Head referee Ross Morrison blames rugby riot on parents, spectators PIC 1

MORRISON: A GPD officer points to referee Ross Morrison, center, who was officiating a GDOE ISA/GRU boys varsity rugby game between the Guam High School Panthers and the Southern High School Dolphins Saturday at George Washington High School. Late in the game, a riot broke out and GPD arrived on scene. Matua Salas/GSPN

As a player, coach and referee with 50 years of experience, head referee Ross Morrison said he has never seen anything as disgusting and disrespectful as what happened during a high school rugby game Saturday at George Washington High School in Mangilao.

In just the second game of the season of the Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association/Guam Rugby Union league, with two minutes remaining in the game, the Guam High School Panthers were beating the Southern High School Dolphins 28-0. With enough time on the clock for one or two more drives, rough, illegal play quickly escalated into several fights between players, fans and parents.

After a Guam High player tackled a Southern Dolphin player, illegally, an initial fight, and moments later, a riot ensued.

“Southern players rush in and begin the unnecessary push and shove,” Morrison said. “The push and shove escalated. Both players ignored a short ref whistle blast to stop play.”

As a Southern Dolphins player pushed the Panthers tackler to the ground, an unidentified man walked onto the pitch and shoved the Dolphin.

"In the 50 years I've been involved in rugby, I have never been involved in an issue like that where benches from both sides are involved and parents got involved, not even in the roughest, toughest New Zealand clubs," Morrison said.

Morrison described the man as a Guam High parent. Morrison said, and a video obtained by The Guam Daily Post confirms, that the individual was ejected by a match official. The match official is identified as GRU official Billy Chennaux.

“This Guam High individual will be identified and further disciplinary action will be taken,” Morrison said.

Morrison, who was blowing his whistle and trying to gain control of the situation, described the unfolding events as escalating into a melee. Instead of trying to de-escalate the event, Morrison said he observed “multiple players from both on-field teams and bench teams involved” in the altercation.

“Parents and spectators standing near or adjacent to the teams’ bench areas were also observed joining the melee/altercation, but not to gain control and stop the altercation between players, but were observed actively involved in the altercation,” Morrison said. 

Morrison said that both Southern Dolphins and Guam High parents and spectators were equally guilty of disgraceful, feral, unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Parents should have stepped up as the melee spilled into the spectator area and stopped the minor altercation,” he said. "Parents should be setting the example for good respectful behavior, not participating and encouraging verbal and physical abuse or reverting to pack feral dog mentality."

About a minute after the initial altercations ensued, Morrison, coaches and others brought the initial fight under control and teams were instructed to separate and move to opposite ends of the field.

Morrison said that education sports officials recommended that Guam High players and parents and spectators exit the field. He said that as Guam High left the field, “ongoing verbal abuse and verbal threats of physical violence between parents and spectators” escalated.

At this point, “a call was placed with GPD,” Morrison said.

As Guam High stakeholders began leaving, another fight began, this time, started by a parent and or spectator of a Southern Dolphins rugby player.

“As Guam High players, spectators and supporters were exiting the GW field and playing area, another altercation arose, caused by Southern Dolphins parents/spectators pursuing and initiating the secondary confrontation,” Morrison said.

“The Guam Rugby Union and GRU match officials will conduct a disciplinary meeting/hearing with both Southern Dolphins and Guam High rugby coaches,” Morrison said. “Subject to correct identification of individuals and parents involved in the disturbance, further disciplinary action will be completed, to include banning identified individuals from all future … rugby events. These videos will be used for identification.”

ISA Director Marv Linder said that the ISA investigation into the incident is ongoing and will be taken up with the GDOE Board of Control.

Morrison said that he won't rest until the guilty parties are identified and held accountable. 

"I'm going to chase this one to the death," he said. "I'm going to get a couple of people that we've identified and get them banned. And if we need to take legal action against them, we'll take legal action against them as well."

"It's up to us as the governing body to basically deal with that and to dish out whatever disciplinary action we can," Morrison said.