Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | A Story Of Kit
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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

James Hinkin
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