Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | Professional Startup
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Professional Startup


The day long longed for (longing long time?) or, in some cases, dreaded has finally arrived.   The United States of America finally has professional rugby.   There were 2 matches scheduled to start the league off, one in Sacramento against their Bitter Arch Rival San Francisco and the other in Denver (well, Glendale) with the Ohio squad visiting.   The match in Sacramento was everything the organizers could have hoped for, an exciting 37-25 match under blue skies in perfect conditions with a vocal, engaged crowd.  Just what you would expect from Pelicanland.


The other match, of course, wasn’t played in Northern California so things didn’t go quite so well.  A reliable source tells Hail Pelicus that the field was covered with 18 feet of snow and the match wasn’t actually visible to the spectators.   The game devolved into a battle of sappers as players had to dig tunnels in the snow to advance the ball and if it weren’t for GPS tags in the player’s jerseys nobody would have known where the action was.   Fortunately the big screen was able to track the players this way and have colored dots move around to give people an idea of the flow of the game.   Unsurprisingly this resulted in the game ending in a tie so the Worst Idea Of Pro Rugby was implemented immediately (see below).    Nor Cal B Panelist Derek Summers, naturally, owes every referee in America a beer.   Looking forward to your next match out here, Derek.


All Tied Up And Nowhere To Go


So the first match in Denver ended in a tie.   The captains and the referee wearily dug tunnels towards each other and shook hands before digging a tunnel back to the locker rooms for the post match interview, right?




Pro Rugby has fallen for the old lie that American sports fans can not understand what a tie is so they played a 10 minute sudden death period after full time.   Every time a “foreign” sport gets introduced to the USA some marketing wantwit insists that Americans don’t like ties.   When the MLS started up they had those ridiculous shootouts and then went to overtime before scrapping the whole thing and playing soccer like the rest of the world has been doing so successfully.   England doesn’t play overtime.  New Zealand doesn’t play overtime.   Heineken Cup and Super Rugby don’t play overtime.   Why in the name of all that is oblong are we doing it?


It’s embarrassing, really.   The rest of the rugby world is looking at us like a doting parent looks at a toddler playing Monopoly.    Yes, we can roll dice and move our doggie around the board but we don’t understand entirely what is going on and will change the rules to something we like so that we can win.


If you are in a playoff or a knockout competition that requires a winner to advance, the yes, you play overtime.   For a standard league match?   Don’t’ be ridiculous.


The Other Big Change


Well, not really a big change, but a trial proposed by World Rugby and this is actually a solid, common sense idea.    When a team that has been awarded a Penalty Kick after time expired they may kick for touch and play the lineout.  Similar to the scrum option that is already in effect it removes the tactical limitation against a team with a strong lineout by allowing this option.

This is an idea adopted by Pro Rugby I can get behind.

The Great Ebner Experiment Continues

Nate Ebner got his first playing time and his first tries (a double against Portugal).   Well done, that man!  From what I saw he looked good, if slightly uncomfortable at times and fully justified his inclusion in the squad.   Did he do enough to make an Olympic team?   Not yet, but I was impressed and he is closer than I expected.   It will be interesting to see what Mike Friday does when Carlin Isles gets back and he has a full squad to choose from.

A Fond Farewell

We all know Pelicus Scriptoris as possibly the greatest contributor and most passionate advocate of Northern California Rugby and especially the Referee Society.    Sadly, he has decided to move on.

On Friday April 29th all of Pelicanland will be celebrating Bruce Carter’s retirement and departure from the Bay area as Bruce will be migrating to Arizona.  Make plans now to celebrate Bruce’s incredible career as an official, President of the Northern California Rugby Referees Society, and his most impactful legacy, teacher.  Bruce’s impact on refereeing has been immense and we have all been fortunate to have been the recipient of his mentorship for so many years.  Click the link here to find out more details about the event and to choose your entree options.

Ask A Pelican


Yes, it’s time for this week’s installment of “Ask A Pelican”, the widely loved Q and A session with Hail Pelicus.   This week’s question comes from Ernie Dinklefwat of Bloom County, USA who asks:


“I have been assigned to playoff and tournament games that list teams with placeholders like ‘Nor Cal 1’, ‘West 2’ or even ‘A3’ and ‘Winner Game 7’.    My question is how should I let Hail Pelicus editors and readers know who was playing in these matches?”


Thank you Mr Dinklefwat for your question and let me say that I hope your hog riding rendezvous works out for you.   This comes up every year around this time and occasionally at other times when you have tournament or seedings to deal with.   The best solution, one that was universally applied this week thank you very much, is to put the names of the teams in your writeup so that the editorial staff here can identify who is with what score.   A report like “Good solid playoff game, thanks for the run” does not work (and is terribly dull), but “Central City Wormhuggers were able to snatch a victory from the Old Plaid RFC…” works perfectly.    If you don’t identify the teams we will just make up silly names and nobody wants that in a publication of this stature.  It would be undignified.


Keep those questions coming!


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!


Date: 04/16/2016

Colusa County 35 – Modesto 33

Referee: Pohlman, John


Playoff rugby is upon us and this weekend I had one heck of a game.  Colusa was hosting Modesto on a hot Saturday.  I knew this would be a competitive game.  Colusa has won the division, I believe, the last five years.  Modesto was being led and coached by Soni, a Tongan friend who used to play in the Bay area.  Modesto had some new faces and Colusa had all there players.

The game was hard hitting, competitive and hard hitting.  Colusa has three backs who given any space can slice through the defense and when tackled offload to what seemed like always a support player.  Colusa’s #12 scored two first half try s.  The Colusa #10 added another.

Modesto had three backs to match the Colusa players, though.  First was captain and #10 Soni who scored both of Modesto’s first half try s.  Soni also made both kicks making the first half score Colusa 21-Modesto 14.


Colusa scored a quick second half try at 3 minutes in.  They seemed to be taking charge when an ill advised pass by captain and # 8 Cody (really the only mistake I saw him make on the day) was intercepted and scored at 6 minutes.  Just when it looked like Modesto had the upper hand, a turnover led to a quick Colusa try.   This made the game 35-21 Colusa.

But captain Soni would not let his player letdown and their fast #13 scored try s at 16 minutes and 35 minutes.  One missed conversion ended up being the deciding factor.

Wow what a game.  It was one of those games as a referee you really love and just hope you don’t get in the way.

Thanks for one heck of a workout.



Date: 04/16/2016

Danville 49 – Granite Bay 14

Referee: Gordon, Preston


This was the boys JV championship, held on a sunny day with the stands full of fans. What’s not to like about that?


Both teams were evenly matched in the first half, which ended at 14-14 with 2 converted tries each. At that point Danville had a player sitting in the bin for repeated offside infringements, although this didn’t degrade their effectiveness much. In the second half, Danville added 5 further converted tries, with some impressive touchline efforts from their #10 to ensure the complete haul of points.


Watching both teams competing ferociously and showing this level of skill and game knowledge, while still this young, would give anyone confidence in the future of our sport in NorCal. Thanks as well to Ed Barfels and Bart Nielsen, my 2 ARs for this one.



Date: 04/16/2016

Napa 85 – Reno 19

Referee: Bertolone, Cary


Playoff atmosphere; not really. A warm day, about 80 degrees, or felt like it, the game was tied at 7-7 six minutes in and then it became a lot of Napa offense and it was 42-12 at the half. Both of Reno’s tries resulted from Napa mistakes and thus, penalties, but beyond a little of that, Napa appears ready for the playoffs. The game was played in good spirits, good running and some hard tackling; I think everyone had a good run and a lot of fun. Final score was 85-19.



Date: 04/16/2016

Cal Maritime 29 – New Mexico Highlands University 31

Referee: Sandhill, Peter


This was the Pac West Semi-FInal 1 of the NSCRO – National Small College Rugby Organization played on a properly marked and sized rugby field (synthetic turf) between Cal Maritime Academy (CMA) and New Mexico Highlands University (Highlands) . It was a very hot spring day, around 78 degrees at 1pm. Tim Lew had the other later semi; he AR’ed this game with Eric Rauscher.


This game was a ‘cracker’ (as we say in Australia) and went down to the wire, decided in the last minutes. Two very different styles of play – CMA had a very strong forward pack that demonstrated great skill and slowly, in the second half asserted dominance. Highlands had exceptional backs. Their coach explained before the game that they play like Fiji, open styled, athletic and spontaneous. As an example, they scored two tries in open play while defending, when Cal Maritime dropped the ball, and they towed it through and chased half way up the field. Twice.


After kick off, Highlands came out of the gate and scored (unconverted) for a 5-0 lead. CMA looked stunned. They responded with tight play and soon scored themselves. At half time it was 10-12, two tries a piece with a Highlands conversion helping them hold a slight lead.


In the second half the game opened up, a little, with three tries a piece plus two conversions each. Highlands never lost the lead, but it was close. CMA scored two sensational team tries at different points, as the momentum went to and fro at different stages of the second half. Both teams kept the pressure up the whole game. It was a captivating game to watch and ref with a very vocal and positive home crowd on the sidelines.


The last four minutes saw a long drive by CMA from their 22, two thirds of the field, with three consecutive penalties (different infringements) allowing play to continue after the hooter, into injury time. With a PK right in front right on full time, the CMA captain was deliberating taking a scrum, a shot for three points, which would have won them the game, or a kick to touch for a line-out. Unfortunately, the scoreboard (maintained by hosts, CMA, his club) mistakenly read 31-27 so he thought 3-points wouldn’t matter. In the heat of the moment, he quickly elected to have a scrum. They won the scrum and then knocked the ball on, game over.


Thanks to Tim and Eric who did a wonderful job.



Date: 04/16/2016

Claremont Colleges 42 – Denver University 18

Referee: Lew, Tim


Denver University vs Claremont Colleges was the sweet 16 round on Saturday at NSCRO playoffs. The game was fun and open. Claremont was able to control DU from start to finish. They controlled set play and pace of the game.



Date: 04/16/2016

Peninsula Green 31 – McClatchy 28

Referee: Bernstein, Bruce


Saved best match I did for last.  McClatchy up 21-0 & 28-5 loses in last minute 31-28. Obviously either could have won.  Great match to be part of & guessing watch. McClatchy well-coached team oriented game highlighted by their flyhalf & center who had some real nice runs & also made all 4 of his conversion kicks with his dad’s incentive of: “This ones for your car.”  They were also helped in the 1st half by Pen Green’s insistence on holding on to the ball after being tackled, which they corrected the 2nd half & had two really big Pacific Islander decent props score solo tries to push them ahead; preserving an undefeated season.  Both of their varsity teams should be back next year with that much depth & coaching.  Thanks for Neil for some simple & good advice I will utilize in the future.



Date: 04/16/2016

Peninsula Green 38 – McClatchy 12

Referee: Carney, Mark


Contentious game that ended up being closer than the score would lead you to believe. Both teams were extremely physical; Pen Green just played a faster game and had some beautiful set piece tries that took them over the top of CKM to win the Rugby NorCal D1 Championship.



Date: 04/16/2016

Sacramento Amazons 14 – SFGG Women 59

Referee: McDougall, Grant


Glorious day for Rugby in Sacramento, the sun was out and both teams turned up to play running rugby. We had the pleasure of teams lining up to the American Nation Anthem played on rock guitar from the stands. Not something i have witnessed in all my travels. Sacramento now has a special place in my heart!


Golden Gate got off to a quick start spreading the ball wide and stretching the Amazon defense. The first half was dominated by golden gate with the ladies racking up six tries all converted by their captain in a brilliant exhibition of kicking. The Amazon’s did not give up at any point with solid defense in the mid field and forwards.


The second half felt like a different Amazon team  turned up to play, they drove through the forwards with a flawless pick and drive game which led to the first try of the second half. Golden Gate struggles to get their shape back until late in the second half. They did a good job of retaining possession and kicking for territory, turning the Amazon pack around.


It was a solid semi final and a pleasure to Ref.



Date: 04/16/2016

Sacramento Amazons 48 – Pleasanton Cavaliers 12

Referee: Crenshaw, Jim


Lovely day – match a bit one sided – 4 yellows to Amazons 3 for offsides 1 for not back 10 at a penalty – didn’t seem to matter much.



Date: 04/16/2016

San Jose State 39 – Alumni 17

Referee: Simko, Paul


Sunny day, but for alumni match, there appeared to be no love lost between these two teams.  Once we got some of the hot heads under control, the match went well.  Too much speed for the Alumni to overcome.



Date: 04/16/2016

Santa Rosa 31 – EPA Razorbacks 33

Referee: Fenaroli, Steven


The game was intense and full of lead changes. EPA held on to win as Rosa was making a late drive to score. Thanks to Robert for the AR help and Mike for the PR



Date: 04/16/2016

SFGG 24 – Mother Lode 50

Referee: Byrnes, Bryant


This was the Boys High School Open JV Plate Final at TI-game four of seven high school championship games. Think this kind of game is an easy day at the office: little guys running in circles and falling down? Think again. These are young men who have at least a season of honing their skills, often more. They are well coached. They play a consummate  game; run straight, tackle hard, get the ball out to wing more than any other level. Thanks to my AR Preston.



First half: they traded try for try. 26-19 for the Mother Lode Whippets. The tide turned early in the second half when not one, but two SFGG players got yellows for dangerous tackles. Mother Lode played 15 to 13 aside adroitly.



Date: 04/16/2016

UC Davis 29 – University of Southern California  12

Referee: Boyer, Rich


It was a sunny, warm Picnic Day at UC Davis, so the students were out in droves.  USC had arrived the night before and also showed up with numbers.  They took the opening kick and immediately Davis were on the back foot, as it seemed to me they were taken aback by USC’s intensity.  USC were on the five meter line after repeated patient phases only to knock on.  Davis then controlled possession throughout the remainder of the first quarter but were prone to little mistakes as neither team scored.  Eventually Davis Captain flyhalf Josh Farnsworth took second phase ball through a gap for a try which he converted.  Back and forth it went in a game nearly devoid of penalties.  The Davis wing benefited from previous phase pick and drives when an overlap ensured and Farnsworth skipped two to allow #11 to score an unconverted try in the corner.  But USC fought back and the flanker burrowed in under the posts on recycled ruck ball to make the score 12-7 UCD.  The momentum then swung to Davis as Farnsworth skillfully sliced through another gap and subsequently converted his try.  The Davis lock picked up the ball at a ruck and stormed down the sidelines, eventually offloading to the Davis wing who cut back inside for a try under the posts.  24-7 Davis at half.  Every time Davis got the upper hand in the second half USC would counter through their big #12 and mercury quick 13 to blunt the attack and threaten to score, alas, only to be undone by knock ons and forward passes.  USC substituted wisely in the second half and stood toe to toe with Davis, matching Davis’ one second half try with a well deserved try by the English hooker cum flanker #7, who really stood out on the day with his powerful incisive runs.  The second half saw a slightly higher penalty count but total for the day was under 10 as the players were very disciplined and responded to instruction.  Standouts include Farnsworth and #13 and the ubiquitous Welsh hooker who made several poaches.  USC 12 and 13 were very talented with ball in hand, while #7 and the tighthead prop were prominent with their runs.   Davis are strong and best of luck to them in the finals.  Credit to USC as the program they are building is a good one indeed.   Special thanks to David Hosley for braving the traffic to run awesome AR.



Date: 04/16/2016

Vacaville 29 – Life West 2 21

Referee: Devlin, Joe


No report received



Date: 04/17/2016

Claremont Colleges 35 – New Mexico Highlands University 25

Referee: Lew, Tim


The sun was blazing on Sunday of NSCRO elite 8 round in Vallejo. Claremont Colleges and New Mexico teams traded tries and at halftime the game was almost tied. Claremont Colleges ended up being more disciplined than NM. NM had some amazing athletes who will need to learn the game but they’ll be a great team in years to come.



This Week’s Photo

The referees of the NSCRO 7s Qualifier two weeks ago  L-R:  Rich Boyer, Steve Fenaroli, and the newly minted Pelicus Caledonius

NSCRO 7s refs

Hail, Pelicus!
For the Senate
Pelicus Pedem Referre

James Hinkin
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