September 1987: Atlantis Tours Scotland

(Atlantis tournaments #10, 11 and 12)
Emil Signes and Bill Bernhard
September 1987
JUNE 14, 2013

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The following was originally three separate documents:

The first is the article on the tour.  I wrote the first part which took us through the first two tournaments: the Selkirk Sevens and the Minerva Sevens (Glasgow). I was the US Sevens coach at the time and returned for the National Club Sevens tournament in Milwaukee.  Bill Bernhard took up the pen for the second part of the tour.

Following this are
a) an answer to the question "What is Atlantis?" from Rugby, as this was only our second year, and
b) the information I had sent to the tournament organizers about our team.

Following the squad list is
the article more or less as it appeared in Rugby Magazine (my part is taken from my original typed text, I copied Bill's from the magazine itself). A poor quality scan of the orignal article maybe found here (page 1) (page 2).

Atlantis in Scotland 1987

Atlantis Squad to Scotland (Atlantis Number, Name, Club)

69 Bill Bernhard, Washington
62 Rory Lewis, Washington
67 Joe McCann, OMEX
70 Mark Miller, MOB
71 Russ Ortiz, UCLA
31 Chris Petrakes
52 Chris Schrichte, Sudamericano
72 Tommy Smith, Santa Monica
15 Joe Taranto, Union County (NJ)

Manager: Mike Brodie
Coach: Emil Signes

Part I. Can't get Jedforest off my mind

by Emil Signes

Last month, for the 4th time in 18 months, I visited Scotland with a sevens team.  Once again, the people were fantastic and the sevens intense and appreciated.  It's great to be in a place where the average person in the street is excited about sevens, and that's certainly the case in the Scottish Border towns on tournament day.

The Scotland tour was Atlantis' second visit to the UK in 1987: in March/April, Atlantis toured Kent, where it compiled a 3-2 record in two 7s tournaments, including a big win over Rosslyn Park.

The Scotland tour was even more ambitious, as it encompassed two of the major Borders' sevens tournaments, Selkirk and Kelso, as well as the Minerva 7s in Glasgow.  Selection for the tour was complicated by the fact that the Kelso 7s took place on the same weekend as the US club sevens' championship, and thus none of the players from the nation's top 8 teams were available.

The Team

This tour was conceived while my coaching was confined to the ERU, and the team had a predominantly ERU flavor: Mark Miller and Chris Petrakes from MOB, Bill Bernhard and Rory Lewis of Washington, Chris Schrichte of Sud, Joe McCann of OMEX, and Joe Taranto of Union County (NJ), were joined by two Californians, Eagle Tommy Smith (Santa Monica) and promising young forward Russ Ortiz of UCLA.  Schrichte was the only player to represent Atlantis on both UK tours.

Mike Brodie, the president of the New York Referee's Society, was the tour manager, and took all organizational worries off my mind. Mike managed to come up with all kinds of souvenirs, featuring our "VII" logo, for us; the pins, especially, were to be in great demand.  Mike also had his own personal goals for the tour: to referee both 15s and 7s games in Scotland.

We met at Kennedy Airport, and arrived in Scotland at 7 AM Thursday morning.  By 10 AM we were in Selkirk, and at 11 AM we were practicing.  We practiced again in the afternoon, and on Friday morning.


Selkirk, located in the Scottish Borders, is an ancient royal burgh of about 6,000 people, so beloved by its residents that it has been said that "a day oot o' Selkirk's a day wastit." It lies on a hillside overlooking the river known as Ettrick Water.  Selkirk is in the heart of the Borders' rugby country: the Selkirk RFC is one of Scotland's top teams, and the town lies within 20 miles of all the other major Borders' rugby towns: Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Jedburgh, and Galashiels.

Fawlty Towers

While in Selkirk we were housed at the County Hotel: for those that were familiar with John Cleese's "Fawlty Towers," it seemed like we were in it.  All functions of the hotel, from cooking and serving breakfast to tending bar, operating a disco, supervising a Sunday morning Borders' Christian service, were taken care of by the landlords, Rosemary and Mike, with a tiny group of helpers, of whom Matilda was the most notable.  We made friends with all of them, and had a wonderful time amidst the chaos.

The Selkirk Sevens

The Selkirk 7s is one of the 6 major Borders' sevens' tournaments, and the only one that takes place in August.  Like all the Borders' sevens, Selkirk is well attended, and the several thousand spectators thoroughly enjoy and appreciate their afternoon of sevens.

On August 29, 1987, the skies were sunny and the temperature in the high seventies, an uncommon combination in Scotland.  With two North American clubs, Balmy Beach (Ontario), and Atlantis, competing, Selkirk expanded their field to 18 teams.  Four of them had to qualify for the final round of 16 by playing in a pigtail bracket.  Atlantis was one of them.  We didn't mind, because we didn't have a difficult draw, and assuming we won the first game, would get in one more game than we would have otherwise have had the opportunity to play.  And playing lots of games was, after all, the reason we were there.

With less than a minute to go we were ahead 12-6 on two Rory Lewis tries, and were awarded a penalty kick at midfield.  Tommy Smith called for a long kick ahead for Rory to chase down.  Unfortunately, Tommy didn't hear Rory trying to call him off. To make a long painful story short, Tommy kicked, Rory couldn't follow, Kilmarnock won the ball, and eventually tied the game and won it in overtime.

Before the round of 16 began, at 2 PM, we were out of the tournament!  Joe Taranto and I took the barely soiled kit back to the hotel.  It was a 20 minute walk, across Ettrick Water and up a long hill, and we had to listen too many times to "What, out of it already?," from smiling townspeople walking to the tournament.

We watched in pain as Kilmarnock easily defeated Hawick YM (Young Men), and score the first two tries against the Harlequins, to whom they eventually lost.  Meanwhile Balmy Beach made fairly easy work of Langholm. . . Not fun.

As the day went on, the guys got into the tournament as spectators, and began to appreciate the intensity needed to win in Border 7s.  The final match was a replay of the 1987 Middlesex finals, Harlequins vs. Wakefield.  On this occasion, however, Wakefield upset the favored Harlequins in a see-saw match, by the final margin of only two points.

The Minerva Sevens

After a few beers at the rugby club, and another at the County disco, we retired for the night knowing that we wouldn't have to wait long to make up for Saturday's disaster; the Minerva Sevens' were on Sunday.

We boarded a bus at Fawlty Towers at about 9:30 AM; three hours later we were in Glasgow, and shortly thereafter participating in Glasgow High/Kelvinside (GHK)'s annual tournament.

The field was not as strong as at Selkirk, but there were several top sides there: last year's winner Ayr, Jedforest, Kelso (but without their best seven), and the Glasgow Academicals were among them.

Langholm, a Border side, and the Glasgow Accies were in our bracket, and we had high hopes of making it through the bracket and into the semifinals.  We began by defeating Langholm fairly easily, despite a final score of only 16-10.

The game featured our first use of one of our "Unitas" penalty plays.  In these plays, first worked out by the Eagles in Hong Kong last April, the hooker lines up as a football center, with the scrum half in a shotgun formation.  After a few "Ready, set, hut, hut"s, a three point stance, a backfield shift, etc., the ball is hiked, and variations of the American football, or torpedo, pass are practiced.  On this particular play, Joe Taranto hiked the ball to Tommy Smith, who faked handoffs to Mark Miller and Joe McCann, fired a long torpedo pass to Russ Ortiz, who was looped by Chris Petrakes. Petrakes fired a torpedo pass back across the field to Mark Miller, who gained about 40 yards before being stopped at about the two.  We scored from the next possession.

In the Glasgow Accies game, in theory our toughest game to date, everything went our way and we won by a 24-10 score, identical to that by which the Accies were beaten by the Cougars, also with Tommy Smith at scrum half, at Melrose in 1986.


The victories put us into the semifinal with Jedforest.  I was particularly interested in facing Jed.  Consider the following:

     Kelso, 1986.  I had spent weeks convincing Clarence Culpepper and Tom Selfridge to allow me to put an ERU team in the Kelso 7s during the Colonials' tour of Scotland.  Naturally, I was eager to present them with a success. Instead, we suffered the ultimate humiliation at a Borders' 7s tournament: we played and lost the very first game of the tournament, 12-4, to Jedforest.  With 14 teams not yet having played their first game, we were in the showers.

     Melrose, 1987. After a great win over Gala in the first round, the Cougars played another good game against Jedforest, but lost on the final play of the game, 12-6.

In the space of less than 365 days, I watched my third different team--21 different players--lose to Jedforest by the identical margin of two tries to one, Jedforest scoring the last try on each occasion.  The final score was 10-4, as we couldn't hold a 4-0 halftime lead built on a long run by Rory Lewis who smoked Jed's speedy winger Harry Hogg.  Yuck!

Jed went on to easily defeat Ayr in the finals.

We found out we had to meet Jedforest in the first round of the Kelso 7s.

Meanwhile, Mike was happy: he got to referee a couple of tournament games.

The Party

The tournament party was great, and many pints were consumed, and many songs sung.  Our favorite was "Sunshine Mountain," which sounds innocuous enough:

We're climbing up Sunshine Mountain
Where the little breezes blow
We're climbing up Sunshine Mountain
Faces all aglow
Turn, turn your back to sorrow
Reach up to the sky
We're climbing up Sunshine Mountain
You and I; you and I.

It was the choreography that made it, however: with a bar full of more than 100 people standing on chairs and tables, turning round and round and reaching to the sky, the song was dangerous.  And fun.

I figured if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and traded a Bethlehem sweater for a Jed sweater.  I was to wear it for the rest of my stay, and continually forced all the players to stare at the Jedforest knight perched on my chest, ready to smite them down once again.


While in Glasgow we were hosted by the Glasgow High/Kelvinside RFC (GHK). Glasgow has a reputation as being a filthy, dangerous city, but that's not the face it presented to us.  Our hosts showed us many of the positive aspects of the city and its environs, and we enjoyed our stay immensely.

Joe McCann and I stayed with Ewan McCorkindale, a potential Scotland scrum half.  On Monday, Ewan's parents took us for a ride to see Loch Lomond.  It's banks are indeed bonnie.

On Tuesday, I wandered to the Glagow People's Palace, a museum built for "the people" in 1898. Located in Glasgow Green, near the "working class" part of town, the People's Palace consists of three floors of exhibits detailing the history of Glasgow from the ninth century to the present:

The place vibrates wi' the Glesga Greats
For the workin' man they spoke
Be you grave or gallus, take a trip to the Palace
It belangs to the Glesga folk.

Tuesday night was September 1, the opening of the Scottish rugby season, and we watched our hosts take on the Glasgow Accies.  GHK lost a close game in which they had to play almost entirely with only 14 people (in some areas, like substitutions, Scottish rugby remains in the dark ages).  After the game we dined at DiMaggio's (yes, there were pictures of Joe on the wall), and I spent my last night in Glasgow.  I had to return to attend the national club 7s championships in Milwaukee.

Before leaving the pub, I went up to each player in turn and flouted the Jed knight on my sweater. The final retort from all the players was, "Don't worry . . . Jed is dead!"

Mike had another good night, as he refereed the Glasgow High v. Glasgow Accies 3rds.  Some people are satisfied by the small things in life . . .

Bill Bernhard picks up the story on Wednesday, September 2.

Part II. A Walk through Jed Forest, 9/87

by Bill Bernhard

Kelso is a beautiful town, picturesque is a word that does not do it justice. We stroll the streets, zig zag in and out of stores, and eventually find ourselves at the Wagon Inn Pub for lunch.  Capt. Smith rallies the troops to the Kelso pitch for a light practice and afterwards we meet our hosts.

We are all staying on farms and for the next four days we are in a fantasy land, experiencing a passing dream.  The open country, the grandest of hospitality and the finest in family living. We met former and current internationals, compare lifestyles and ideals, an basically forget about America and Ronald Reagan for a while.

On Thursday and Friday, we train in the morning, and explore Melrose, Abbottsford, Selkirk and Galasheils in the afternoon.  We are well into the tour and feel at home with our billets.

Joe Taranto becomes adept at handling, herding and clipping sheep. Californians Tommy Smith and Russ Ortiz find their manor homes to their liking and blend in nicely with the free and open lifestyles.

While enjoying our stays, however, we know there is still one major task at hand … Beat Jed!  Capt. Smith runs tight, efficient practices with little time wasted. We go over the basics as well as Coach Signes’ plays and realize that the unit has come together nicely.  Our confidence builds and we feel that only a perfect Jed team can sink Atlantis.

Dinner Party

We are invited to an exquisite dinner party on Friday night. The boys from Atlantis are on their best behavior, concentrating on the food rather than the drink.  The main topic of conversation is tomorrow’s 15s match between Hawick and Kelso, who are ranked #1 and #2 in Scotland.  Several Kelso players are hoping that it rains after the match so they can stay and party with their teammates rather than going home to work the farms.

On Saturday, Capt. Smith allows the troops to sleep in and we meet in our #1’s prior to game time.  The Kelso-Hawick match is well played with Kelso eking out a 28-27 win. We go to the party afterwards but start to focus in on tomorrow’s Kelso 7s.  We remain sober and subdued while the locals go about their merry ways.

As more drink is consumed, comments by the locals acquire an edge: “The Americans can’t play rugby, but they sure can dress,” tipped the scales and put that extra fire in the furnace.

I thank the Kelso’s 6’5” second row for his unintentional inspiration.

The Kelso Sevens

Sunday was glorious day.  We checked into the Cross Keys Hotel in town and kitted up.  Mike Brodie made this arrangement which enabled us to do as we pleased without inconveniencing our hosts.

There were three matches prior to ours, so we decided to warm-up hard and stay warm for our game.  Having been in Kelso the past four days, the Atlantis fan club was quite large and we were enthusiastically welcomed as they called us to the pitch.

The crowd seemed distant as we all zeroed in on Jedforest.  We defended furiously and shut down an immediate Jed overload.  On our second possession, Russell Ortiz broke a tackle and strode untouched between the Jed posts.

Jed relied on their handling skills, working the ball from one end of their line to the other, hoping Atlantis would become impatient.  Atlantis held tight and forced Jed to relinquish possession.

In the second half, Jed became impatient, mishandling and blowing some golden opportunities.  More praise for the Atlantis “D”.

Jed avoided a shut-out by spinning the ball wide to Harry Hogg who completed an outside burst by shredding Bill Berhard’s desperation tackle.

With only one minute left, Chris Petrakes sold Jed a second Atlantis dummy and dotted left of center to complete a near perfect sevens match.

Hats off to Joe Taranto and Joe McCann for sticking every blue jersey in sight; to Russ Ortiz and Mark Miller for providing Tom Smith with good possession to make things happen.  It was one of the most exciting games I’ve had the pleasure to play in.

Unfortunately, this intensity did not carry over to our second match and Atlantis was beaten 14-6, by a strong Selkirk team.  We held our heads high as we exited the pitch and acknowledged the cheers from the crowd.

We were sorry it had come to an end, but perhaps at another time we will hear these cheers once again.

The following is an article Rugby Magazine included on “what is Atlantis?” It was only our second year.

What is Atlantis?

by Emil Signes

After the first ITT 7s in San Diego in early 1985, I decided that in order to develop a broad base of players to choose from, it would be useful to bring together several first-rate 7s players on a regular basis to compete in 7s tournaments.

With this in mind, I created "Atlantis," a 7s club assembled at my invitation, in early 1986.  The object of the team was to bring together four groups of players--existing select-side 7s players, young 7s players with a potential to grow into select-side players, players  with no 7s experience, but with the physical ability to reach the top, and players with no real hope of playing at a higher level, but with experience and character that could add to the quality of the team.

During 1986, I put 8 Atlantis sides into five 7s tournaments in the ERU.  52 different players participated on these sides.  We won two tournaments, and all but one side made at least the tournament semi-finals.

Originally, the scope of the team was to encompass the ERU, of which I was coach.  When I became National Sevens Coach in 1987, I expanded the scope of Atlantis to include the entire US.  Thus the Atlantis teams that have competed in the UK in 1987 included Cecil Youngblood (Quad Cities), Salty Thompson (Tempe Old Devils), Russ Ortiz (UCLA), and Tommy Smith (Santa Monica).

In 1987, despite including players from other territories, Atlantis drew mainly on ERU resources.  In 1988, I hope to be able to field Atlantis sides at tournaments in all four territories, and outside the US, sides that comprise players from the entire USARFU spectrum. All invitations--especially those that will help compensate expenses--are welcome.

Atlantis plays in turquoise and black, sports Roman numerals, and has just adopted the motto "Non iam submersa."

What follows is the information I sent to the Scottish tour organizers for their promotion.

Atlantis Tour of Scotland, 1987

Atlantis is an invitational sevens' side based in the Eastern United States (the name originated as an abbreviation of "Atlantic Sevens").  Atlantis, however, draws from all parts of the country for its talent, and we are fortunate to have two outstanding Californians on our touring squad.
Founded in 1986, Atlantis has participated in more than 10 sevens' tournaments in the US, and spent a week in Kent in April 1987, where they took part in the Bromley and Sevenoaks sevens, as well as a midweek tournament.  Their best result was an overtime upset of Rosslyn Park, at Sevenoaks.
Members of Atlantis' Scotland tour, 1987:
Russ Ortiz.  Age 21. Ht. 6'04". Wt. 210 lbs (15 st).  15s pos: Flanker; 7s pos: Prop.   Club: University of California at Los Angeles
Russ has only been playing rugby for one year, but has already been selected to the Southern California selects as well as the Pacific Coast junior squad.
Joe Taranto.  Age 25. Ht. 5'08". Wt. 185 lbs (13 st. 3 lb).  15s pos: Flanker, Hooker; 7s pos: Hooker.   Club: Union County (New Jersey)
Joe represented the Eastern Rugby Union Under-23 side in 1985 and the ERU 7s team in 1985 and 1986. He was a nationally ranked wrestler in college.
Mark Miller.  Age 28. Ht. 6'03". Wt. 215 lbs (15 st. 5 lb).  15s pos: No. 8; 7s pos: Prop.  Club: Maryland Old Boys
Mark represented the ERU Colonials on their Scotland tour in 1986.  Part of his rugby career was spent in Zimbabwe.
Chris Schrichte. Age 27. Ht. 6'02". Wt. 200 lbs (14 st. 4 lb).  15s pos: Flanker; 7s pos: Prop/Hooker.  Club: Sudamericano  (Washington, DC)
Chris represented Atlantis in its only other tour, to Kent in April 1987.  Has represented the Potomac Union on several occasions.
Tommy Smith.  Age 29. Ht. 5'10". 160 lbs (11 st. 6 lb).  15s pos: SH, FH, FB, W; 7s pos: SH, FH.  Club: Santa Monica (California)

Tommy has played for both the Eastern and Pacific Rugby Unions during the past 9 years.  He has represented the US at wing, fullback, and flyhalf, and will add scrum half to that list on the Eagles' 1987 tour of Wales in October. He has been a member of the American Eagles at the Hong Kong 7s on four different occasions.  He was named the man of the tournament in Hong Kong in 1986.
Chris Petrakes. Age 24. Ht. 5'09". Wt. 160 lbs (11 st. 6 lb).  15s pos: Fullback; 7s pos: All backs. Club: Maryland Old Boys
Chris began playing sevens in 1986, and by the end of the summer was selected to represent the Eastern Rugby Union sevens' squad at the US's Interterritorial 7s Tournament.
Joe McCann.  Age 30. Ht. 5'10". Wt. 180 lbs (12 st. 12 lb).  15s pos: Fly Half, Center; 7s pos: Fly Half, Center.  Club Old Maroon & Essex (New York/New Jersey)
Joe first played rugby in Texas, but currently represents the Metropolitan New York union.  His only previous tour was of South Africa with the Old Ivies invitational side.
Bill Bernhard.  Age 28. Ht. 6'01". Wt. 185 lbs (13 st. 3 lb).  15s pos: Fullback; 7s pos: FH, C, W.  Club: Washington

Bill visited Scotland with the Eastern Rugby Union Colonials in 1986, and was the outstanding player in the Colonials' victory over Japan that same year.
Rory Lewis.  Age 26. Ht. 6'01". Wt. 176 lbs (12 st. 8 lb).  15s pos: Center, Wing; 7s pos: Center, Wing.  Club: Washington

Rory was an all-conference swimmer at the University of Alabama.  Has only been playing rugby for two years, but makes up with speed for whatever he may suffer in lack of experience.
Coach: Emil Signes.  Emil is currently the US National Sevens' Coach.  He was coach to the Cougar side that participated in the Melrose 7s in 1986 and 1987, and the Colonial side at Kelso in 1986.
Manager: Mike Brodie.  Mike is an Eastern Rugby Union referee and the president of the Metropolitan NY Referees' Society. Mike was a member of the ERU Colonials' tour party in 1986.

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