal never adjusted.   Several  possible overlaps and attacking chances were squandered because a Cal back got the ball flat footed with a defender in his face.   Nobody thought to stand a few paces deeper, or to punch a little kick right in behind to slow down the defense and it cost Cal.

Credit to Life who developed and executed a masterful game plan and won the National Championship.  Shame to Cal for not playing with a rugby brain and squandering opportunities.

A Life Worth Remembering, Celebrating And Emulating

Norman Lawrence Oates Oakenfull passed away last week. 

 I am sure that that name doesn’t mean much to most of the readers of this newsletter, but some few more may know him as Larry Bang Bang. 

Larry Bang Bang was a rugby supporter.   In fact, he was the rugby supporter that every club should have, and many do.   His chosen club was also my chosen club as a player, the San Jose Seahawks, but don’t let that fool you – he was a rugby supporter.   San Jose St, College Park, men or women, it didn’t matter, he was going to be on the sideline banging his drum for the local side.   The sight and, naturally, the sound, of Larry Bang Bang pacing the sidelines banging his drum and shouting “LET’S GET ANOTHER FIVE POINTER!!!” always lifted me and my teammates.

Of course, I am sure the opposition hated it, but that was the point, wasn’t it?

No matter the outcome you would find Larry at the post match social holding court with a beer, a wink, a few dirty stories and a grin that was so wide the top of his head threatened to fall off.   He loved rugby and he loved his Seahawks.   That statement didn’t just apply to the rugby pitch, either.   If you played for the club, dated or was married to someone in the club, was related to one of the above or was just a supporter you were a Seahawk and he would support anything you did.  He would go to children’s recitals, birthday parties, fundraisers and off season events.   He famously played in my 40th birthday slosh ball game because, hey, I was a Seahawk. He had almost no idea what baseball was, much less slosh ball, but he was there and had the time of his life.

He never asked for anything in return.  He just wanted to be part of the club.  To belong to this wonderful fraternity and sorority of people who love rugby.   We were his family.  Yes, he had family of his own back in New Zealand but none locally so he gave all his love to the rugby community.

Rugby was not his entire life, though.  He was heavily involved in the local Scottish society and would never miss a Robert Burns Dinner and was on the board of his local homeowners association.   He just loved people and giving back.   But rugby was king, as it were.   The fortunes of the All Blacks, San Jose St and Seahawks (men and women both), were never far from his mind and he would tell you all about it every chance he would get.  

The funny thing is he never played.  As he declined I was privileged to spend a fair amount of time with him and he told me of his youth with his brother where he wasn’t allowed to play the rough game of rugby but excelled at athletics.   He was a sprinter, a shock to many who only knew him as a bent old man.  He always loved the game, though, as he told me, and jumped at the chance to get involved in rugby once he found out that we had it here in America.   That was back in 1973, just two years after the founding of the San Jose Seahawks and he was the greatest supporter the club has had in its entire history.   He saw the club grow into a national power and then fall into a social side with memories of glory and dreams of regaining it.   One of the greatest things to happen in the last few years was the resurgence of the San Jose Seahawks and when they won the trophy as Norther California D2 Champions last year the first thing they did was go to the rest home he was living in and give him the cup.   That wide smile got even wider and his eyes shone as brightly as I have ever seen them.

Most eulogies like this I like to put a bit of poetry at the top to sort of set the tone knowing that the past masters are finer practitioners of the English language than I can hope to be and poetry in particular has the ability to write its message in lines of white hot fire across the soul.   I chose not to this time for several reasons, but mainly because Larry Bang Bang just wasn’t a poetry kind of guy.  Instead, I’m going to go raise a beer to my friend and maybe tell myself a dirty joke or two.

I miss you already, my friend.  

Time To Strap On The Ol’ Nosebag

Yup, the season has come and (mostly) gone so it is time to start thinking about putting on your #1s and gathering with the flock so that we can tell everyone how good we are.   After some goading by last week’s Hail Pelicus the Board put out the following statement:

Good evening everyone,

Please save the date of June 8 as the societies’ annual banquet.  We are changing things up this year and will be hosting the event at the Up and Under Pub.  The board agreed that we’ve spent too much money at Scott’s and wanted to try something new.  in that spirt we are also changing the dress code to formal Roman Attire.  That right!! we want you dressed to impress in your best roman garb.  We are in the process of securing a reduced hotel rate.  More information will be forthcoming.

I’m personally looking forwarding to seeing everyone as we celebrate our accomplishments this past year.  

I’ll be sending out more information related to dress, food choices, and hotel accommodations in the next few days.

So it looks like we are having a toga party.    Woo hoo!

As If Anyone Needed Reminding

The USA is ranked #1 in 7s and can clinch an Olympic spot in London May 26th.

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

The various competitions all have their own disciplinary chairs and this will make it difficult to centralize the communication and data.  To help we have developed a form that will centralize the process, regardless of the competition.  The link to the discipline form is

  1. Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.
  2. When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.
  3. He/she may contact you latter for more details.
  4. If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

(We have run out of games here in Pelicanland, but our good friend Pelicus is still chugging away in England.)

Date: 04/28/2019

Westcliff 13-24 Eton Manor U18

Location: The Gables, Aviation Way, Southend-on-Sea

Referee: Preston Gordon

This was the capstone of a fairly busy weekend of rugby here in England. After work on Friday, I took a short train ride up the Lea Valley to Cheshunt RFC and had the opportunity to stretch my legs at an old boys memorial tournament  to honor one of their recently-departed members. That involved reffing one surprisingly fast 15-minute game (Cheshunt-Hertford; won by Hertford 5 tries to 0) and ARing two more, before checking out their nice new clubhouse. On Saturday, I was AR2 for a ladies match at Fullerians RFC in Watford:

Hertfordshire 20-7 Eastern Counties in the Gill Burns County Championship.

After those two outings, and a Saturday evening black tie cèilidh to benefit a Herts breast cancer organization, plus the hour’s drive to Southend, I was ready to referee a full game of rugby. That’s exactly what I got – with these two teams on top of the Essex U18 table jointly with Brentwood RFC, this match effectively had the league title on the line. Both teams were clearly well motivated during their warmup routines, and the 150+ crowd added a good atmosphere.

With prematch briefings out of the way in good time, Eton Manor kicked off at 1230. They got the first try just four minutes later, converting it and looking comfortable. Westcliff got on the scoreboard at 10′ with an unconverted try of their own that kept things close.

Eton Manor scored again at 17′ but were unable to add the extras. The 7-point lead was cut to 4 in the 20th minute, when Westcliff opted to take a shot at goal from in front of the posts (8-12). Manor had the last word in the half when they scored a third try at 27′ to go into halftime ahead by 9 points at 8-17.

After a short break, we got back to business. Westcliff obviously had had a sterner talking-to, and immediately put Eton Manor under pressure. In the 4th minute, Westcliff’s multi-phased attack took them within a few meters of the goal line. The retiring Manor #9, who was never close to being onside, cynically killed the opportunity for a quick recycled ball and subsequently departed for the touchline and a 10-minute rest. While he was away, Westcliff scored their second try in the 7th minute, and although they couldn’t convert it, they were now within 4 points at 13-17. Emotions and intensity remained high on both sides for the remainder of the match, and aside from two minor incidents away from play that necessitated a word from me to both captains, everything was going smoothly. As the clock wound down to the end of the match at 70′, Westcliff increased pressure, and I was thinking we were about to see a potential 18-17 photo finish. Both sides were very conscious of the time remaining and the score, asking me to confirm it several times. Ultimately, one minute after time had expired, Eton Manor intercepted a pass and scored under the posts to seal their win and league title. Their captain rushed to take the meaningless drop-kicked conversion so he could join his teammates’

raucous celebration, while Westcliff looked on, knowing it could have been theirs had things turned out just a little bit differently. An 11-point win definitely flattered Eton Manor on the day.

Despite there being a storm warning for the weekend, there were only a few sprinkles in the second half, and we had a firm pitch to use.

Westcliff’s hospitality and clubhouse were great, and I felt a bit lucky to learn that I may have had one of the last matches at this site, which is on the opposite side of Southend airport from Southend RFC, where I AR’d Westcliff’s Essex U18 Cup final in early March.  Apparently the airport is expanding, and Westcliff RFC is relocating to a larger site somewhere else in the area.

This was probably my last 15s match of the season. After 30+ matches in less than half of an English season (having 7 evaluations, with 3 at level 8), I’m pretty happy with how things have gone here. I’ve gotten some really great reactions from people in the rugby clubhouses here. Having attired myself properly, I don’t get a second glance until I open my mouth. Then I typically get asked if I’m Canadian (although I’ve gotten Australian and Kiwi as well, and occasionally even an accurate guess at American). One of these days, I won’t be able to explain that yes, we do have rugby in the United States, and by the way, USA is ranked #1 at sevens!

This Week’s Photo

Larry Bang Bang leading the San Jose Seahawks out circa 1985.

Hail, Pelicus!

For the Senate

Pelicus Pedem Referre