Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2017

At long last the waiting was over and there was an air of expectancy among the participants arriving for the seventeenth staging of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament.

The tournament was again going to be contested at the Horseshoe Resort. Thailand was sweltering in the early summer heat and the weather forecast for the weekend of 29th April / 30th April was that it would be getting hotter with the likelihood of some heavy thunder showers!! This could of course not deter the teams that gathered at The Robin Hood Tavern, part of the Retox Group and the hottest spot for watching sport in Pattaya, to sign up for the tournament. In his welcome address the Pattaya Panthers Chairman Jim Howard warned all participants to expect a very steamy weekend and cautioned everybody, even spectators, to keep well hydrated and drink lots of fluids. Well the teams certainly did that but many of them preferred the amber fluid variety in the name of good health. The tournament participants arrived from all over Thailand and other parts of the world. They had all descended on Pattaya to contest what has now been established as one of the principal 10 a-side tournaments in the region. There would be no threat of starvation or dehydration after the quantities of food and beer that had been consumed at the Robin Hood, before an evening tour of the cultural attractions along the beach and walking street. Hardly the ideal preparations for a rugby tournament, but then rugby players are hardy souls.

The tournament was to be contested by 16 teams with a very strong local bias, former champions Royal Thai Police were making a return to the tournament, which they had last won in 2011. Unfortunately the reigning champions Phuket Vagabonds were not competing due to a lack of players so it would be left to the Southerners ( champions in 2013 and 2015 ) to lead the challenge. The Bangkok Bangers and Bangkok Japanese as well as the hosts Pattaya Panthers were all potential outsiders. There was again a strong Hong Kong influence led by The Valley Griffins returning for their fourth year and determined to win something this year!!! They were joined by the Hong Kong Scottish, who were also returning for their fourth year. We also welcomed back all the way from Derby in England “ La Vache Rouge “, who were here for their second year but were still complaining of the heat in the air conditioned splendor of The Robin Hood Tavern. Architecture Thai a team composed of Architectural students gathered from various Bangkok Universities and Team Elephant Brutal from Surin, a team that has graduated through the youth tournaments and are now making their mark at the senior level. For the first time we welcomed one of the best known teams in Thailand from Vajirawudh College, Thailand’s principal boarding school O.V.s is always a name to be reckoned with when rugby is contested at school level and over the years the school have provided many players for the Thai national team. Completely unknown quantities were a young team i Animals comprised mainly of graduates from Thonburi University and Sam Yan Rangers a newly formed club from graduates from Chulalongkorn University, with additional academic interest provided by the students of Bangkok University. Perennial crowd favourites the Bangkok Japanese were expected to make a stronger showing as the tournament was being played over a holiday weekend so they had more of their players available and the team has gone from strength to strength in recent years and were expected to be among the pots!!. Another very popular team returning after a couple of years away were the RPL Military Vikings these guys are among our favourite visitors and they are always entertaining both on and off the field. The roster was rounded out by the hosts the Pattaya Panthers, who had been training hard under the watchful eyes of coach “ Stout “, who was now unfortunately working in Australia but had returned especially for the tournament.

Saturday dawned HOT and overcast with a hint to expect rain but the field was in perfect condition for running rugby, the organizing team under Chairman Jim Howard had, despite a number of late scares managed to shuffle the pack and with the able assistance of the referees supremo Dave Viccars had all the answers ready. We had a new master of statistics in an old Hong Kong hand David “ The Animal “ Slater and all was set for another great tournament. Josh from Retox Dark Side had the Beer and Cider cooling down and Paul the chef from The Robin Hood Tavern had a tasty range of gourmet sausages on the barbecue. Unfortunately we had not been able to recruit a professional commentator so Chairman Jim had jumped into the breach and would be at the microphone, much to everybody’s chagrin!!.

The teams were divided into 4 groups and Saturday’s games were played in a round robin format to determine the ranking for the various knockout tournaments to be played on Sunday. In the dry conditions hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day and most games went to form. As expected there was a short period of showery rain in the afternoon, which did cool thing down and made the ball very slippery. The quality of the rugby was of the highest level throughout and was a credit to all who played their part. There were strong performances from all of the teams and many of the games were very close, with 2 drawn games in the preliminary rounds being awarded to the team which had scored first. There were one or two surprises and some of the teams found themselves in unfamiliar territory. The Royal Thai Police showed that they really meant business, they won all 3 of their pool games and easily qualified from pool A. The biggest surprise of these early exchanges was the young boys from Surin, the Elephants Brutal, who have certainly come on a lot since their youth team days!! They easily topped pool D beating former champions Southerners Gold on their way to Cup qualification. The two new teams Sam Yan Rangers and O.V’s. performed well and both qualified for the cup quarter finals with the Royal Thai Police and they were joined in the cup by Southerners Black, Southerners Gold, Bangkok Bangers who were in a rarified atmosphere and RPL Military Vikings, who proved that age and size were no impediment to winning!! The hosts, Bangkok Japanese and two Hong Kong sides, Hong Kong Scottish and Valley Griffins dropped down to the plate. Whilst Arch Thai, Bangkok University, i Animals and La Vache Rouge dropped to the lower division, with the bonus of a late start on Sunday. Both Valley Griffins and La Vache Rouge had put up a plucky display but unfortunately the weather conditions and the standard of the opposition were just too much for them and they were to withdraw from the tournament overnight quoting PST / PMT or hangover. They have vowed to return next year with a stronger squad and having trained in the local sauna, at least for the first day!!!.

After a hard days play ended with some light showers, cooling off in the pool was obligatory and a strong start was made on some of the mighty hangovers to be seen the following morning. The traffic into downtown Pattaya was unbelievable but most of the hardy souls made it to The Robin Hood Tavern or one of the Retox outlets, where good food, cold drinks and great camaraderie were the order of the day/night.

Sunday dawned hot and overcast but by kick off the sun was well and truly up with the promise of a real cauldron by the middle of the day. Once again the Sunday morning traffic was horrendous and as most teams were staying on the west side of Sukhumvit some of the teams were forced to change into their playing gear on their bus or in their songtaew to be ready to start on arrival. The now well-known Pattaya Trickle Down format was in effect, this puts the Big Boys on early and gives the others a slightly later start. The night‘s partying had definitely taken its toll and tired limbs were anointed and strapped and there was a queue for places in the massage tent!! The quest for Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield got under way and many first time losers were surprised to find that they then had to play more games than if they had won as the famous trickle down came into play.

Again there were some superb performances and some very close encounters with not a few surprises. The Cup Quarter Finals saw some very good and hard games, two games ended all square and the winner was decided by virtue of being the first to score and eventually the Royal Thai Police, Sam Yan Rangers, Bangkok Bangers and Elephant Brutal all progressed to the Semifinals with both Southerners sides being defeated, so for the first time in many years there would not be a Southerners team battling for the Cup!!! The first time losers then dropped into the Quarter Finals of the Plate led by the Panthers and Southerners Black and Gold joined by Bangkok Japanese, Hong Kong Scottish and the revitalized Valley Griffins, RPL Military Vikings and O.V’s.

With the Cup Quarter Finals completed the lineup for the Plate Quarter Finals featured the hosts against Southerners Gold and The Bangkok Japanese against Southerners Black, RPL Military Vikings against Valley Griffins and Hong Kong Scottish against O.V’s. H.K Scottish finally accounted for the younger O.V’s. team and were hoping to claim the plate with now only the host Panthers blocking their path to silver. RPL Military Vikings received a walkover from the Valley Griffins, who were reported to be lost somewhere in Pattaya’s new “ comfort zone “!! The Panthers kept their hopes of silverware alive with a convincing 19:0 victory over the Southerners Gold and were into the semi-final where they would meet the Hong Kong Scottish. Bangkok Japanese would face Southerners Black and go down to a heavy defeat thus dropping into the Bowl competition.

Both semifinals of the cup were hotly contested and the Royal Thai Police showed just what a potent force they are in Thai rugby as they coasted to a relatively easy victory against new boys Sam Yan Rangers 14 : 0. In the second semi final the Elephants finally ran out of steam and they were eventually soundly beaten by the guile and experience, not to mention age and weight of a Bangkok Bangers team playing thinking rugby 21 :0.!! So the stage was set for a classic final between the youth and fitness of the Royal Thai Police and the age, experience and weight of the Bangkok Bangers.

The shield competition saw former champions Southerners Gold up against another completely new team the i Animals comprising mostly students from Thonburi University. It was a relatively easy victory for the Southerners but the plucky Animals fought hard and did manage a score finally going down 19 : 5.. The final of the Mike Cobb Bowl competition started with a minutes silence in remembrance of Mike Cobb, who was sadly killed after last year’s tournament and in whose memory the Bowl competition has been named. This was a very exciting game and the Bangkok U fans were screaming their team on!! The final score of 14 : 12 meant that only one conversion separated the teams and the Bangkok Japanese were bridesmaids once again. However it was very fitting that a student team should win the Mike Cobb Bowl as Mike was dedicated to coaching younger players and it seems that he may have had a hand in the destination of his bowl from up above!!!

The Plate Semi Final had seen the Hosts squeak through by virtue of being the first to score against the RPL Military Vikings to set up a clash with Southerners Black, having beaten Southerners Gold in the quarter final round the Panthers were quietly optimistic of taking home ( or keeping in Pattaya ) a trophy. It was hoped that the Hosts would be able to reproduce their form of earlier in the day and finally nail down some silverware. However that was not to be, they were undone by the all-round excellence and fitness of the Southerners. No quarter was asked or given and Panthers got off to an early start with a runaway try and conversion. Play then flowed from end to end but the balance of power was with the Southerners as the Panthers faded and leaked 5 tries. Home hopes were dashed as the Southerners ran out comfortable winners 35 “ 7 .

So the Cup Final was to be the former champions Royal Thai Police against the resurgent Bangkok Bangers, a match made in heaven?? This was bound to be an epic clash of youth, fitness and finesse against age, brawn and experience. The match started at a frantic pace and the Policemen especially played some scintillating rugby, whilst the Bangers defended as if their lives depended on it. Eventually the dam broke and the youth and fitness gained the upper hand. The Police put on a magnificent display of hard running rugby and by the end were scoring almost at will. So the Royal Thai Police regained the trophy with a runaway victory 40 : 0!! However the Bangers never gave up and fought valiantly until the final whistle and were magnanimous in defeat.

After the final whistle everybody crashed into the pool and the presentations were made to all trophy winners the highlight was the presentation for the first time of the Mike Cobb Bowl, which fittingly went to the students of Bangkok University. Jim Howard the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC commended everybody for the great spirit in which the tournament had been played and the outstanding quality of rugby throughout.

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen Robin Hood Tavern and Retox outlets, Amari Orchid Resort, sadly now without the Tavern By The Sea but still with the fabulous Mantra restaurant. WHA Hemaraj Land and Development, The London Pie Shop, Manpower Thailand, S 5 Asia Shipping Agencies , Phoenix Pacific Inc., The Baron Devereux, Societe Generale de Surveillance, MAS Ausgroup, DSL and Chang for the beer. Our media partners Pattaya Mail and Pattaya People, Also a heavy vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia, who provided all of the shade, Drinking 4U all the drinking water and customized bottles, the Sawang Boriboon Foundation for the standby ambulance and first aid and medical team. David Viccars the referees supremo who kept everybody under control even the referees. Thanks also to Mark Coombs Tournament Director, David “ Animal “ Slater statistician and Ron Keeley, our IT wizard who has produced another superb programme. A final thank you to everybody who supported us this year and made it a great tournament, we hope to see you all again next year.

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