Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | What To Do On Saturdays?
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What To Do On Saturdays?

Well to start I have to say that we here at Hail Pelicus are doing our part in this crisis.   In an abundance of caution this week’s HP is being written in an empty room without a live studio audience.    All non-essential writers and editors have not only been asked to stay home but have been fired outright and their desks have been burned.  A hard decision to make but necessary – better to be safe than sorry.   This is proving more difficult than I anticipated; it will be difficult to write without the feedback and energy generated by a live audience.  How will I know when I am funny without laughter?   How will I know when the more sober and touching pieces hit their mark without the emblematic “awwwwww”?    I guess it will all have to be in my head.

We will persevere in the face of this global pandemic that is underway and will continue to live our lives as much as possible within the confines of hygiene, social distancing and common sense.  

(EDITOR’s NOTE:  In the spirit of full disclosure we must inform everyone that Hail Pelicus has never been written in front of a live studio audience.   All the laughter and other reactions are, and have always been, inside the editor’s head.)

COVID-19 has shut down rugby not only here in Pelicanland but globally as well.   There is no rugby to be had anywhere and the big question on all or our minds is “What to do on Saturdays?”   In a standard year there are a few weeks of off-season here and there but those weekends have been becoming more and more rare in the last few years.    Currently, our main season starts in January and extends through April with National Playoffs in May.  June sees the start of 7s season and with more and more tournaments being scheduled that continues through mid August.    Maybe a couple of weeks to catch our breath and we finish off the 7s season with the Tri Tip is in San Luis Obispo.   Then maybe another 2 weeks of rest and we are straight into the collegiate 7s season and WPL.   This continues to late October and early November whereupon club sides start their pre-season training and we are back at it.

That is approximately 48 out of 52 weeks a year that the NCRFURS needs to support rugby.   Having it pulled out from under us is disorienting at best and now we need to get creative in order to fill our days.  What do the Rugby Muggles do?   If anyone knows one please ask them and let me know the answer – I am at a loss.

I do have some ideas, however:

  1. Introduce yourself to the people in your house – they may be family members.   This could be a good time to memorize their names and talk to them about non-rugby related subjects. It will be hard at first but we all must make sacrifices.

    (EDITOR’s NOTE: Should any of these so-called family members start talking about lacrosse or, gods forbid, rugby league then you should end the conversation immediately and run away. Nobody needs that kind of negativity in their life.)

  2. Rewatch (or watch for the first time) old matches on YouTube, DVD or even VHS.   I highly recommend Australia v New Zealand from 2000 in Sydney, which can be found here.   It has been called the greatest game of rugby ever played for good reason.  Search around and find a few others or even some of your old club matches.   Good times!

  3. A great idea from our friends in the East Midlands:  You are all used to wearing your society shirts every weekend.   Friday, Saturday and Sunday.   We know you are going to miss refereeing!   Why not wear your society shirts this weekend to show everyone who you are and what you normally do?  TO RUGBY FAMILY – do say hello to “sir” if you see them about.

  4. Just because there are no games doesn’t mean that you can’t keep up with or improve your fitness.  Outdoor exercising is recommended during shelter-in-place so get that work in and when rugby comes back you will be fitter than when it stopped.

  5. Have any elderly or otherwise compromised neighbors?   Is there a household you know of that is struggling with kids unexpectedly at home full time?   Offer to run errands or do shopping for them.  As referees we already give back to our sport – let’s all now give back to our community.

  6. Stop panic buying toilet paper.   Seriously.   Due to the unique combination of hardwoods and softwoods local to North America the US and Canada produce the vast majority of the world’s toilet paper.  We will not run out. This is a respiratory disease not a gastro-intestinal infection.

  7. Miss your post-match socials?   Thursday night drink up after training?   Get some friends, fellow referees and club teammates together and facetime each other while sharing a pint.   Google hangouts was made for such a time as this.

So there you have it.   Please don’t limit yourself to this list and feel free to occupy yourself as you like but I do expect strict adherence to #4 and #6.   I expect everyone to have 6 pack abs with responsibly clean bottoms when this is over.  And make sure you wash your hands.

Nothing To See Here.

In adherence to our practice of keeping the entire Northern California rugby referee community informed as to all of the latest news here is the latest from Rugby NORCAL:

Rugby NorCal COVID 19 Update, March 18 2020:

There is no update at this time.

Reminiscing About The Good Old Days

Our East Midland friends came up again recently with this anecdote from my noble predecessor, Dr. Bruce Carter, Pelicus Scriptorus:

Helen Marcus and I have been writing back and forth about East Mids tour days.   A story came up that I wanted to share.   This is about Tony Latu on tour in 2000 with Pete Smith, Skip Vaughn and me.

Pat Lam was a Samoan International, probably the best player Samoa had produced to that point. He finished his career with the Saints and then, the year we were there, he stayed on as a coach. He was greatly loved by the rugby fans of Northampton and there was nothing but good will for him.

We all went to skittles’ night, remember the bar where we threw the ‘cheeses’, wooden blobs, at pins? It was a local in Wellingborough, and the woman who was the manager thought that Tony was Pat Lam! She convinced the rest of the patrons that it was he. None of us ever disabused them of the notion, we caught on right away, but Tony was oblivious. They’d say things like, “How do you like it here in Northamptonshire?” and “Is the food different from home?” and he’d answer with no idea who they thought he was. He commented on the way home that everyone very nice to him.

We had to tell him the truth. Update News – We Are Current!

The page for Hail Pelicus has been reinstated with the convenient URL of .     Many thanks Neil MacDonald for getting this going because I know exactly how much free time you have.  The last few episodes have been uploaded and we again thank you for your patience.

Or if you happen to go to the site on your own, you can just click on the “NEWS” tab and it will take you to your favorite newsletter.

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines (until we get 2020 GMGs)

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

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It appears that the link in previous Hail Pelicus had expired and was no longer working.  The link below has been tested and does work so feel free to use it going forward.)

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

Copy the link and have it available on your smartphone.  If you have an iPhone add the link to your home screen.

When needed fill it out and click submit.  The discipline chair of the competition you refereed will receive a notification about the incident.

He/she may contact you latter for more details.

If you have any questions as to how to use the app please refer to the following video:

On To The Game Reports!

Preston Gordon was able to slip one in under the wire back in England for the final report of the 2020 season.  

Date: 3/14/2020
Hendon 27 – Cranbrook 22
Referee: Preston Gordon
Location: Allianz Park, Hendon, North London
Competition: RFU Junior Vase, London & South East Division Final

There are four regional divisions within England rugby, and each of them hold their own final in this competition, which is the 5th most prestigious cup in the country. This was also a national quarter-final, given that Hendon will play Old Cryptians (a Gloucester side who won the South West division final) for the right to play in the national final at Twickenham later this season. Hendon were #1 in the Herts/Middlesex 1 league (14-0 record) and Cranbrook were #2 in Kent 1 (13-1-2), so both level 9 teams were in top form and this seemed like it would be a big occasion. Being provided with two great ARs at this venue, with the London & SE title at stake, was obviously an honor. The game did not disappoint me, nor did it disappoint the raucous crowd of ~300, including a fairly large group of Middlesex, London & SE, and RFU officialdom attending in their number ones. This was graded a level 8 match, but it was played with a degree of ferocity and pace that I’ve only seen at level 7 once. The artificial turf pitch certainly helps the game move faster.

Hendon have written a match report that captures pretty much everything, so I’ll refer you to that:

The only comments I would add to their well-written report:

Coming into this match, I had had no rugby for 9 days, due to a flooded pitch for my Epping Upper Clapton-Wymondham game on 3/7 (London 2NE) and COVID work-from-home orders keeping most of the UCS Old Boys-Thamesians players out of London on 3/13 (Middlesex Vets). I was slightly concerned about this, but 9 days of no reffing seemed to leave me pretty sharp and I was certainly keener to do a good job with this game. On a funny note, the Hendon coach pointed out that “we haven’t lost since we last had you, this could be an omen” before the match. But he either was engaging in a bit of gamesmanship, or he couldn’t recall the result of that match, because Hendon won it 24-21 when I last reffed them in the preseason on 8/28. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.

The disallowed try in the second half happened around the 62′ mark in the left corner. I was in a great spot to see the Hendon player beat the defense covering the chip kick to ground the bouncing ball with a couple of fingertips just before the dead ball line, but before awarding the try I looked at the near AR to find one of those looks instead of a thumbs-up. As I blew the whistle to signal time off and calm the players, who were in various states of excitation, the radio in my ear told me that the far AR had seen foul play. So the three of us worked through it to determine that both ARs had seen a Hendon player push one of the Cranbrook defenders in the back in a way that had a material effect on the outcome. It only took a minute to sort this out, and the first part of that was reminding the players that the three of us would handle the decision (this was probably the first game with ARs they’d had all season). Outcome: no try, penalty to Cranbrook 5m from the goal line, and no complaints. Unfortunately nobody saw the number of the offender, because he was heading for a rest otherwise.

Hendon’s last penalty, moving them ahead 27-22, was at 66′ – so they had to absorb closer to 15 minutes of serious Cranbrook pressure to hold on for the win. Their match report says 5 minutes, but other than that, the timings are very close to what I recorded.

Not mentioned anywhere is the Cranbrook yellow card at 71′, for the 3rd high tackle by their team within their own 22m area. The captain had been duly warned about this. Once again, there were no complaints.

Post-match, everybody was happy – Hendon most of all, obviously. After we all shook hands, the London & SE head of competitions (a gentleman by the name of David Williamson) thanked everyone for playing a great game, and thanked our team of three as well. We even managed to snag a photo with the trophy before retiring to the changing rooms. Later, we enjoyed the roaring social with live Irish music at Hendon’s clubhouse just a short walk away. I ran into several other dignitaries there, who thanked all of us for handling the occasion well, and got some great feedback from a former national panel ref and current LSRFUR member who sits on the RFU council. I also found the Cranbrook captain, a pint or two later, and he was complimentary too. I wished him the best of luck for the rest of the season, and I would be surprised not to see both Cranbrook and Hendon in London 3SE and 3NW next year, respectively. The evening continued just as expected at one of the club’s sponsor pubs, where there was basically zero social distancing happening.

The following day I AR’d at Harlow RFC for the Essex-Eastern Counties U20 match. Essex were competitive for the first 30 minutes or so, but had only met for their first practice session that morning. It was 0-19 at halftime, but ultimately Eastern Counties ran away with it 7-62. I had a couple more appointments on the books, but I also had a pretty sad feeling that this could be the last rugby played in these parts for a while for obvious reasons. After raising the flag for the last conversion, full time was blown and I knelt for a moment to put a hand on the pitch. And sure enough, on the following Monday, the RFU suspended rugby in England. But to be honest, there can’t be many better ways to finish a season than this particular weekend.

This Week’s Photo

David Hasselhoff cheering on the USA at the LA 7s.   Remember, if you run into him at a rugby event be polite and remember the Golden Rule: Don’t Hassle The Hoff.

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

James Hinkin
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