Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | Midsummer Classic
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Midsummer Classic

Here we are at the summer season’s midpoint and the Hail Pelicus has roused itself after a sleepy few weeks.    It gets harder and harder to crank up the juices and put out a HP after an extended break like this because writing is much like working out: the longer you take a break the harder it is to get started again.   The late, great Terry Pratchett put it best when he said “The first thing I do when I finish writing a book is start a new one.   This was a course of action suggested, I believe, by the late Douglas Adams, although regrettably he famously failed to follow his own advice.”    In any case, it is time to knock the rust off all those metaphors and ancient Roman references and get to work.   Let’s check in and see what is happening in the world of Pelican Rugby.    Tally-ho!


Pelican Champions

There have been more champions from the land that breeds them best since our last report.  Congratulations to Life West Women who won the D2 National Championship.   Congratulations also to the brand new Napa RRC who made a deep run in the D3 championships, losing out in the semis.    Well done, you!

The Collegiate Rugby Championship – America’s premier collegiate invitational 7s tournament – was also contested and once again victorious were the Golden Bears of California.   Cal swept to victory past a gutsy UCLA side 31-7 to claim their 4th straight CRC title.   Congratulations to Cal!   I will not recap my issue with calling this a national championship – see the last Hail Pelicus for that – except to remind everyone that the CRC is a quaestuary enterprise and to hope that soon a proper national championship will emerge.  Until then I will happily watch US Collegiate 7s rugby on TV – a concept that was unheard of in my playing days.


Not Only Championship Teams But Championship Players

It is well known to those who know it well that the best rugby in the US is played here in Northern California.   This, naturally, leads to the best referees and, even more naturally, the best players.   This summer the USA Eagles played Italy in San Jose and Russia in Sacramento and in the Sacramento game San Jose’s favorite son Todd Clever became the most capped Eagle of all time.   The fact that he overtook another Pelican legend in Mike MacDonald was not lost on the astute editors of Hail Pelicus.   Congratulations to Todd on his remarkable achievement.

The games themselves were a bit underwhelming to me.   It is clear that new coach John Mitchell has yet to stamp his personality and style on this group.  The Italy game was very pedestrian on both sides with limited attacking endeavor and we lost a narrow 24-20 decision.    This was a goal kicking and forwards contest as both teams were very well organized and gave up very few line breaks.   The next week the US dominated Russia in Sacramento 25-0 with more space to attack in but a lack of finishing by the Eagles.   Russia was limited to killing the ball and AJ MacGinty happily slotted the points yet the only try of the game was scored in the 65th minute.   Too many glorious chances were left begging as we lacked the precision to finish properly.    The good news, however, is we created the chances so that is a start.   The effort is there, now we need the precision.


A Joke 2500 Years In The Making

For the ancient Romans the king of the gods was Jupiter and, as Mel Brooks reminded us in his excellent historical documentary History of the World (Part 1), it’s good to be the king.   Jupiter was straight to type so it would surprise nobody that he took several lovers while, technically, he was married to his wife Juno.   Jupiter, as you do, tried to conceal his goings on by covering himself in a cloud, but Juno was on to him and blew the cloud away to reveal his infidelities.

Fast forward 2000 years to the 1600s where Galileo Galilei, along with Simon Marius, were first scanning the night sky and discovering that the planet Jupiter not only had moons, but had more than one, so they started naming the moons after Jupiter’s mythological paramours.

Fast Forward again to today where NASA has sent a probe to examine Jupiter and its moons and that probe arrived successfully on July 4th – a probe they named Juno.   Jupiter is, of course, a gas giant and is covered in clouds so that we have very little idea about what goes on further in the atmosphere so Juno was specifically designed to be able to pierce those clouds.

In essence, NASA sent Juno, Jupiter’s wife, to check on him and his mistresses and specifically gave Juno the ability to see through clouds.   Now THAT is a joke a long time in the making.   Hey, it cracked me up.


The Northern California 7s Series – GREXIT edition

This year’s Nor Cal 7s Series has successfully completed the first two legs in Modesto and Sacramento and have been filled with pace, speed, explosive rugby and, of course, drama.  Along with a men’s and women’s qualifier brackets there is a social bracket for teams not in the qualifier and some qualifier club’s B sides as well.  All in all there is plenty of rugby going on at these events… just the way we like it.

At the top of the men’s table is Life West with 15 points, followed by Olympic Club and Santa Rosa with 13 and 12 points, respectively.   East Palo Alto (9), San Jose Seahawks (8) and Sac Lions (6) are in the hunt for the coveted 4th position and East Bay 7s is sitting in 7th with 3 points.   Life West also leads the women’s bracket with 10 points followed by All Blues (8), San Jose Seahawks (5) and SFGG (3).

Astute readers will notice now SFGG’s men’s side is not listed in the qualifier points table and that is of course due to their shocking Gate Rugby Exit, or GREXIT, vote after the first leg in which both the SFGG’s men and women pulled out of the qualifier.  Combine that with a sudden leadership change at the club and nobody know what will happen next.

This in and of itself was less expected than the Spanish Inquisition so it naturally caused panic and uncertainty as we went from an 8 team men’s bracket and a 4 team women’s bracket to 7 and 3 team brackets.   This unbalancing of the schedule was problematic for Pelicus Fistulator but he was able to get a revised schedule out that satisfied all parties.   Of course, the SFGG women immediately regretted the GEXIT vote saying “it was a protest vote” and “they didn’t think their vote would count” so have petitioned to be reinstated in the qualifier so that is why they are listed in the points table and they will be playing in the 3rd leg in San Jose this weekend.

Fortunately this is just a local rugby union and the effects are minimal.  I can’t imagine anything like this happening somewhere more important where it could affect millions of lives.  That would be beyond stupid.


As many of you know I, Pelicus Pedem Referre, took over distribution of our jerseys, shorts and socks.   Yes, I am your official Kit Cat.   After speaking with the NCRRS Executive Committee we decided it was past time to update some of our kit so this year we will not be ordering just the standard jerseys, socks and shorts but plan to order kit bags, track suits, polos and ties.   Some of these items will need to be individually ordered so please check this space for Information on what is available for pre-order and when.   Suggestions for color combinations are welcome with red being a current front runner.   As they are one of the more high profile clubs in Pelicanland, not to mention the entire country, and their games are often televised on the Pac 12 Network, it is always important that the teams of 3 that we send up to Cal wear matching uniforms.  I will personally make sure that the new red jerseys are available at these occasions.

I am also taking bribes from various kit and clothing representatives to supply the Greatest Referee Society In The World with the best kit available so if you see pictures of me from a tropical island you will know that I am working hard getting the kit order done.   The fruity rum drink just helps me think.


Word Of The Day: Quaestuary

Quaestuary:  adj

  1. doing business solely for the sake of profit.

Just in case anyone was wondering.


Ask A Pelican

Is on vacation.


Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

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

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

On To The Game Reports!

Pelicans in flight – part 1.  Stephen Fenaroli sends this report in from the USA Rugby Collegiate National 7s Championships

This past weekend (May 28-29) I was able to participate in something special. Cary, North Carolina was host to the Collegiate Sevens Championships at the Wake Med Sports Complex. This USA Assignment, my third, was something special. My first rugby season refereeing was coming to a close and I was excited at the idea of traveling across the country to referee 7s at such a high level.

Coming off a great 15s season, I didn’t have much time to reset for 7s. This means quicker gameplay, quicker penalties, lower tolerance for yellow cards- because slow ball, is no ball.

Arriving Friday morning at midnight meant a trip to my first Waffle House was in order. The hospitality at 2am at an airport Waffle House in Cary is top notch. Friday afternoon took us to Costco to grab a number of cases of water and a variety of snacks. Games started at 4pm Friday and by then most of the other referees had arrived. 7s is great because of the group comradery that we get. Often with 15s games, we don’t get to see other refs and get feedback. It was great to see other refs that I don’t run into much, but that we live vicariously through Facebook.

Friday afternoon proved brutally warm and had a number of good games. Teams came out with a bang knowing they couldn’t sacrifice a single win if they wanted to win the cup. That evening, dinner was at the Texas Roadhouse, which is somewhat ironic; eating chain BBQ named after a different state, while in North Carolina.

Saturday began even earlier with a pre meeting at 8am. A quick reminder about yellow cards and resetting ourselves led to a much more bountiful day full of yellow cards. The heat and humidity made the day long and full of breaks trying to sleep in the corner and grab whatever kind of food we could find. I came away from the trip a believer in pickles and pickle juice to recoup salt levels and electrolytes.

By the time the last game finished at 9:30pm, everyone was exhausted and ready to go to bed. Timing meant dinner options were limited which left us to order 20 pizzas and eat them as a group in the lobby. Mike Obrien, out of Potomac, was assigned the cup final and Emily Hsieh, out of New England, got the Women’s cup final. Mike got one of the Cobb whistles and Emily started a tradition with another. If you have a big game, I urge you to reach out to whomever has one of the whistles at the time. Each comes with a tradition and a journal to accompany it along it’s journey until it is returned to the Cobb family; a pretty great way to honor Mike.

Because of the impending Tropical Storm Bonnie, games were shuffled long into the evening and we went to bed that night not knowing much about the schedule the next day. Wakeup in order to be to the field by 7am meant an early morning. I landed an 8am cup semi which poured rain for the entire match. Having a change of clothes was nice and meant the next few hours were a little dryer and warmer. Games finished early and had a cracker of a finish with St. Mary’s College winning it all in a nail biter. A solid finish to a great tournament.

A giant thanks to the ARs from local clubs who came out and made our jobs a lot easier. They were running more games than a lot of us in the middle. These groups of folks made us look good and the tournament would have much more difficult without their help. Additionally, thanks to those at PelicanLand who helped me get to the College Seven’s.

Pelicans in flight – part 2.  Marc Carney was our representative on the annual Calgary Exchange.  Here is his report.


I left Sacramento on Friday June 27th hoping for a great experience and the opportunity to meet some great people in the Great White North. Flights weren’t too bad, but I landed in Calgary to a deluge of rain. We were forced to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes short of the gate due to lightning strikes.


After finally getting through customs and getting my rental, I headed to my first billet, Aaron Huntly, who was to put me up for the first two nights. Aaron is around 30 and had played at quite a high level in Canada, and had started reffing a couple of years ago. I learned from some people later that night to call him by his nickname, “Bunny”, for reasons I shall describe in detail later.


After getting settled in and having a good bite to eat, I headed down to a local club called the Irish. They are affiliated with the local Gaelic Association and have their own clubhouse and two fields, which supports soccer, Gaelic football, rugby and another sport or two. I reffed a Men’s D3 match between the Hornets and Knights; the knights were a police/sheriffs team. I was fortunate to have a ref coach in Andrew Petti for this match, who later provided some great feedback and pointers, which I utilized for the rest of the trip.


The match itself wasn’t particularly competitive and was a blowout in favor of the knights. One minor fracas which ended in a yellow card for a Hornets player was the only blemish on an otherwise clean and enjoyable match to referee.

The following day it was down to the Calgary Rugby Union (CRU), a five field facility with large clubhouse that includes I think 6-8 locker rooms, ref room, separate women’s locker rooms, bar and restaurant. All in all, a fantastic place to spend a weekend. I reffed another Men’s D3 match, this time between Red Deer and the Saracens, another local Calgary team. This match was also very one sided in favor of Red Deer and ended up 68-5. I was able to utilize some of the coaching I received on the first day to make this match better. We enjoyed a nice cold beverage or two on the referees tab at the bar afterwards, and then Bunny decided he wanted to show some hospitality and take me up to Red Deer with some of his friends. He had played there a while back and still had a lot of friends who were playing in the match I refereed.


After about an hour and a half drive we end up at the Red Deer clubhouse, which is similar to the Irish, with two fields, bar, locker rooms, etc. They were just closing, so we moved straight from there to a bar downtown. Needless to say, Bunny got his name because he is like the energizer bunny and never stops. We end up out until very late, get to someone’s house and pass out on the couch. Next morning, feeling a little worse for wear, Bunny wakes me up at 6.30am with his really thick Canadian accent saying, “We gotta go, eh!” I got to sample Tim Hortons for the first time, which was actually pretty decent, and then drive back to Calgary. From there, I headed down to stay with Paul Howe in Medicine Hat, about 3 hours south east of Calgary. I got down there fairly late, but was treated to a great BBQ dinner and then headed to bed early.


The following morning, we were up early for a two hour drive from Medicine Hat to Lethbridge where I was to referee the Division 1 Boys section championship match between Medicine Hat and LCI, a local Lethbridge team. I spend a good deal of the day up in the commentary box, avoiding the whipping winds and cold weather while watching some good rugby and chatting to former Women’s National Team Head Coach, Ric Suggit, who is now the head coach of the Lethbridge University Women’s rugby program. Soon it came time for me to warm up and get ready for my match. Right after kick off, literally 30 seconds into the game, a player from LCI broke his leg. It was fairly cold and the wind was howling, so I sent the teams back to the locker room until the player had been transported. 45 minutes later, we resumed the match. It was a well contested game, but extremely scrappy. The skill level was not particularly high, and the players were unsure about a lot of the rules surrounding the breakdown. At half it was 0-0. The second half yielded yet more penalties and eventually two yellow cards for repeat infringements. Medicine Hat took control at this point, and with the 30mph wind at their backs, scored four great tries to win 24-0.


We drove back to Medicine Hat after making a stop at a local brew pub where we would be having dinner on Friday night after the first round of the Alberta High School Championships, or ASAA’s. We had a great meal and got back very late. The next morning, I was up early and headed back towards Calgary. I stopped in downtown and met up with David Robinson for lunch, who is the President of the Alberta Rugby Referee Society. After that I headed out to the Canmore/Banff area, which is up in the mountains west of Calgary for a few days off. I stayed at a local hotel in Canmore called the Georgetown Inn – stay there if you have a chance, and eat in their pub – amazing food, and a great little place!. After checking in, I went on a hike up to some local lakes on the Grassi Lakes Trail, which was just amazing. I enjoyed the aforementioned dinner, a traditional stuffed Yorkshire Pudding with all the fixings and a couple of pints of the local Bitter!


Fully relaxed, I got to the car and hightailed it back to the CRU where I was to referee a higher level men’s match between the Saracens D1 squad vs. a touring team from Wales, Glyeneath (I think that is how it is spelled…). I had another ref coach for this match, which was nice, because I could put all the things to practice that I had been working on up until this point from previous coaching sessions, and get some additional feedback.


The match was very competitive going back and forth for most of the game. I was concerned fairly near the end of that match as it was tied up 19-19 and the large gallery up in the bar watching on were constantly reminding me that beer would be on me. Thankfully, on the last kick off after Saracens had just scored, Glyeneath went up and regained possession storming down the field and barreling over the line to score the game winning try. The conversion was something special too…the wind was blowing at about 20mph straight into the kickers face who was taking the kick from 5 meters in the left touchline. He kicked it almost straight and the wind carried it about 40m the with just enough curve to sneak it in the inside post, just over the crossbar.


Once again, the hospitality at the CRU was great, and I enjoyed a few good beers and a chat before heading back to David Robinson’s house where I would stay the next two nights. Thursday was another day of rest getting ready to ref at the ASAA’s down in Lethbridge the next morning, so I just went into downtown Calgary to explore a bit and see what it was like. I spent most of the day touring the area and visiting some local breweries, which were great.


The following day we were up at the crack of dawn to drive 2 hours south to Lethbridge for ASAA’s. I gave a ride to another local referee and enjoyed some political banter on the way down. Once there it was straight into it for most, I on the other hand had about a three hour wait for my first game, so I ref coached an early game and then AR’d a second. Finally I was up, reffing a Tier 1 Girls match between Archbishop Glendon and Bev Facey HS. Facey, who ended up winning the Girls Tier 1 bracket were a very well drilled side that had some fantastic athletes and some of the best passing skills I have seen out of a Girls HS team in some time. At the beginning of the second half, I felt something go in my left calf. I struggled along to finish the match, but managed ok. I was incidentally being coached during this game also, and he commented afterwards that he had not noticed any dip in performance from first to second half, so that was a positive for me. The diagnosis from the onsite AT and Doctor was a pretty good calf strain/pull, and that I should keep off of it if at all possible.


So my tournament was done due to injury, but I made myself useful ref coaching where I could and being a general pain in the ass to some of the local refs who needed a bit of a kick in the teeth… That evening, we went to the local brewpub for a good meal, some beers, and some banter. It was great to get to know a lot of these guys from around Alberta, but it was even more fun getting to know the infamous “Gilligan”, Dan Hattrup from Denver; what a character.


Following day, I did some more ref coaching and ball breaking before saying farewell to many of the guys who were Lethbridge locals. Some of the others were heading back to Calgary with me and going to the CRU for a drink before going out for a meal. We all got back to the CRU around 5pm had a drink and then went out to another local Irish establishment where I was introduced to the “Don King”. For those of you who don’t know what this beverage is, it is a double rum and coke with a Guinness float served in a pint glass. Make sure to stir, and drink in copious amounts! Needless to say, that is what we all did most of the night. We (Gilligan and myself) ended up back at David Robinson’s house at about 2am, where we proceeded to drink some of the Breckenridge Bourbon that Gilligan had brought with him…a perfect end to the trip.


Last morning, we were treated to Eggs Benedict from David’s wife, watched a bit of Toulon vs. Toulouse and then I headed out with Gilligan to the airport, where after an hour and a half delay, finally left for home.


I would like to thank Tim, Paul and Pete from Pelican Refs for setting up this exchange as well as Paul, David Aaron and the Alberta Referee Society as a whole for the hospitality and ref coaching I received while I was there.


Stephen Valerio sends in his final report of the 15s season from the East Coast. 


Date: 05/272016

Alumni/Faculty 55 – The Heights School  7

Location: The Heights School, Rockville, MD

Referee: Valerio, Stephen


With the 15s season down to the playoffs, there aren’t many chances to get a run in the middle. A mid-week call went out for an alumni match at The Heights School. Being that this is my busiest time of year, it was a welcome call to take a break from work and get a run-in.


Alumni matches are tricky. You can get experienced veterans who are more mature, experienced players, players who hadn’t played in years, and a couple of faculty who may never have played before. Or you can get all of them at the same time. Of course, we had all of them.


The students started the match casually, and were punished for it with the Alumni punching across 5 first half tries. This was compounded by the fact that they chose to go for points with a couple of penalties (remember those faculty who never played before and didn’t realize you couldn’t block) in Alumni territory. The kicks went astray and the Alumni took advantage of a disorganized defense to counter with some long range tries. Down 33-0 the students organized there defense and the first 20 minutes of the second half were a much more balanced affair caught between the 22s. Late in the half the Alumni were able to strike for 4 quick tries as some fatigue was showing on the students. I told them going to into the restart that this would be it unless there was a penalty. They were able to win a ruck off of the restart and a penalty about 30 meters out gave the students a final chance. A quick tap and pass to one of their props who rumbled deep against an Alumni side that may have started paying attention to the post match barbecue a little too soon. A quick recycle and the ball made it out to the senior #9 who powered over (yes, he ran over the defending back) for a try that he then converted to close out his high school carrier. I got to watch the senior ceremonies as I started back to work, always great to see young people closing one chapter and moving onto their next phase in life. Not a bad way to spend a warm Friday evening.


Date: 05/28/2016

UCSC 7 – Alumni 58

Referee: Freitas, Larry


Beautiful day at the UC Santa Cruz campus, with plenty of alumni for both the men’s and women’s matches.  Being that this is the 10th anniversary of the Lady Slugs winning the D2 championship, some from that squad were on the pitch or watching from the touchline.  The Alumnae featured a rather strong side, made up of many SFGG and a half dozen or more from last year’s varsity seniors.  The first try came at about 10 minutes, and one might say the floodgates were opened very quickly afterwards.  The school side did manage to score early in the second half after the Alums had put up 29 unanswered first half points.  The Alumnae put on a clinic for how to run the ball ahead vertically and keep the ball alive with players ripping off the ball from stood-up tackled team mates, or being there to pick up ball left behind by tackled team mates that had been put to ground.  It’s great that so many former players were on hand for the day, and I’m sure the school sides benefitted from the T shirt and sweat shirt sales.


Date: 06/04/2016

Bay JV 1 15 – Sac JV 1 55

Referee: Griffin, Scott


Two capable sides however Sac Valley had more experience and skills. Nice crowd in attendance.


Date: 06/04/2016

Tournament:  Rugby Ethos 7s


Referee: Richmond, Jeff


I had the privilege of refereeing the Women’s Final, one of six matches I did that day. All Blues dominated Golden Gate, 45-0. All Blues maintained good possession and quickly worked the ball to the outside. They had a pair of fast backs who were able to find openings in the GG line and slip attempts at tackles. GG’s few attacks were stifled by the All Blues solid defense.


The weather cooperated with temps in the 70’s, breezy, and cloudy skies most of the day. The referee corps (Bernstein, Bruno, Gordon, Pescetti, and Hinkin) acquitted itself well and the teams present showed good sportsmanship and quality play.


Referee: Bernstein, Bruce


Did 6 matches including the consolation losers bracket & Seahawks came back against a team from east of Sacto/Reno called the Renegades after barely losing their 1st match I did against Life by missing 2 of the conversions kicks (21-17) when Life showed up with only 4 players & stole 3 of Aptos 6 players-the fastest ones.

Fun for all refs (6 this time v. last year’s 3), players & fans.  Great semi-final match when O Club barely squeaked by Life in double overtime reffed by Jordan.  O Club went on to barely beat Santa Rosa with  10 Fijian LeBron James reffed by David wearing red as both teams did.



This Week’s Photo

The Northern California 7s Qualifier Referee Crew, Sacramento edition.  L-R: Phil Akroyd, Steven Fenaroli, Neil MacDonald, USA Rugby Intern Brendon Kozman, Favor Taueva, James Hinkin, Joe Devlin

Sitting: Ben Akroyd

Sac 7s refs

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

James Hinkin
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