Northern California Rugby Football Union Referee Society | Year of the Constipated Sloth
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Year of the Constipated Sloth

As we leave 2018 and venture into 2019 the rugby calendar turns over from the Year of the Insulted Goat to the Year of the Constipated Sloth.   There were many highs and lows in the past year for both club and country and we here at Hail Pelicus look forward to watching this Constipated Sloth reveal what is in store.   Slowly, of course, and with a slightly uncomfortable look on its face.

I am also starting a new tradition this year that, for as long as it holds true, I will end the first segment with a reminder to everyone that the USA is ranked #1 in the world in 7s.

Ben Parker, 1970-2018

Northern California and the rugby community lost a big figure suddenly as former NCRFU President and Head Coach of the Sacramento Blackhawks Ben Parker passed in his sleep on Christmas Eve.   Almost immediately after hearing the news tributes sprang up on Facebook and other social media and eulogies were sent in to me for inclusion in Hail Pelicus.    It is fitting that a man who carried so much influence in the rugby community elicit a massive response so I can not publish them all but, as always, when Pelicus Scriptoris feels the need to comment I cede the floor to him.

From Dr Bruce Carter, Pelicus Scriptoris,

Ben Parker blazed like a meteorite across the NorCal rugby firmament, creating a bright trail that dazzled but didn’t last as long as we might have hoped.

I knew Ben mostly through the intersection of our interests, he as chair of the NCRFU and I as the chair of the NCRRS. In a rugby community that has been blessed with a lot of strong personalities and hard workers, Ben stood out for the depth of his commitment and his willingness to work the politics of people to get things done.

His preferred method of business was the open-ended phone call. Why wait for the next meeting?

I also knew Ben, of course, as a referee for teams that he coached. His teams were trained and disciplined, always winning the warmup while the other team often just stood in a circle and threw a ball around.

It was in this capacity that Ben’s persistence was to turn to my own advantage, much like a judoka turns an opponent’s strength around.

It was the occasion of my annual game in the central coast area, this time in Paso Robles, on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. Northern California was getting hosed down by epic storms that week, but the Paso club assured us that they had an all-weather pitch. So my wife and I took Friday off and went down a day early, staying at the Madonna Inn, happy to have a rugby getaway weekend in a lovely corner of Pelicanland.

An early call Saturday morning brought the news that the all-weather pitch was fine, but that the sole access road to it was flooded and closed. Game off. Disappointment loomed. Killing a rugby buzz should be a capital offense.

But what could I do other than despair?

As luck would have it, the opponents were the Sacramento Blackhawks, coached by Ben, already embarked upon their four-hour-plus drive and keen to compete.

Chairmen of unions must have more persuasive ability than those of societies. Perhaps Ben reminded them of some double-secret provisions for disciplining teams who pull out of matches at the last minute. This dog was not going to give up that bone.

One of those open-ended phone calls must have ensued, and it worked in my (and the players’) favor. A flat patch of ground materialized, turned into a pitch by the placement of kit bags where normal field markings would have intersected. We had a fine match in the muck that was tied when my watch started beeping, the Blackhawks winning by taking that last scrum against the head and forcing it across the line with a series of desperate phases, the circumstances allowing no tolerance for error.

Ben’s persistence and pertinacity led to this game happening at all, and it is probably no coincidence that his team won my demonstrating some of the same characteristics as its coach.

Strong personalities engender strong opinions. Those who do the most work attract the most flack. Among the pillars supporting Northern California rugby over the decades, Ben stands tall and bears a large share of accomplishment.

Our game is the weaker for losing the involvement of someone with the experience, expertise and commitment of Ben Parker, and we will miss him and his passion.

– Bruce Carter

From Matt Eshoo, friend and former player of Ben Parker’s

As many of you have heard it is with great sadness that I share the news that former NCRFU President Ben Parker unexpectedly passed away.  Ben is survived by his beautiful wife Andrea, parents and four siblings.

Ben’s life began on April 28, 1970 in New Zealand.  Like most children in New Zealand Ben loved rugby and played often.  Some might say that Ben was ahead of time in that he was the biggest flyhalf most people had ever seen.  He was literally a second row playing first five.  He had an extremely strong kicking leg, hard shoulders and a total and complete understanding of the game supported by his super-intelligent family who often debated rugby, politics, economics and just about anything at the dinner table.  Ben would say that if you didn’t have a sound argument you would be destroyed and left fighting for scraps.  However, because of several injuries his dream of becoming an All Black fell short.  During his early 20’s, Ben also began working as a rancher and owned a successful sheep ranch before selling the ranch and becoming a world traveler.  It was during his travels that he landed in America.  In late 90’s he was hired by the New York Athletic Club and led them to a national championship and later coached Belmont Shores Rugby Club and again led them to a national championship before coming to Santa Rosa becoming our head coach.  Ben lived with me during this time and I trained him to become an appraiser and like all things he quickly figured it out and excelled at it.  This would later become his primary occupation for many years, finally evolving into selling real estate and flipping houses.

In 2001 Ben married the love of his life Andrea and in 2004 the couple moved to Sacramento where he started his own real estate appraisal practice.  It wasn’t long before the happy couple bought a beautiful home and were living the American dream.  Ben continued to spent time in rugby and eventually started his own club – the Sacramento Blackhawks.  Sacramento had two others teams searching for talent and the Blackhawks recruited many unknown or new players.  Ben’s love and kindness turned those young players in men and women.  Some of them coming from disadvantaged families where Ben would find ways to help them always treating them as equals and with kindness.  Ben’s saw these young, first generation men and women as the future and his heart reached out not with just words but with actions.  One day he noticed a foreclosed home near his community park rugby field and set about buying the property and transforming it into a club house with rooms for player to live in while they got on their feet.  He then acquired three more vacant lots next to the city park and made them his practice field.  Many players came through the Blackhawks club house and were transformed.  Not content with just making his local community better, Ben set about making Northern California rugby better with intelligent and straight forward ideas and plans.  In 2014 he was elected President of the NCRFU and held the position for four years.  Ben’s home flipping business was also thriving and he had several properties in the works before his untimely passing on Christmas Day during his sleep from heart failure.  He will be sorely missed and the rugby community is at a huge loss.

There aren’t many people who have the will and energy to do what Ben did.  His dry wit and quick tongue could put the best lawyer into mental gymnastics especially for those who didn’t understand his giant heart that was always full of compassion.  He sure was fun to watch.  Be well Ben Parker – I’ll see you on the greatest pitch ever someday to chase down one of your legendary cork screw, up and under kicks and later hoist a pint with you as you teach me more about the game we all love.

There is a celebration of Ben’s life on January 16, 2019 at 1:30pm at Officer’ Club located at Depot Park, Sacramento.  A place Ben loved.

– Matt Eshoo

2019 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines

Looking for guidance on how to manage a game?   Well, USA Rugby has your back.  You can find the 2019 USA Rugby GMGs here:

If you do not have access to the google drive linked above you can also view them as well as other pertinent documents here:

Disciplinary Action Reporting – Process For Reporting Incidents

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

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



On To The Game Reports!

Date: 12/29/2018

St Mary’s College B 48 – Santa Rosa 19

Referee: James Hinkin

AR: Allen Gray

AR: Peter Gray

A late appointment over the holiday period filled a need for St Mary’s, Santa Rosa and myself to get out and run off some of that Christmas Dinner.   This promised to be a fast game on the perfect pitch of St Mary’s with plenty of open, running rugby and the promise was fulfilled.   St Mary’s had a full slate of matches with their C side doing battle with Google, their B side tilting against Santa Rosa, and their A side (insert another metaphor for a contest) against Diablo Gaels.

St Mary’s, as expected when competing against a men’s club, was undersized but that bothered them not at all as their speed and fitness proved to be more than adequate for the task at hand.   They came out of the gate with speed, precision and passion and Santa Rosa gave up the initiative almost from the kickoff as St Mary’s put points on the board within 5 minutes.   That is not to say that Santa Rosa rolled over or were not committed, because they regrouped and held their own for long stretches.   Unfortunately, turnovers were deadly as the St Mary’s counterattack looked to be in mid season form.

Not all was sweetness and light, though.   The first 20 minutes was marred by far too many penalties as tackles were high and the breakdown lacked discipline.   After a word to the captains the discipline improved until a high tackle from the Santa Rosa 15 resulted in a yellow card.  Unlucky for him as it was his first penalty but too many team penalties made the decision inevitable.

St Mary’s took advantage of the man advantage to put a few more tries across to end the half up 24-0.

The second half saw a much more committed Santa Rosa side against an uncharacteristically mistake prone St Mary’s side.   The undergrads looked to lose a little focus as they allowed points for the first time all day.  In fact, Santa Rosa can leave the field happy with their response after the break as they put 3 tries on the board with hard, straight running and solid support.   St Mary’s, being who they are, responded with 4 tries of their own to win handily on the scoreboard but Coach O’Brien will not be happy with the mental and physical lapses.   A late yellow card to St Mary’s for a shoulder charge off the ball is exactly the kind of thing that the Gael coaching staff will want to stamp out.

As always, it was a great day of rugby on one of the premier pitches in the country with perfect weather conditions.    Many thanks go to Allen and Peter Gray for ARing – a luxury whenever you have qualified ARs.   In spite of the 2 cards the game was played in excellent spirits and both sides, holiday depleted as they were, could take many positives away.   It was a pleasure to referee.

This Week’s Photo

Doesn’t that look pretty?

Hail, Pelicus!

For the Senate

Pelicus Pedem Referre

James Hinkin
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