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”
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.
Now cracks a noble
heart. Good night, sweet prince,
and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
an educator, the teacher is
who heals ignorance which people faced
in his hands lie great opportunities
of ambitious youth heading
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
Rommel Mark Dominguez Marchan
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?
Paul Bretz: Ah, I think they like the idea, Neil.
(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
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
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.
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 https://norcalreferee2019.itemorder.com/
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
(We have run out of games here in Pelicanland, but our good
friend Pelicus is still chugging away in England.)
13-24 Eton Manor U18
Gables, Aviation Way, Southend-on-Sea
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:
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.
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’
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.
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
This Week’s Photo
Larry Bang Bang leading the San Jose Seahawks out circa
It has been some time since the last Hail Pelicus was released to my adoring public and I know some of
you are jonesing hard right now, so let’s apply the tourniquet of rugby news to
our arms and pop up the veins of pseudo-classical satirical comedy, to insert
the needle of insight and depress the plunger of truthiness and let that sweet,
sweet Hail Pelicus flow into our consciousness. That’s it, just relax and let the metaphors
take you away to your happy place, for it is Playoff Rugby time.
Yes the reasons for the gap in publishing are many and
varied, but stem from two main sources.
The first is that for work these days I am traveling to Iowa every week
and that limits the time I have to wax poetic on rugby themes and other
musings. To be honest, I really don’t
have time to wax anything at all these days – things are a nasty mess in
certain places; just plain dirty. I
hardly even like looking at it and it is mine.
One of these days soon I am just going to bite the bullet
and wax my car to get it back to its original luster. My snow skis could use a coat of wax as well
for the Spring skiing season.
The other reason is the lawsuit I filed against the NCRFURS
over several grievances, including missing back pay and the obvious obstruction
from the society president (which he calls a Witch Hunt). It was an emotional and dramatic scene when Pelicus
Iudex Pennipes was on the witness stand and I hammered him with questions that
he either refused to answer or answered with a conciliatory sneer. The tension was palpable when the final
exchange took place:
Paul Bretz (as played
by Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Hail Pelicus(as played by Tom Cruise): I think I’m
entitled to them.
Paul Bretz: You
Hail Pelicus: I
want the truth!
Paul Bretz: YOU
CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Son, we referee a game that has laws. And those laws
have to be guarded by men with whistles. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Pelicus
Pedem Referre? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.
You weep for Santiago and you curse Northern California Rugby Referees. You
have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that
Santiago’s red card, while tragic, probably saved penalties. And my existence,
while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves penalties. I have neither the time nor the inclination
to explain myself to a man who plays rugby under the blanket of the very
freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I
would rather you just said ‘thank you’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I
suggest you pick up a whistle and do a match. Either way, I don’t give a damn
what you think you are entitled to!
Hail Pelicus:Did you give the Red Card? Paul Bretz:I did the
job that — Hail Pelicus:Did you give the Red Card? Paul Bretz:You’re goddamn right I did!
And then the judge (played by Matt Eason) threw the case out
reasoning this is a volunteer position so I don’t get paid, plus I retired from
playing rugby to referee 10 years ago so the scene made no sense.
Personally, I think Chris Hemsworth would have been a much
better choice to play the role of Hail
Pelicus, but nobody asked me.
The Evolution of USA 7s and Carlin Isles
Hong Kong and Singapore exposed the USA 7s team for what we
are: a very talented team that is badly missing their superstars. We finished 3rd and 4th
continuing the unprecedented run of making the semifinals in every tournament
and thus gaining valuable points, but we lack that killer finish to get by the
top teams at the end. One can not
overstate the loss of Perry Baker and Danny Barrett but the squad has proved
its depth. Pinkleman has been a rock
star and should be in the World Player of the Year conversation. Tomasin has been a revelation and Leuta,
while backsliding in a couple of games with concentration issues, has stepped
up to be the player he can be. Niua we
all know runs the team and is playing nearly every minute so I worry about his
health, but some of the pressure should be taken off if, as expected, PB and DB
are back in the squad for London and Paris.
So what about Carlin Isles?
I have criticized him and praised him as he has filled the gap left
behind by the loss of Baker, but the last few tournaments have not only shown
his improvement but highlighted his weaknesses. There is nobody in world rugby that is
better at running fast in a straight line than Isles and he has added, not a
sidestep, but a very effective swerve.
He is creating tries in places when in the past he would be bottled up
or shepherded into touch and he is doing it against world class opponents. That is hugely impressive and his tour
leading try total is a just reward.
And yet… he is a rag doll on defense. He is targeted by the opposition and is a
liability. So what do you do? You can not take the greatest offensive
threat we have off the field, so you have to overcompensate on defense with
other players covering for him and that has led to tries being given up and is in
many ways the difference between winning a semi or a final and losing.
He has earned his place and deserves all the accolades he is
being given, but forgive me if I can not wait until Perry Baker returns.
What Of The Ladies?
So what of the ladies?
Well unfortunately the women of rugby don’t get the same amount of
coverage as the men. I only knew that we
beat the New Zealand Black Ferns in 7s from Facebook – and it was a prop who
told me! There was a Women’s 7s
tournament going on in Japan! I had to
go back and search for myself to learn that we destroyed England in the first
match 43-7. That is a fun one to watch,
I highly recommend it. We then took it
to Fiji 31-5 and then squeaked by Ireland 15-12. That set up a quarterfinal with the reigning
World Cup champions, New Zealand. We
proved ourselves in San Francisco that even without Alev Kelter we could push
the Kiwis to the edge and it turns out that with her we can push them off the
edge. It was a thrilling match that I
also, highly recommend watching. After
dispatching the world champions with nary an effort 26 – 19 (just kidding – it was
a great back and forth game) we finally faltered at the feet of our neighbors
to the north, Canada, eh? Canada went
on to win the whole shebang so we had to console ourselves with a fine 3rd
place and showing the French how it is done.
What the real tragedy of USA Women’s rugby is really the 15s program. We are really, really good but there is
literally no support. Last weekend we
had a famous match against the Barbarians – always a great matchup because of
the whole Barbarian culture of picking all star teams that just go out and have
fun. Anything can happen at these
affairs. But… but… in order to get to
the selection and training camps the LADIES HAD TO PAY THEIR OWN WAY! I saw numerous gofundme and other
fundraising campaigns just to get our best players together to train.
This is intolerable and if it isn’t at the forefront of the
agenda of USA Rugby BoD and Congress, then they should all be sacked
immediately. It is almost better to
have no governing body than to have one that doesn’t support the rugby populace. You
can argue about where money should be spent but this is the National Team’s
basic expenses of getting to training camp!
I don’t see this happening to the mens’ team.
Pelican Rugby Kit Store Is Back
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 winter but it will delivered in time for the 7s
season. The store opens April 26 and runs
through May 10 so get your order in now.
Purchases will be delivered by May 31.
Go to https://norcalreferee2019.itemorder.com/
to check it out.
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. I
am sure the Board of Directors will soon make an announcement as to the
details, but to get ahead of the game I am starting my pre-banquet fasting
With the two clubs “Old
Boys” game played beforehand there was a good atmosphere developed before the
game on what was an excellent day on Treasure Island – the sun was out and with
the noon kickoff time the wind was not significant throughout the game.
definitely more organized in their warm-up routines with SFGG getting
progressively more structured as kickoff approached. SFGG started well and put some pressure on in
the opening 5 minutes assisted by some errors from Olympic. On 8 minutes,
Olympic forced a turnover and some quick phased play brought them into the SFGG
22. From there a few more phases of pressure lead to a try on the left which
went unconverted – 5-0. Olympic
continued to be the more dominant team but SFGG’s defense held them up and the
SFGG 12 made a number of strong runs to alleviate the pressure. On 25
mins the pressure did tell with another unconverted try wide on the left.
SFGG dominated the
last 10 mins of the half aided by a number of kick outs on the full by the
Olympic 10 and a scrum that was getting the upper hand but failed to make a
score. The second half started well for
Gate but Olympic’s overall better fitness levels started to influence the
scoreline – when opportunities came they were able to keep the pressure on.
This lead to a try on 54 mins – again unconverted from the left. 15-0.
Around this stage I
had a quick chat with the captains on both sides starting to slow down ball at
the breakdown – this brought the right reaction from both sides for the
remainder of the game.
On 60 mins Olympic
opted for a kick at goal from a penalty in front of the posts but the kick was
pulled badly wide. On 65 mins the
pressure brought the bonus point try, again wide on the left and unconverted –
From the restart,
Olympic broke through and despite some good defense from SFGG the ball was
recycled and they crossed for a 5th try by the posts which was converted –
Olympic then started
to empty their bench progressively and SFGG had the better of the last 10
minutes. With a few minutes to go they
crossed the line but the 9 was held up and the subsequent scrum was poor and
Olympic turned over and exited. The
game finished in midfield with both sides warmly clapping each other off the
field after a competitive game physically which was not fully reflected on the
Vacaville 41 – BA
Both teams were
wrapping up difficult seasons, so only pride was on the line. Vacaville came
through, more organized at the breakdown and able to put together some nice
backfield attacks. Still, Baracus stayed with it and scored as time expired to
end on a high note.
Marin 48 – BA
Baracus B 0
A rare, nice, sunny
Saturday, kickoff was at 12:20. Marin took a 7 minute lead at the 7 minute
mark. 10 minutes later, some good passing lead to another try. 6 minutes later,
Marin added 3 more and took a 24-0 lead into half time. More of the same in the
second half, Marin won going away with a final score of 48-0.
Olympic Club Old
Boys 84 – SFGG Senors 12
First old boys game
in a while, and long overdue. Two fine teams of guys remembering how the game
works, and having laughs while thumping each other as hard as the ageing bodies
would allow. One rather young player stood out in this crowd, out on the wing
for OC, sneaking in under the father-son exemption. He did try to score at one
point, before finding out that 18 years old is insufficiently aged to have a
try allowed in an old-boys game. 22 drop out to restart…
Fortunately he was smart enough to find a team mate to pass to next time he
found himself in goal. The team mate in question? His father.
Nice moment. As for the game, OC thumped Gate, but was anybody really
keeping score? Well, aside from me…
Thanks to both teams
for playing in fine spirit and for the beers after. I got to watch Pelicus
Guinness Consumptus run around after players half his age, which I found
vaguely fitting given the game I had just done. Slainte!
Pacific 52 – Santa
Rosa JC 24
Rugby just keeps
getting better. Top to bottom the game is being played with more skill and
grace than it when I started playing, or even when I stopped playing. It’s fun
to see. On campus at the University of the Pacific the state of the game was on
display between UoP and the visitors from Santa Rosa Junior College. Overall
the game was quick, hard hitting and at times beautiful to watch. The teams
traded scores in a first half that saw the home team up 24-17 at the break. In
the second half, UoP got going and never looked back. A penalty try 10:00 into
the second period had the Tigers fired up. Though they ended up playing a man
down for much of the half, they found some gaps in the Santa Rosa back line and
pulled away with a couple of break away tries. UoP nearly pitched a shut out in
the second half. SRJC added a cosmetic score off a brilliant and frenetic few
minutes of play, ending the game with a brilliant run from their captain that
went for a try. Good game by both sides on a perfect Stockton afternoon.
Danville Oaks RFC 22
– Jesuit High School Rugby Club 24
Referee: Pete Smith
No offence to any
other team, player, coach or ref, but I easily had the match of the day in
California. Jesuit traveled to Danville under perfect skies and 65* temps.
Danville controlled the game early going up 5-0 then 10-0 only to have Jesuit
come back to tie it at halftime with two tries of their own. Only 5 penalties in
the first half. The kids were there to play, not talk or whine, but PLAY!
Second half 17-10, then 17-17 then Jesuit pulls ahead 24-17 with 8 minutes
remaining. With no time left, Danville chips ahead to the Jesuit #8 who smartly
marks the ball inside his 22. I tell the #8 time has expired and a free kick is
just like a kick in open play (can’t coach). He taps the ball and then kicks
for distance and touch directly to the Danville winger in play (If he had
turned around and kicked the ball out the back of the try zone game would have
been over) several phases later try to Danville in ‘extra’ time. Conversion
wide right game over 24-22. 5 penalties in the second half! Easily 10 HS
All-Americans on the field, probably 5-6 future collegiate AA’s and likely 2-3
future Eagles (there are 5 Eagles between the two coaching staff’s!!) EPIC
This is why refs
ref. That game was a slice of heaven to a ref. It’s like a hole one one to
weekend golfer…it is the Holy Grail. Players that want to play, shut up and
trust the ref, open it up and go, fans were great (several hundred of them),
weather perfect, pitch fast, ref amped, Game ON!!! Thank you players, coaches
and fans for letting me be a part of your game. Wow…just WOW!
De La Salle 43 –
Pleasanton Cavaliers HS Varsity 7
A hard fought game
by both sides
Cal 29 – St Marys
Strawberry Canyon on
a sun filled day drew a large crowd for a great day of rugby.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Seriously?
That is all you have to say about Cal v St Marys?)
San Jose Seahawks B
24 – Marin 22
Referee: Giles Wilson
A very competitive “play
in” game on a beautiful Saturday in San Jose between Marin Reds and San Jose
Seahawks. Both teams had the ability to
make line breaks, although both also had defensive structure. At the end of the
first half, there was nothing between the teams at 12-all both teams having two
tries and one conversion.
More of the same in
the second half, both teams scored unconverted tries to move to 17-all. Marin
then scored again but could not convert for a 22-17 lead. San Jose worked their
way back for a final score and the winning conversion for a 24 – 22 final.
51 – SFGG Women 0
dominance early. They found easy overlaps in the backfield, and wings were able
to take an outside line around the defenders. The inside running by the Amazons
was punishing with big forwards testing the Golden Gate tackling. It was no
different in the scrums with the Amazons in control, forcing Golden Gate to
move backwards even when they won the scrum.
Reno Zephyrs 31 –
Mendocino Steam Donkeys 58
Referee: Sam Reagle
This was looking to
be an exciting game between 2 teams that were playing for nothing but pride.
This being a factor, both teams were short on subs. The Mendocino Steam
Donkeys got on the board first with an unconverted try just 2 minutes into the
game. It took about 10 minutes for the Zephyrs to respond with a
converted try to take the lead 7-5. Then the Zephyrs got their groove
with 2 more tries (one converted) to storm out to a 19-5 lead when disaster
struck. Two Zephyrs banged heads making a tackle drawing blood from both.
Both subbed out, one later returned. During their absence, the Steam
Donkeys ran off 4 tries to retake the lead 29-19. After one bleeder
returned, Mendocino managed another unconverted try before halftime to lead
The Steam Donkeys
continued to press in the second half with tries at 2, 7, 12 and 30 minutes.
The Zephyrs closed out the scoring with a penalty try at 33 minutes due to a
collapsed scrum at the goal line and a well-earned try in the corner at full
time. Final 58-31.
The social was
well-attended by both teams at the Red Rock Bar in downtown Reno. It’s
run by a very friendly Kiwi whose name I knocked on.
Grizzlies 22 – Jesuit High School Rugby Club 31
A big local match
saw Jesuit over Granite Bay rugby
Rugby Club 50 – Mother Lode Rugby Football Club 12
Motherlode was a bit
behind the eight ball due to numbers and had to pull some players up from JV
for depth. Despite the adversity Motherlode played with enthusiasm and resolve.
The scoreboard doesn’t reflect the possession they had inside Marin’s 22. On
the other side, Marin played very well. They were able to move the ball through
multiple players on most possessions and played a distinctly unselfish brand of
rugby. Kudos to both teams and their coaches, who have clearly been instilling
a positive culture within their clubs.
De La Salle 70 – C K
McClatchy High School 12
Bit one-sided, but
much fun had by all anyway. Thanks to Ed and Bryant on the sideline for
their invaluable assistance.
Navy 74 VCU 0
VCU showed up with 17 players to take on a primarily plebe
side of Midshipmen. Navy had a full complement of subs and being Navy, fitness
wasn’t an issue.
VCU was incredibly well-coached, it took Navy a yellow card
before they were able to keep the tackle zone clear, while VCU was able to keep
to their pattern without repeated infringments. While the first half yellow
slowed the Navy attack, Navy were still able to get 4 first half tries to go up
22-0. The half was closer than that as VCU was able to penetrate deep into the
Navy half a couple of times, but was never able to punch it across.
The second half was another story as fitness and numbers
took a toll on VCU, who continued to play hard, but couldn’t get any reward for
43 Raleigh 14
The North Bay and MD Exiles Girls High School teams are the
class of Maryland Girls rugby and closed out the regular season to claim top
seeding going into the playoffs. The Exiles hosted and feature a powerful,
forward driven attack, with a strong counter ruck. North Bay has a dangerous
backline and does a lot of damage through the wide channels. North Bay were
able to strike first and grabbed the early 7-0 lead. However, the game played
to the Exiles strengths with lots of in tight pick and goes, and heated rucks.
A key edge for North Bay was their captain and fly-half Alex Pipkin who slotted
a penalty late in the first half (off of 3 posts) to go in 10-0.
The Exiles hit back hard in the second half and put North
Bay under extreme pressure. After North Bay lost a player to a yellow for repeated team offsides the Exiles
were able to punch a try across after a multiple phases at the the North Bay
try line to cut the lead to 10-5. Late
in the half North Bay pushed the ball down into the Exiles half with a lineout
on the Exiles 5-meter line. The Exiles won the line out and tried to run it out
from the shadow of their posts, but the ball carrier got isolated and North Bay
slotted another penalty to go up 13-5.
The Exiles got a penalty at the North Bay 22 in the waning
minutes and stuck to their pattern of play, eschewing the kick and of crashing
the balls with their forwards. They were able to get to a camp out in the North
Bay end, but never were able to crack the line.
7-12 Old Albanians U18
Playing Fields, Brentwood
This youth friendly
featured two very well-matched teams that nearly fought out a draw on the same
pitch where I reffed the Mavericks senior men’s side on January 26th. The lines
on the pitch appeared to have last been painted that same day too – it seems
the local council (government) has been putting its taxpayers’ hard-earned
pounds to work elsewhere. I insisted on having cones along the two goal lines,
but was happy to judge the rest of it using the sideline and in-goal flags.
The halftime score
was 7-7, and other than a Mavericks player clearly running out the back of the
in-goal in the second half, it appeared that I was going to have a second drawn
result on this pitch within three months. The Old Albanian pack, however, had
another plan, and in the 39th minute (running time) of the second half had a
lineout about 15m from the Mavericks goal line. They recovered their own throw,
formed a driving maul, and the player at the back broke off about 5m short and
beat the cover defense to the corner flag to score the winning try.
Earlier in the game,
there were a couple of players giving me unsolicited feedback on what I should
be calling, but this was more due to teenage over-enthusiasm than anything
else, and a couple of words with the captains sorted this out quickly and
quietly. There was basically no foul play, which reflects the great quality of
coaching that these two sides have. Getting a solid workout on this sloped pitch
on a Sunday afternoon – right as the sun burned off the drizzle – was a great
way to end a weekend full of rugby.
I spent the
preceding day at Allianz Park, yet again, as #4 and reserve AR for the
Saracens-Wasps FC Tyrrells Premier 15s women’s semi-final. Saracens won 31-13
and the ref for that
one was Sara Cox, the world’s first professional lady rugby referee. I
definitely picked up a few things at her pre-match briefing!
The gentleman who
was there to evaluate/coach one of the ARs was named Clive Nicholas (I’m fairly
sure that was his last name, but not certain) and he was from the East
Midlands. While doing the usual who-do-we-know-in-common routine, we figured
out that two of those people were none other than Bruce Carter and Murray
Felstead! Clive says hello – I really hope I got his last name right – and
rugby really is a small world.
NorCal TBA 21 –
NorCal TBA 7
Not often when 2
good sides compete do you look down at your watch when the first points of the
game are scored and realize that we were scoreless for 28 minutes. The
intensity of this game was fantastic. Not to say that it was the best
rugby spectacle, or that it was the most skillfully played, but you could feel
the passion from both sides for this game. Scores were level again early
in the second half, then finally Chico’s home-field advantage began to show.
Both the squad size and the freshness that comes from sleeping in their own
beds and having their own match-day rhythm began to show, and they pulled out a
lead midway through the second half, and was never relinquished.
Chico St 24 – Cal
State Long Beach 22
This was a game
where 2 wonderful rolling mauls propelled Chico into the finals. The
first happened 2 minutes into the game, and was pulled down by Long Beach at
the 5m, resulting in a yellow card. The second, also resulting in a
yellow card, happened early in the second half. After 50 minutes, it was
Chico all the way, and their 19 point lead looked sure to take them on.
Long Beach had other ideas, and finally shook off their slumber and started to
apply pressure. As they ratcheted up the intensity, so Chico began to
look vulnerable, and ultimately began to break down. They lost 2 players
of their own to the bin as a result of the increased pressure Long Beach put
them under. Their goal line was repeatedly crossed with intent.
And, but for a missed conversion, this game would have gone to overtime. This
referee’s wallet is glad this did not happen, but the soul did wonder what
would have happened given another 10 minutes that a kicker’s boot could have
provided. As it was, Chico move on to Charlotte.
Thanks to James,
Paul and Patrick for their invaluable help all weekend.
Rugby Club 36 – Lamorinda Rugby Football Club 17
hosted Lamorinda in a playoff game, on a real grass field in Corta Madera. The
field had a noticeable slope and there was a fairly strong breeze from one end. Marin had a strong first half while Lamorinda
played in fits and starts without much continuity. The first half ended 31-0 in
favour of the hosts.
In the second half
Marin introduced some younger players while Lamo played with more intent and
continuity, resulting in a 17 – 5 second half. Final score 36 – 17, Marin.
Danville Oaks RFC 24
– Lamorinda Rugby Football Club 14
It was a beautiful
day at California High School. Danville played host to Lamorinda in this Junior
Varsity playoff match featuring the present and future of this ongoing series
between two of the Bay Area’s best U19 clubs. Lamorinda took the opening kick
off and played several successful and disciplined phases down well inside the
Danville 22. But a turnover soon turned into momentum for the boys in black,
who ran their own series of phases back into Lamo territory. Danville scored
their first try at 7:30 but just barely missed on the conversion. Danville put
in another try at 23:30 and looked to be firmly in control, until Lamo, playing
with just 13 managed to take possession inside Danville’s 22 and finally put
one over. Still playing down a man, Lamo nearly took the lead on the last play
of the first half, but the near score was lost forward in goal with no time
left. The second half saw both teams play well, with possession rarely
entering the 22 for either side. Danville was able to put on a burst in the
middle of the period, scoring tries at 48:00 and 52:00. Lamo never quit and was
able to get one back on a brilliant attack that ended in try with six-minutes
left in the game. The visiting team seemed determined to continue scoring and
there was the energy in the air that comes with a building sense of momentum.
It was not to be, as Danville was able to gain possession and hold it for most
of the remaining time. As always, it was a great day because it was a
rugby. Many thanks to the players on both sides as well as to the coaches and
This Week’s Photo
Team of Three on a picture perfect day at Stanford for the
Collegiate Women’s playoffs.
So we are back in circulation and there is plenty of rugby
to cover. To start, the USA finished a disappointing
4th in Vancouver.
Let me repeat that: the USA finished a disappointing 4th
Why am I making such a big deal about this? Because not too long ago a 4th
place finish would have been celebrated as an accomplishment of note. Just making the Cup round regularly would
have had American rugby fans singing and dancing in the streets. Happy happy, joy joy! We are hanging with the Big Boys!
That all changed this year.
Our Mighty Eagles have made EVERY Cup Final of the series
this year, finally breaking through for a win in Las Vegas, all the while doing
most of this without the 2 time defending World Player Of The Year Perry Baker
and, most recently, without Danny Barrett in the final stages of Vegas. The loss of these two players can not be
underestimated but to the surprise of many, including this reporter, the depth
of the Eagles has finally stepped up and absorbed these losses without missing
a beat. All of this had to come to an
end and this “crash” happened in Vancouver as the USA looked tired and made
uncharacteristic mistakes. We got
through our pool beating Wales and Chile on talent but were exposed badly
against South Africa. We beat England in
the quarterfinals mainly because England didn’t want to win the game, but
looked flat against the surprising French and, as per usual, disinterested in
the consolation match against Fiji.
To misquote Shakespeare, I do not come here to bury the
Eagles, but to praise them. The toll
that international 7s takes on the body can not be overstated and being in so
many high pressure matches eventually had to catch up. The boys are playing their hearts out and
Mike Friday has them as ready as any team on the circuit. We are the most
complete team on the circuit with a balance of size, speed and skill that is the
envy of the rest of the world. We do not need to be in every final to win the
World Sevens Series title, although that would help, but just to have more
points than everyone else at the end.
My back of the napkin calculations tell me that if we make the semis of
every tournament going forward we will raise the trophy in Paris so I am
advising everyone to pump the brakes on the Panicmobile.
Don’t forget that even though we placed 4th, we
still extended our points lead over 2nd place New Zealand. Life is still good and it is still with great pleasure and no humility
whatsoever that, in accordance with the longstanding tradition, I must remind
everyone that the USA is ranked #1 in the world in 7s.
How are the Eagles doing all of this wonderful work? One answer is Ben Pinkleman. I have watched the Series with a critical
eye and fully believe that Pinkie should be an early front runner for World
Player of the Year honors. This award
often goes to the top try scorers and killer finishers (see Baker, Perry) but
Pinkleman has been an absolute stud doing everything for the team. He is in the mode of Kiwi captain Tim
Mikkleson, the kind of player who does all the dirty work to gain and secure possession,
draw in defenders and create space for the likes of Carlin Isles to run very
fast in a straight line. His defense is
ferocious and he is one of the best poachers in the world. Offensively he cleans up so much sloppiness
that is often gets overlooked and we would not be anywhere near where we are in
the standings without him. He is a
deserving front runner right now and has my vote.
The Williamson Scholarship committee is pleased to once
again provide the opportunity to send a qualified individual to Canada for 6
weeks of intensive referee development training. The selected referee
will have the opportunity to officiate more than 30 games during their stay.
Eligible candidates must be able to meet the following
1. Level 1 referee certified with an active USA Rugby
membership as either a referee or player
2. Actively engaged in refereeing within Northern
California and taking assignments from Rugby NorCal and/or the Northern California
Rugby Football Union Referees Society (NCRFURS)
3. Between the ages of 18-23
4. A demonstrated desire to enhance refereeing skills
5. A desire to continue to officiate in Northern
California after the trip has ended
6. Ability to stay in Canada from early June through
7. Have or be able to acquire a passport by June 1.
According to the
Goff Rugby Report, this match featured the #1 Boys High School Single School
team vs the #20 Club team. Raleigh made the drive up to play on the first warm
day in these parts in awhile. Both teams were well structured, but Gonzaga was
stronger in the rucks and was able to push the ball down the field. Their kicks
weren’t as successful as Raleigh features several explosive backs, that
frequently made up the territory. The first half ended with Gonzaga leading
19-0 with a try right at the end of the half. However, a Raleigh forward high
tackled the try scorer leading to a yellow. This was a troubling sign as in the
second half 2 Raleigh players each committed 2 carded dangerous tackles,
leaving them down in numbers throughout the half and eventually with only 13
players. Gonzaga is too good of a squad
not to take advantage with it and kept up even pressure throughout the half.
However, even the deficit in players, the Raleigh backs struck twice from far
out with explosive tries to get on the board.
60 – Berkeley All Blues B 17
The host Amazons
lost their field to flooding, but their president hustled to secure an
all-weather pitch in Elk Grove by moving the match to mid-afternoon, which
coincided precisely with a break in Saturday’s rain. Playing rugby on a
soccer pitch has its shortcomings, but the hosts used cones to help everyone
know where they were on the pitch.
These teams wanted
to run, and did so with straight ahead power as well as getting the ball out to
their wings. In fact, the first kick in open play didn’t occur until
mid-way through the second half. Although they ended up on the short side
of the score, the All Blues tackled in twos and threes and kept at it all the
way to 80 minutes.
Life West D2 27 –
Santa Rosa 50
A top of the table
clash between Life West (3rd) and Santa Rosa (1st) looked to be enticing rugby
and it didn’t disappoint. The match was played at Cal Maritime on the
turf so in spite of some early rain the footing was no issue. The props
complained about it anyway, of course, but I am almost certain that they were
The match started
out fast with Life West on the board early with an unconverted try. Santa
Rosa responded almost immediately with one of their own but managed to squeeze
the ovoid between the uprights for a 7-5 lead. It looked like I had
a barn burner on my hands but then Life West fell asleep for 30 minutes.
Missed passes, missed tackles, missed assignments and just generally sloppy
play allowed Santa Rosa to dominate the rest of the half running in 4 tries
with no response from the Gladiators. Not to take anything away from
the Rosans, they were composed and clinical with the ball and organized on
defense, but they benefitted from a Life West side that didn’t seem interested.
The second half was,
as it often is, a different story. The team talk in the LW huddle lit
a fire in their belly and they came out with all the passion and aggression
that was missing in the first half. An immediate try was the result, but
Santa Rosa counter-punched right back with one of their own. That
set the standard for the half as both sides ran themselves and the referee
ragged with end to end, scintillating and crowd pleasing rugby. The
exchange of tries was frequent as every time Life West scored Santa Rosa
replied. Because of this the Gladiators were not able to really
close the deficit much and the match ended with a very entertaining 50-27
scoreline. Had Life West played in the first half the way they did
in the second half we could very easily have seen a 50-50 tie.
Great rugby all around and a pleasure to referee.
Redwood Empire RFC
36 – Chico Mighty Oaks 31
certainly a rugby day, but Friday night lights brings rugby too with a reduced
Berkeley Rhinos traveling to the Oakland Warthogs. Due to injuries, Berkeley
only had 10 players facing a strong Oakland squad. 10 a side with uncontested
scrums for 25 minute halves was arranged. Officially this was a forfeit in
favour of Oakland but rugby was to be played.
Oakland have a mix
of powerful and talented players along with some others who blend toughness
with footwork and agility. Facing them were a group of Berkeley players who
also showed talent and toughness against the odds.
Oakland scored three
first half tries to a single converted Berkeley try for a 15 – 7 half time
score. In the second half Berkeley (who had suffered other injuries and were
supplemented by some Oakland players) went in for three tries against two
converted tries (a pair of very nice drop kicks).
Final score Oakland
29 – Berkeley 22
On to Saturday,
definitely a rugby day
Elsie Allen hosted
three games on their soon to be replaced field. The high school played first,
with an extra period for the B team. Then SRJC played Humboldt state and finally
Redwood hosted Chico – my thanks to Alan Petty and his crew for staying around
to work the clock and score board.
Redwood won the coin
toss and elected to kick, Chico decided to play into the wind first. The first
half brought 5 tries including two conversions and a penalty try for a first
half Chico lead of 19 – 12.Chico have some players who are able to exploit
small spaces, while Redwood have some talented players but rely on more of a
Redwood had a larger
bench (both numbers and size of player) and several more strong players were
brought on in the second half. Chico had fewer resources which they managed as
well as possible in the circumstances.
Redwood wore down
Chico in the second half for 4 tries (2 conversions) against 2 tries (one converted)
for Chico. Final Score Chico 31 – Redwood 36.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Giles gave everyone a bonus report this
Silicon Valley 17 –
hosted Google at Leland High school’s turf football field. It was rainy
and a bit cold but both teams had come to play rugby, so play on. Google
got on the board first, four minutes in with a try from their #7. He
later played in the backs and was my player of the game. SV had fast
outside backs and scored at 15 minutes and 29 minutes. But the big
forwards from Google just broke down the defense and scored four more first
half try’s to lead at Half time 29 to 10.
controlled most of the ball, SV were dangerous with numerous big runs.
The hard hits and
all turf field wore on both teams, but the players never got testy. I
think both teams finished the game with only 14 players. Google
continued to wear down SV scoring five more try’s.
The game finished
with SV scoring a well deserved try.
Final Google 62
Silicon Valley 17.
SFGG D3B 20 – San
Jose Seahawks B 23
The game was every
bit as fun and close contested as the score indicates. Both sides played well
considering the damp, sloppy conditions. There were the knock ons and lost
footing that you expect, but the teams were often able to play through multiple
phases without incident. The teams traded tries in the first half with SFGG
scoring first and last. San Jose was able to find an answer each time, though
their last try would have to wait until 21:00 minutes into the second frame. At
that point the score stood tied at 17. San Jose finally broke the deadlock
with a penalty kick at 71:00. SFGG found the pace and urgency they had played
with in the first half and kicked a penalty of their own to even the score just
two minutes later. San Jose then marched down the field, earning another shot
at goal, which they converted with four minutes left in the match. The visitors
were able to maintain possession for most of the waning moments, kicking the
ball into touch after time expired. Special mention to Kevin, captain for
SFGG in the match. He did a great job leading his team and keeping everyone
focused on positive play. It was a great example of how to lead a team through
adversity and of keeping up good communication with players and the referee.
Thanks for a fun day, Kevin.
Central Coast RFC 31
– SF Fog 15
Home match for Sea
Dogs was moved to Treasure Island because of field availability. The match was
played on a Gaelic field so the field was hastily constructed minutes before
the match. The game itself was a scrum fest where the Sea Dogs dominated.
Santa Rosa JC 12 –
Humboldt State 29
A little rainy,
drizzly, very windy. The game was moved to Elsie Allen’s all weather turf, in
South Santa Rosa, so field conditions were great. There was a game before and a
game afterwards, it felt like it was rugby central. The first half was very
evenly played with SRJC scoring, Humboldt tying, SRJC scoring and Humboldt
tying, both teams playing hard in the forwards with bursts from speedy backs.
On the 35th minute, Humboldt took the lead and went up 7 with a corner kick
converted by Humboldt. In the second half, the game was again evenly played,
but Humboldt scored unconverted tries in the 5th minute and in the 33rd minute
to ice the game, 29-12. Good sportsmanshipship throughout and the Humboldt
State team was honored with the Pat Culley Annual Trophy for the second year in
Pacific 36 – Cal
Poly Men C 17
between a rebuilding UOP side and freshmen from Cal Poly. Cal Poly left 4 tries
on the table: a back mis-read the lines and grounded it 5 m short, another
leapt over a ruck to attempt to score, a third decided to make a second
placement of the ball after being tackled 1/2 meter short, and a fourth knocked
on before grounding it in-goal. A learning experience, as they say.
Univ Nevada Reno 70
– Sacramento State 0
Referee: Sam Reagle
Though UNR was
dominant, Sac State had multiple chances to score.
Grizzlies 34 – Danville Oaks RFC 31
No Report Received.
St Marys College
Women 24 – Fresno State Women 19
Started out raining
with Fresno State going up 12-0, followed by St. Mary’s coming from behind
twice as the sun came out, going ahead with less than 10 minutes to go, while Fresno
State was driving with no time on the clock. #8 for St. Mary’s gained over 100
yards rushing which seemed to get her teammates playing better. Considering the
mud, rain and field conditions both teams played extremely well.
Women – Univ San Francisco Women
Referee: Ed Barfels
Well, the Univ.
of San Francisco squad had only ten players. So, officially they had
to forfeit. However, the coaches decided to play a tens game and I
was happy to ref the game. They played three 20 minute periods. In
the first two periods, Satna Clara’s women were technically more proficient
than USF and were leading 29 to 17 at the end of the second period. The
third period was a tale of conditioning. USF had three players in good
condition and they out ran the defense. The final score USF 32 and Santa
UC Santa Cruz Women
26 – CSU Monterey Bay Women 14
Good match in the
rain almost suspended the match due to standing water, but play remained away
from it so the game continued
Schools Premier Sevens
Location: Queen Elizabeth’s
School, Barnet, North London
tournament, when I thought of sevens, it brought to mind warm sunny days and
hard, fast pitches. This was a very different experience. At the tail end of a
passing winter storm, I spent most of the day in near-freezing temperatures,
strong winds with gusts up to 50mph, and occasional sideways rain/sleet
stinging any exposed skin with cold. Most of the 8 pitches used for this
tournament were mud bogs as well, with the clay soil building up on my boots
(and clothes) almost faster than I could knock it off. Trying to accelerate to
catch a breakaway is a whole different kind of effort when your first couple of
steps seem to be going straight down instead of backwards.
The tournament had
two brackets: one U14 and one U16. The levels of skill shown by the 20+ schools
in attendance were surprisingly high, both individually and through team
tactics. I refereed two U14 pool games, two U16 pool games, one U16
quarter-final, and one U14 semi-final. I also AR’d for one semi-final and one
final, although to be honest, the bigger challenge was dodging all the parents
standing on the touchline.
Six+ games of youth
sevens may not sound like much, but given the weather conditions, the amount of
mud, and the speed of some of these kids, it was a solid workout. After a drive home through a major squall, I
spent some quality time with a scrub brush getting the mud out of my clothes so
they wouldn’t clog the washing machine!
I will never think
of sevens quite the same way again.
Santa Clara Women 24
– Univ Nevada Reno Women 34
SFGG were kind
enough to make their pitch available for this match. And, after the rain on
Saturday, the pitch was like the ones I used to play on in Scotland: muddy. To
be fair, most of the pitch was in great shape, but there were pockets of
Both teams had
similar styles: pop it the back of a ruck the their pod for a couple of phases
then spin it out the back line. This allowed for a lot of open play that went
more sideline to sideline than end to end.
The first half saw
very few stopages as the women held the ball well, which made for an exiting
When 40 minutes were
gone Reno were up 17-12, this was an accurate representation of the game: very
The second half saw
strategies that were tweaked slightly, both sides saving their energy with more
pod play and sparingly getting the ball out wide. There were more penalties in
the second half, I think mostly due to fatigue. We had a few high tackles as traipsing
through the mud had taken its toll on few thighs. One Reno runner chasing a big
kick was noteworthy- she was about 10m in front of the kicker before she set
off. I tried talking her into stopping and retreating, the coach emptied his
lungs at her too. But she was on a mission and would only stop for the whistle.
It was just about
neck and neck in the second half, then it happened, Reno had a breakaway down
the right wing. Great support and good hands for a couple of offloads kept the
momentum and ended in a great try.
The second half
could’ve gone either way, but the scoreline ended with Reno up 17-12.
Final score 34-24.
Both teams were a pleasure to ref. I thoroughly enjoyed the match.
Santa Clara 16 – CAL
Golden Bears 76
Referee: Pete Smith
No Report Received.
College London 15-10 King’s College
Allianz Park, Hendon, North London
I refereed at
Allianz Park two and a half weeks previously, for a pretty tough men’s universities
match. This one was not as fast, or quite as hard-hitting, but it was a whole
lot more fun. I was originally appointed to AR for the men’s version of this
match, but it seems that the UCL men’s rugby has been suspended for some recent
naughtiness. So the corresponding women’s fixture was moved into its place, and
I was moved to the center of the pitch. There were about 500 fans in
attendance, instead of the usual 5000, but the meaning of the game was clear to
everyone and there was a major trophy on the line. Allianz Park has hosted this
match for the past few years, and the weather generally cooperated. The
synthetic pitch and the lights, combined with both sides’ cheerleaders and the
support from the main stand, created an outstanding atmosphere for Friday
The contest was
ferocious, and I was happy to have James Goksaran and Pat Venning as the two
ARs. James got ahold of a really good set of radios too. UCL was the stronger
side, taking a 10-0 lead over King’s into the break with two tries. In the
second half, things heated up a bit, with King’s getting two tries of their own
(despite a yellow card to their #13 for a high tackle) and UCL adding the
decisive one to win 15-10. None of the conversion kicks came close to going
over. For the last ten minutes of the match, it looked like King’s would score
again and force the contest into overtime, but UCL prevailed.
When I blew the
final whistle, the reactions were the same ones I saw nearly ten years ago,
when I was AR for Dana Teagarden as Penn State defeated Stanford to win the USA
national championship. This was a really big deal to these players, and I was
happy to have the honor to play a minor part in their night. It was certainly a
memorable experience for me!
King’s has a YouTube
channel, and the entire match is available here:
(I don’t know who
those commentators are, but they clearly don’t seem to know much about rugby.)
Cal Poly Men 0 – St
Marys College 128
Cal Poly hosted St
Mary’s for four games on a sunny mid-March Saturday, surrounded by verdant
green hills on two adjacent pitches. No rain, bright blue skies. The A sides
squared off after the completion of the women’s game and the men’s B &
St Mary’s scored 64
points in each half with some impressive backline play, often innovative, and
solid forward dominance. To Cal Poly’s credit, they never gave up – jogging
back for every kick-off and keeping up the tackling until the end. They say you
can see the quality of a person in the manner of their victory or loss. Both
teams were humble and gracious.
Thanks to James
Tesoiero, Cal Poly coach, for hosting us. Well worth the drive south.
UC Davis 12 – GCU
College Men – Varsity 62
Referee: Lee Bryant
Game was 12-12 at
half time. Then Grand Canyon began to better organize their attack with quick
ball handling and continuous support. Scrums were tough with both sides
stealing a ball or two. Highly contested breakdowns with Grand Canyon always on
the lookout for the poach.
Cal 118 – Utah
Referee: Pete Smith
No Report Received.
91 – SFGG Women 7
SFGG made a long
trip all the way to Elk Grove for a 4:30 PM 72 degree start time & got
going right away with a nice team score, and held on for most of the 1st half
before the Amazons blew by them scoring only 6 tries the 1st half while almost
doubling that in the 2nd half playing an inspired team game lead by their local
#8, and twin Kiwi flyhalf & inside center both the biggest players with
great ball skills on the field who controlled the play most of the match.
Santa Rosa 31 –
Olympic Club 33
There is a certain
low rumble in the back of my throat that I make when I get HP in the inbox, and
I realize I forgot to submit the score from the weekend. So hopefully I’m
on time here. Last weekend, for reference, was a very tight game between
Granite Bay and Danville Varsity teams. Both are well-drilled and
positive, and it was fitting that the only difference between them was a late
penalty, well taken from 30m out. Suspect these teams will meet again in
THIS weekend, I had
a beautiful day for a game over at FPS in Santa Rosa. Pitch was soft, the
sky was blue and the goalposts there never get old. Although Simon, a
guest ref from England who had the second match, did observe that near him in
Derbyshire are the tallest posts in the world, at Wednesbury RFC:
Anyway, the game
itself was everything you would expect from the two top teams in D2. The
hosts came out hard, blew OC off the ball at the breakdown, and for the first
15 minutes of the game made camp inside OC’s 22, taking time among the usual
camp activities of fire building and song singing, to score a couple of tries.
Both conversions missed.
After that, the game
became more balanced, support players started to emerge for the visitors, and
we settled into a ding-dong game of try traded for try, traded for try.
The pattern began to emerge in the 2nd quarter of a vastly dominant scrum from
OC, with Rosa being far more nimble around the breakdown. With 10 points
still the difference right before the half, OC had a penalty on the 5 and took
a scrum. A penalty or two later they got the drive on, the defensive 2nd
row folded under, and a penalty try took the score to 17-14 at the half, Santa
Rosa just in front.
The second half was
more of the same. OC drove the scrum forward, but Santa Rosa made more of
the ball they got. The game was poised going into the final 20 at 31-28.
At this point, the visitors began to make this a war of attrition. The
game slowed, they scrummaged. They scrummaged some more. And as the
hosts tired, so the last vital score went over, taking it to 31-33. The
last 15 minutes of the game went scoreless as some tight defending kept the
visitors out, but they had the lead and just needed to keep the ball, which
Fine game, thanks to
Simon for his help on the sideline, much appreciated.
BA Baracus 14 – San
Jose Seahawks 49
Referee: Paul Bretz
Was pleased to
officiate at Boxer Stadium in San Francisco. Going back to Boxer was a “welcome
home” of sorts as it brought back many fond memories both as a player and
Baracus hosted the
Seahawks and the game played in great spirts. Both teams were provided
the opportunity to play to strengths; Seahawks looked to use the width of the
field while Baracus chose to utilize their big forwards. In the end
Seahawks proved to be the better team on the day, racking up 31 points in the
second half compared to Baracus 7. Final score was 14 to 49.
Olde Gaels 53 –
A high scoring
affair at Pat Vincent Field at St Mary’s College was the order of the day
between the Olde Gaels and Vacaville in a spirited D2 clash. This
nearly completes my Season Set for NCRFU Division 2 – the only teams I have not
reffed this year are San Jose and SFGG. Pity they played already.
Oh well, there is always next year.
The game was a fun,
open affair with both sides committed to playing rugby. This was
evident from the number of tap penalties from both sides in kickable positions.
We had a solid 9 minutes of back and forth play before the first scrum was set
and everyone was enjoying themselves, especially the fans. Diablo
proved too much on the day for Vacaville as they made just that many fewer
mistakes. The post match meal of beer and cookies was a first for me but
hey, I’ll try anything twice.
Joaquin-Stanislaus RFC 47 – Fresno 17
The Harlots home
field in Manteca is well marked, although perhaps a little narrow. When I
arrived, both teams were present and warming up. We went through the
formalities with the home team winning the coin toss and electing to kick off.
Both teams have some
strong runners and strong tacklers; Fresno are adding more new players and the
difference between the teams was this experience.
Harlots ran in four
first half tries (3 conversions) against a single try in reply from Fresno.
Some big hots from both sides with some particularly strong runs and tackles
from Tui in the Fresno front row.
Rodney, as a referee
on sabbatical, made his appearance for Fresno in the second half making some
runs and tackles but eventually leaving injured. Both sides made various
changes of players with some inexperience arriving. The Harlots kicker was
reliable in the second half, converting all three tries while Fresno converted
one of their two tries for a final of 47 – 17 in favour of the home side.
Jesters Rugby FC 101
– SFGG D3B 7
Not much to say
beyond the scoreline. It was a great day out in the sunshine, and very
much one-sided. Even though the Jesters had a more than comfortable lead, they
managed to acquire 3 yellow cards when they began to become complacent and
lose their discipline. Throughout the game I continued to hear SFGG players
provide optimistic support to one another, which was refreshing since other
teams down by such a deficit would have the opposite mentality.
SF Fog 15 – Reno
Referee: Nome Tiatia
No Report Received.
Cal Maritime 90 –
Sonoma St 0
second try at the 8 minute mark was a taken kickoff, an up and under and a
speedy wing catching it on the full for a sweet looking try. This was a blowout
with Cal-Maritime scoring 48 in the first half and 42 in the second. Sonoma
State kept their heads up and kept on playing, good on them!!
Univ Nevada Reno 45
– UC Santa Cruz 23
Referee: Sam Reagle
For the first 30 minutes, this game was up for grabs. UNR got on the
board first with a converted try 3 minutes in with UCSC responding with an
unconverted try about 5 minutes later. UNR looked to take control with a
couple of tries, but UCSC answered back with a try to go into halftime down
10 minutes into the
second half we had UNR up 26-20, less than a try separating the 2 teams vying
for the remaining playoff spot. The Wolf Pack sealed their win outscoring
the Banana Slugs three tries to one to earn them a spot in the playoffs.
Since UCSC chartered
a bus, the entire team attended the social at the Pub-n-Sub. Several of
the UNR Women’s team who played earlier also attended.
San Francisco State
10 – Chico State 57
Referee: Nome Tiatia
No Report Received.
Cal Poly Women 5 –
St Marys College Women 76
This Week’s Photo
Visiting Referee Coach Steve Salton puts his whistle where
his mouth is at Cal Maritime.