Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | HP Classic
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Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down rugby around the world there doesn’t seem to be anything for Hail Pelicus to talk about so, in line with other sporting networks and publications, we are reprinting “classic” articles and match reports.   Enjoy!


First Printed April 2014, when St Mary’s College announced to the US rugby community that they were no longer just a good team, but were now a national power.  They have kept at that level ever since and we here in Pelicanland are fortunate to have 2 programs that are consistently in the top 4 of the country at all times in Cal and St Mary’s.

The Most Significant Game Of The Year

Ave Maria!

The Most Significant Game Of The Year in American rugby took place in Moraga last Saturday when St Mary’s took on and conquered Cal.   The previous statement is not hyperbole and in fact may be a bit understated – this may have been the most significant game of the Decade.   This game did not decide any championship.   This game did not count towards any league standings and was, in fact, a “friendly” as if there was anything friendly about the contest.   Respect, yes – tons of it.   I would not be surprised if many of the participants were friends before the match or will become friends later on, but on the day and on the field this was a hard hitting game of rugby whose quality the USA has not produced very often at any level.   But why is this match so significant?   Cal, for all its years of dominance, has lost domestic games before and recently as well.   BYU has been a thorn in their side pushing the Golden Bears and taking last year’s Varsity Cup with a thrilling finish.   Stanford had a memorable win in the 90s in league play and Cal Poly beat Cal in SLO last year.   This is, in fact, not the first time St Mary’s has beaten Cal.   Why, again, is this single match The Most Significant Game Of The Year?

Because BYU is a regional power that draws on a completely separate pool of players.    Because Stanford lost to Cal in the National Championship that year and Cal Poly was swept aside this year when the two programs met.   As impressive as those wins were they were one-off wins and the respective teams have not threatened since.    St Mary’s operates in Cal’s back yard and competes for the same players.   St Mary’s has been playing Cal very close for some time now (this is in fact their second win in three years) with multiple undergrad classes cycling through and no, indeed, they did not nip them at the finish with a last minute play, but handled them from the start, getting out to a 21-3 lead and winning 55-31.   This is not a fluke nor is this a case where Cal has dropped their level, but where the Gaels have risen and THAT is what is so significant. 

For too many years Cal was the unbeatable, untouchable champion that nobody could compete with because they had the most money, the best players, the refs favored them, *insert excuse here*… but now a challenger has risen up and vanquished the eternal champion, not with a million to one shot (because as we all know and Terry Pratchett verified, the million to one shot comes up 9 times out of 10), but with a solid foundation built up over years.  A program designed to play good, solid, fundamental and exciting rugby.   This is a team that can face down Cal on their own terms and not be intimidated.

Cal built their legacy with years of tradition, university and alumni support, excellent coaching and a steady stream of dedicated players who bought into the program.   They will not go away and I fully expect them to be better next year than they are this year.

St Mary’s have built their team with years of tradition, university and alumni support, excellent coaching and a steady stream of dedicated players who bought into the program.  They will not go away and I fully expect them to be better next year than they are this year.

This is gonna be fun.

A league that is dominated by one team is unhealthy and I bet that if you ask Cal’s alumni, players and coaches they will agree.  Competition is a good thing and not only will St Mary’s benefit from this win but Cal will too, knowing that they now need to raise their game.    Coaches Jack Clark and Tim O’Brien are too smart to not use this as a learning and motivational tool and now other programs around Pelicanland as well as the rest of the country can take note, realizing that there is a path to the promised land and St Mary’s showed them the way.   These programs will get better and produce better players and that will in turn raise the level of club rugby and, by extension, all rugby in the US, including the Eagles.

And it all came together on one perfect, sunny afternoon for the Most Significant Game Of The Year.


First Printed February 2016, this was a parody of Monty Pythons “Eric The Half A Bee” song and lamented the fact that so many B side matches were turning into truncated 3rd halves that players from the A side match had to play in or even just short 10s or 7s matches.   It didn’t seem fair to the players who were trying to push for an A side spot, the players who had already played a full match or for the referee who was expecting to adjudicate a full match. 

A Song For Eric


Ode To The Truncated B Side Match

A one, two
A one, two, three, four

Half a B, philosophically
Must, ipso facto, half not be
But half the B has got to be
A vis-a-vis its entity, d’you see?

But can a B be said to be
Or not to be an entire B
When half the B is not to be
For fear of sustaining injury?


A laa dee dee, a one two three
We’re playing a half a B
A, B, C, D, E, F, G
It’s only half a B

Is this wretched demi-B
To be determined worthy

For players, coaches and referee

When it’s only half a B?

A fiddle de dum, a fiddle de dee
We’re playing a half a B
Hoh hoh hoh, tee hee hee
It’s only half a B

The watch is set to minute twenty

Or even captains will agree

To tens or sevens, no matter to me

You’re charged a full game fee

Yes, a full game fee

Our time is not for free.

The end

As Ford Prefect noted, “Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria…”    Although there is some speculation concerning Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings, one can only guess as to what the worst poetry in the Universe is.


First Printed July 2016, when one of the referees in attendance didn’t know who Waisale Serevi was.

Overheard At The ACR1 7s On Treasure Island

“Seattle Saracens look solid.   They are coached by some Fijian guy.”


First Printed February 2017, I end with a personal lesson in hubris and arrogance.

How Not To Make Friends On The Phone

As it happens, like many of us, I do have occasion to travel to the Land of the Griffon every so often.  This past weekend I had an event in Pasadena and not wanting to waste a rugby weekend I contacted the Southern California Rugby Referee Society and notified them of my location and availability.   They were kind enough to assign me to Pasadena’s home match against Tempe so I was set.   All I needed next was to get there, and therein lies our tale.

Hail Pelicus often has tales of long drives through the countryside of Pelicanland, marveling at the majestic and pastoral by turn.   The natural wonders we live amongst are spectacular and deserve all of the appreciation that they get but not all travel stories are the same.   This last weekend was a tale of adventure and disappointment, courage and conflict, hope and despair before eventual victory, but at a cost.   We shall start, as is proper, at the beginning. 

I had booked a flight for the weekend months ago and used some of the Southwest points I have piled up through my business travel .   I arranged lodgings and a car and was happily set for a fun weekend with friends and rugby.     The Wednesday prior I was setting up a ride to the airport and checked my reservation and discovered something wrong: the flight was booked out of SFO instead of San Jose.   That may not seem like a big deal to most but I live about 5 miles from San Jose International Airport and for me to get to San Francisco on a Friday evening in the heart of rush hour traffic was an eye-gouging, hair pulling, minimum 2 hour proposition at the very least.   This could not stand.    I called up the Southwest customer service department and calmly explained the situation and asked how it could be that I am flying out of the wrong airport.   Well, apparently the Southwest website automatically suggests alternate regional airports when making reservations and I didn’t notice that the perfect flight at the perfect time was in fact, out of SFO not SJC.   “NO!” I cried, “This is intolerable!   Look at every other flight I have taken on Southwest!  Look at the flight I am taking in two weeks!   I always fly out of SJC!   Look at my address; I live 5 miles for the airport!  Why would you move my flight to San Francisco?”    At this point the lady on the phone told me she could change my flight and we found an acceptable flight both coming and going out of San Jose.    Phew!    She started making changes and then said the fateful words “You don’t have enough points to cover the change fee so you will need to pay for it in dollars.  The charge for this change is $500.  How would you like to pay for it?”

It was at this point I started using profanity.

No, I will not pay $500 to fix your mistake, just make the change!  I want to talk to your manager!   I want to talk to Customer Relations (which is somehow different from Customer Service)!   I will not pay this ridiculous fee for YOUR ERROR!    Well, as expected I got nowhere, so with a final F-Bomb I hung up and resigned myself to dealing with traffic on the peninsula.  

The next day (Thursday) I went to check into my flight and received the ominous message “This record locator is invalid”.  At this point I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Had I gone too far with my righteous frustration?   Did Southwest cancel the whole reservation as a final middle finger to me?   I called up Southwest to see what happened and got a lady on the phone.   (A different lady, thank the gods.  I don’t think I could have dealt with the first one again after all I had said.)    This lady looked at the reservation and said it was there but there was something funny about it.   “Apparently” she said, “someone had started to make a change to the reservation but didn’t complete it.    I show you flying out of San Jose at 3:00 and arriving back in San Jose on Sunday at 3:45.  Shall I complete the change?”   “Will this cost me anything?” I asked.    “No, sir.”

Rock and roll!   Glory, glory halleluiah!   I jumped up and down pumping my fist and generally acting like an idiot.

“That will do nicely” I replied in a calm voice.   She then checked me into the flight and I was set.   All was right in my world, I smugly told myself.   Sometimes being a complete asshole pays off.   I was in a good mood with a foolish grin on my face for the rest of the day. 

Karma, however, is a bitch and had a few more tricks up its sleeve for me.

Friday rolls around and the Storm Of The Century hits Southern California.   Everyone’s favorite new meteorological term “atmospheric river” was heading straight for Southern California and it was looking to party.   High winds and torrents of rain pummeled the region causing havoc.    About midmorning I got a message on my phone that my flight had been cancelled.


I called up Southwest (again – by this time I should have had them on speed dial) and told them my flight had been cancelled and asked them to book me on another flight.   Sorry, sir, but all available flights are full.   “Even from San Francisco?” I asked, painfully aware that I had just spent two days behaving badly to get my flight moved out of SFO.   Nope, not SFO.  Nothing in Oakland, either.   All flights were booked up until Sunday.


The Southwest lady (do they even hire men for this job?) apologized for the inconvenience and refunded my points.   The return flight was still good to go, so now all I had to do was get to Pasadena.   I called up Hertz, with whom I have been a Gold member since 1996.   I asked if I could change my reservation for the weekend?   No problem, sir.  Do you need to extend it?    No, my flight was cancelled so I am going to drive.  I would like to pick up a car in San Jose and drop it off in Burbank.    Not a problem, sir, let me make that change for you… you had prepaid for the original reservation so I can cancel that transaction and reverse the charges… and now the charges are $550, plus a $60 cancellation fee because this is within 24 hours.  How would you like to pay for that?        

It was at this point I started using profanity.   Again.

So much for being a Gold member.  I eventually cancelled the whole reservation only paying the $60 blood fee (or cancellation fee, as they called it) and then went shopping online.  I found the cheapest car rental I could find that had a car in San Jose that I could return in Burbank.  Total, including gas, was $200 – I could live with that.    It was close to 3:00 when I finished all of this and I still hadn’t packed so I decided to go get the car and then wait at home for traffic to clear and, hopefully, the heart of the storm to pass.   At 7:00 I packed everything in the car and took off south.    If all went well I should be rolling in to the hotel in Arcadia just before midnight.

All did not go well.    To start the traffic on 101 was stopped at the 280 interchange.   There was an accident that people had to get around.   Not too bad, I was by it in 10 minutes and speeding my way south.   I was moving along and woolgathering idly when a thought started nagging at the back of my head.   “Hey idiot!” I thought, “You are approaching Salinas!  You missed the 152 turnoff!”    Arrggg.  I sheepishly turned around and headed back north to Gilroy to get on the 152 and cut over to the 5.   After all, only an idiot would try to take 101 all the way to Los Angeles.    The rain was coming down less and less with longer breaks in between wiper worthy weather as I started towards the Pacheco Pass (naturally) behind a couple of 18 wheelers.   The one lane road became two lanes and all of us regular folk happily sped past the big rigs heading towards the San Luis Reservoir… and stopped.    All traffic in our direction had come to a complete halt and then slowly inched along.   Apparently there was some road work several miles ahead and the lanes were reduced to one as people worked their way by.   At this point I started thinking I would have been better off being a woolgathering idiot and taking 101 all the way down.

I didn’t reach the Hwy 5 interchange until 10:00pm.   

Hwy 5 south was mostly smooth sailing at that point (why do people insist on going the speed limit in the fast lane?) until the Grapevine.   Traffic slowed to a crawl at that point for some very good reasons:  slashing, splattery rain making seeing difficult; patches of heavy, pea soup fog making seeing more than 50 feet impossible; and gusty winds that pushed your car around making steering an adventure in hope.   I eventually rolled into my hotel at 3:00am.

Fortunately the gods felt they had punished me enough for my transgressions because everything else went great the rest of the weekend – match report below.  

Will I learn a lesson from this?  Probably not.  Oh well.

On To The (Classic) Game Reports!

(With the editor’s notes from the time included)

Rob Murray’s Instant Classic

Date: 03/07/2020
Silicon Valley 46 – BA Baracus D4 44
Referee: Rob Murray

This game was a track meet from the first whistle. Silicon Valley kicked off, and Baracus fielded the ball and went straight down the wing to score in the corner. The first try of the game was awarded within a minute and a half of the kickoff.  Baracus went on to score 8 tries and rack up 44 points in the first 40 minutes. The second half started much the same but with Silicon Valley charging back into the game. SV scored 8 unanswered tries and managing to convert 3 and take the lead with 46 points.

Silicon Valley scored their last try with a little over 3 minutes left in the game. Leaving just enough time on the clock for one last re-start, Silicon Valley fielded the ball but promptly turned it over it in the tackle. Baracus then took the ball into contact, and SV received a penalty for not releasing the tackler. The penalty was awarded about 40 meters out directly in front of the posts. With no time left on the clock, Barracus opted for the kick in an attempt to win the game. The kicker lined up the ball and stepped back to take his shot. As he approached the ball, one of the SV forwards had a momentary lapse and charged the kick. The kick drifted left, but with the infraction, the attempt was allowed to be re-taken. The kicker approached the ball, struck it well, dead straight toward the posts. The ball drifted left of its intended target and sailed wide through the end zone to finish the game. Silicon Valley wins 46-44.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This was Rob Murray’s first senior game that he has refereed.   The editors here at Hail Pelicus would like to assure him that all of the matches he does will be this exciting.)

The Pasadena – Tempe game from the travel piece above

Date: 02/18/2017
Pasadena RFC 23 – Tempe Old Devils 14
Location: Pasadena, CA
Referee: Hinkin, James
AR: Reed, Austin (Southern California)
AR: Kruckenberg, John (Southern California)

An exciting D1 clash in Southern California pitted newly promoted Tempe Old Devils against the steadily rising Pasadena RFC.   With heavy rains hitting So Cal the match was moved from Pasadena’s regular field to the all weather turf football field at Duarte High School.    Football lines everywhere, but at least rugby was going to happen.   Apparently when this happens in So Cal they have slightly different ways of dealing with the fact that the goal posts are at the back of the try zone.   When I stated that any attempt to charge down a conversion should start from the goal posts rather than the try line I was told that isn’t always the case but it was accepted.   Then I was asked if a penalty would be move forward 10 yards if a kick is chosen, because that is how it has been done in the past.   No, I said, the mark is the mark.   

Was I right?  We are on a non-standard field so the law book doesn’t cover it, so yes, I was right because I made the decision at the start of the game and both teams had it the same.    In reality, there is not “wrong” answer to this situation as long as you are consistent.

The game started in a drizzly rain – not enough to worry about but just enough to make the ball slippery.   After 15 minutes of this match I thought Tempe would win by 40 as they were dominant in the scrum and their backs were running through the Pasadena defense.   Pasadena was saved by handling errors as the slippery ball evaded the hands of the Tempe runners time and again.   Tempe scored an unconverted try and were cruising in spite of their knock-ons.   With all the scrums we had very few issues as an exchange of penalties at the first couple of scrums sorted them out (amazing how that works) and then Pasadena regrouped a bit and started pressing the Tempe line more and more.   Pasadena had their share of knocks and was getting frustrated by the ball hawking of the Tempe defense.  The #10 (a HS All American, I was told) was especially good at it, turning over several balls as the support arrived too late to prevent him getting his hands on the ball.  Each side were able to kick a goal for a 8-3 Tempe lead at the half.

The second half was a different story.   Pasadena made some adjustments and were able to get their support to a tackled player quicker.  They also stiffened up their defense to allow fewer line breaks.  Each side exchanged a couple of penalties for a 14-9 score.   At this point a tiring Tempe side made some subs and that made all the difference, especially in the scrums.   Tempe’s #1 is really, really strong and had been a handful all game but ran out of gas and had to be replaced.   At the same time Pasadena put in a prop that usually starts and wow, did the scrums change.   After 2 straight tightheads were stolen by what had been up to that point the weaker scrum I asked my ARs to check for foot up, illegal binds, or anything else that might explain it.   The next scrum I was on the side of the Tempe replacement prop and saw the issue – he just wasn’t at the same level as his predecessor.    Pasadena used their new found momentum to score a converted try and take the lead.  With about 5 minutes left Pasadena put together a long, multi phase series and scored a great team try to put the game out of reach.   Tempe fought hard until the end but came up short.

Both captains were excellent (the Tempe captain at 6’ 10” being the largest rugby player I have ever seen) and helped control a game that threatened to get chippy as legs tired and the game came down to crunch time.   A pleasure to referee.  Many thanks must also go the ARs on the day, Austin Reed and John Kruckenberg, who were a great help.   Proper ARs are a luxury.

Money Well Spent

Date: 04/07/2018
Stanford Women 97 – Oregon State University Women 17
Referee: Andrew Stockton

I originally expected to show up for a nice, easy day of ARing. 2 games, a light jog, nothing too much However, when Pete Smith went down 20 minutes into the match with an ankle injury, I was called into action and ended up taking control of a very one sided match. Stanford had complete control of the match that was disrupted by bursts of excitement when OSU would score a try on a great few phases of crash ball and then a wide pass to their speedy wing. There were few issues with both teams (in fact, i think there were 7 total penalties in the entire game). Congrats to Stanford on their advancement to the championship game.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: To the sniper who took Pete Smith out, job well done.  The money has been transferred to your offshore account.)

They Don’t Call Him The Best Color Man In The Business For Nothing

Date: 02/03/2018
Univ Nevada Reno Women 46 – Santa Clara Women 7
Referee: Sam Reagle

Great day for rugby in Reno.

(EDITOR’S NOTE:  Love the writeup, Sam.  This kind of work gets you noticed for the Pelicus Scriptoris award.)

This Week’s Photo

We are in this for the long haul folks, so keep washing your hands and social distancing.   The curve is starting to flatten but we aren’t out of this yet by any means.

See the source image

Hail, Pelicus!
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