Baa Baas take the Cup at thrilling Pattaya Rugby Festival

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Amari Orchid Pattaya Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2012

It had been the hottest week of the year and temperatures were certainly running high amongst the teams that gathered at Jamesons Irish Pub on Friday 4th May to register for the 12th edition of the Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament. The officials warned them all to expect a very steamy weekend and to remember to keep well hydrated and drink lots of fluids, Well most of the teams certainly did that, many of them even over indulged on the amber fluid in the name of good health!

Saturday dawned and as we travelled to the ground there was an almighty thunderstorm and so much rain fell there was a real concern that the tournament might even be washed out.  However when we arrived at the Horseshoe Point the facilities looked superb and the rain was being swallowed up by the thirsty turf.

“Mr. Banana Head” from the Thai Barbarians accepts his player of the tournament ‘prize’.“Mr. Banana Head” from the Thai Barbarians accepts his player of the tournament ‘prize’.

The Horseshoe Point playing field had never looked better our major sponsor for the tournament, The Amari Orchid had turned the whole area into what amounted to a festival garden with a bouncy castle and train rides for the children, a spa for easing those tired muscles and a superb bar set up to serve the thirsty patrons in the crowd.  David Cumming, the General Manager of the Amari Orchid had even set up a VIP area surrounded by plants, which added a very nice touch to the ambiance surrounding the playing area.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Howard finely attired for the occasion.Master of Ceremonies Jim Howard finely attired for the occasion.

The facilities provided by the Amari and Horseshoe Point were supplemented by Jamesons Pies and Salmans Indian delights all ready to cater to the expected hordes and the playing surface now had what we would call in racing parlance soft going!

So everything was ready for the twelfth edition of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament, the organizers had oiled all the necessary wheels, Amari had ensured a vast choice in beers and ciders would be available and there was a virtual army of delightful promotion ladies available to help satisfy even the mightiest of thirsts.

The tournament took place over the weekend of 5th and 6th May, and although the number of teams participating had been reduced due to the Thai authorities having rearranged the 2011 University Games for the same weekend, thus depriving the tournament of all of the usual University teams that usually featured, everybody was still committed to making it a tournament to remember.

12 rugby teams from all over Thailand and other parts of the world had arrived in Pattaya to contest what has become one of the principal 10 a-side tournaments in the region.  Despite the smaller number of teams, those that had turned up were promised plenty of rugby as the organizers had drawn up a mammoth programme.

David Cumming, General Manager of the Amari Orchid Pattaya, 2nd right, presents the Cup to the Thai Barbarians.David Cumming, General Manager of the Amari Orchid Pattaya, 2nd right, presents the Cup to the Thai Barbarians.

There were many familiar faces returning to try and capture some of the silverware and there was a very welcome appearance from the “ Pot Bellied Pigs”, one of Asia’s most colourful and committed touring teams, albeit in the disguise of The Pau Ma Tei Barbarians / Valley Griffins and anybody else that would support them, led by the indomitable Boris.  We also welcomed back another famous touring team from “ Down Under “, that fortunately this year had got their dates right, The Buccaneers had arrived early and had familiarized themselves with the local conditions and were seen to be taking in lots of liquid!

The main tournament was to be contested by 12 teams with a strong local bias.  The Thai teams continue to improve and it was very pleasing to see that two of the former school sides that had previously participated in the youth tournament had now graduated to the main tournament, so welcome to the big time for Brutal Surin and Watsrichan Old Boys from Samutprakarn.  There were only 4 all Thai teams with several Thai national players in their ranks and of course many Thai players in the other squads.  Unfortunately last year’s champions the Royal Thai Police were engaged elsewhere and were unable to defend their title.  Khun Nattapol still managed to raise the Thai Barbarians, who were former champions and Thammasat University led the local challenge.

Thammasat University were worthy winners of the Plate.Thammasat University were worthy winners of the Plate.

As usual there was strong representation from the expatriate teams in Bangkok, The Southerners were as usual favourites from this group but the Old Bangkok Bangers had found some young Bangers and were expected to be very competitive both on off the field.

Perennial crowd favourites the Bangkok Japanese have also found some new blood and they were expected to make a stronger showing as the tournament was being played over a holiday weekend – the Japanese do take holidays – so they had more of their players available.  We also welcomed back The Chiang Mai Suas, who have gone from strength to strength and were hoping to go one better than being losing Cup Finalists last year.

Pau Ma Tei Barbarians / Valley Griffins / Pot Bellies took the Shield trophy.Pau Ma Tei Barbarians / Valley Griffins / Pot Bellies took the Shield trophy.

The hosts Pattaya Panthers were reinvigorated following a French Revolution and were at full strength so they also expected to stand a good chance of getting amongst the trophies.  Those that were unlucky enough not to make the first team squad were shanghaied into the Banging Panthers, which had been formed to keep up the numbers together with the surplus players from the Bangers.

The location was in perfect condition, the weather had cooled considerably following the heavy morning rain and the players reveled in these conditions and produced some high quality rugby.  As usual Tournament Director Malcolm “The Root of all Evil” Clare with his dour assistant  Wayne “Blowfly” Oganoski had spent weeks organizing the groups and programming the many spreadsheets to cover every possible outcome.

Brutal Surin beat the Banging Panther to win the Bowl.Brutal Surin beat the Banging Panther to win the Bowl.

After some initial confusion when the teams realized that they would have to play 5 group games on Saturday everybody set about the task ahead, that someone had said was more like a torture programme than a rugby tournament.  Play commenced about 1 hour behind schedule due to the rain and this gave some of the late comers (Southerners) who had stopped to pick up LNG on the motorway time to arrive.  The matches were under the control of Bruce Birchall and his merrie band of referees and we were off.

The teams were divided into 2 groups and Saturday’s games were played in a round robin format to determine the ranking for the various knockout tournaments.  In the cool and damp conditions hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day for the Thais and rucking and mauling for the larger and more mature foreign players.

Brutal Surin take on the Banging Panthers in the Bowl Final.Brutal Surin take on the Banging Panthers in the Bowl Final.

Most games went to form as expected and there were strong performances from the Thai Barbarians and The “Suas”, whilst the host team stunned everybody (including themselves) by playing out of their skins and actually beating the “Suas” narrowly in the pool game and winning 3 of their games and drawing against Thammasat University in a hard fought group game and then running up the highest score of the day against Brutal Surin 48:0, thus qualifying for the cup competition.

The Thai Barbarians led the way into the cup quarter finals and were established as early favourites with the “Suas”, Southerners, Pattaya Panthers and the Old Bangkok Bangers threatening to gatecrash the cup party, the Bangkok Japanese and the Banging Panthers rounded out the qualifiers with Thammasat University.

Barbarians and Southerners battle it out in the Cup Final.Barbarians and Southerners battle it out in the Cup Final.

The Plate and Bowl participants would not be decided until the Cup quarter finals were completed due to the Chairman’s crafty trickle down system.

After a hard day’s play, cooling off in the pool was obligatory and a strong start was made on some of the mighty hangovers that were to be seen the following morning.  Sunday dawned cool with intermittent morning drizzle that actually provided cool temperatures and perfect conditions for rugby.

After the youngsters had shown their paces and produced some outstanding rugby it was on to the main tournament.  Due to the Chairman’s carefully crafted draw the teams that had qualified for the Cup and Plate competitions were required to play early as the losers from first round knock out games then dropped down into the next competition.

Team work at the line-out.Team work at the line-out.

Many teams had obviously taken large quantities of the local soothing balms and looked much the worse for wear and headed straight to the Amari Spa or Bar for rejuvenation.  Amazingly The Panthers who had surpassed all expectations in qualifying for the cup were there early and with a full complement of fit players! Tired limbs were anointed and strapped and the knockout phase commenced with few complaints and the quest for Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield got under way.

The night‘s partying had definitely taken it’s toll and the men ground their way through a very heavy schedule that finally weeded the weak from the strong.  Many first time losers were surprised to find that they then had to play more games than if they had won as the trickle down worked.  Again there were some superb performances and some very close encounters with not a few surprises.

The Thai Barbarians led the way into the Semi Finals with Chiang Mai Suas, Southerners and the hosts filling the other spots, which meant that they could all now take a well earned rest while the battles for the minor trophies continued.

In the Plate we saw some fine performances from the Buccaneers and the Bangkok Japanese, whilst the Bangkok Bangers strolled through against Watsrichan Old Boys.  Thammasat University who had of course dropped down from the Cup slipped through to the semi finals whilst Brutal Surin, Pau Ma Tei Barbarians, Watsrichan Old Boys and the Banging Panthers would contest the Bowl semis.

The Semi Final rounds went mostly true to form although there were some very tight battles, in the Bowl where the hastily put together Banging Panthers prevailed over the Pau Ma Tei Pot Bellies and in the battle of the ex-youth teams Brutal Surin finally overcame Watsrichan Old Boys.

In the Plate the Bangkok Japanese were starting to fire on all cylinders and they defeated the brave Buccaneers, which delighted the Buccaneers as it meant that they would be first in the bar!  In a surprise result the boys from Thammasat upset the Old Bangkok Bangers to progress to the Plate Final.

In the premier category, Thai Barbarians eventually doused the hopes of the Panthers in an enthralling contest that was decided by a single score and the Southerners won a spirited encounter with the Chiang Mai Suas.  By now weariness was beginning to take it’s toll and all the finalists had to make that one last effort to take a prize home.

The Shield was won by the Pau Ma Tei Barbarians / Valley Griffins / Pot Bellies etc., their greater weight and experience being just too much for the boys from Watsrichan in a Little and Large demonstration of possession rugby and the heavy favourites ran out winners in a tight contest 14:12.

Competition for the Bowl was by contrast a bagful of surprises with the boys from Surin eking out a popular victory over the Banging Panthers 10:5.  So for the second year in succession the Bowl is headed back to Surin, proof that our youth development programme is working.

In the Plate it promised to be just as exciting and hard fought as crowd favourites Bangkok Japanese took on the unlikely finalists Thammasat University.  The Japanese took an early lead and looked to be heading for a comfortable victory but the students had some different ideas and 2 runaway tries put them into the driving seat.  The Japanese came back strongly but the University defence held firm and the students ran out comfortable winners in the end 24:7.

So the stage was set and the Cup Final was to be between the resurgent Thai Barbarians,  who were former champions and the new look Southerners, who had demonstrated just why they now should be considered in the top tier of Thai rugby, with their aggressive style.  It was an absolutely cracking final in which no quarter was asked or given.  The Thai boys displayed total commitment, great handling and superior fitness but the Southerers with their older and more experienced heads in the team gave their all but finally the superior fitness of the Baa Baas told as the Southerners tired.  The Thai Barbarians eventually triumphed and regained their title in great style winning a hotly contested final 10:7.

After the final whistle everybody crashed into the pool and the presentations were made to all trophy winners by Jim Howard the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC and David Cumming the General Manager of the Amari Orchid, they also presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, to the Panthers own Adrien Simon, who had led from the front and set a fine example to the younger members of The Panthers.  The player of the tournament was “Mr. Banana Head” from the Thai Barbarians.

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen.  Amari Orchid Resort made a great difference as did MBMG International, Cranes and Equipment Asia Ltd., AusGroup Corporation, Waste Management Siam Thailand, Construction Cost Consultants, Jardine Shipping, Hemaraj Land, and Phoenix Pacific Inc.

Also a  big vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia, who provided all the shade and Bangkok Pattaya Hospital for the first aid and medical attention, of course Horseshoe Point for providing a perfect venue and Mr. and Mrs Rock and Roll, who stepped into the breech at the last minute to provide the sounds and music.

A final mention should also be made of the girls from the Regents School gap students, who provided the ball persons and scorers for the weekend, they did an amazing job and the referees with Commissar Bruce Birchall in command kept the games running smoothly with his team of Thai and Foreign referees.  Thank you very much gentlemen we couldn’t have a tournament without you.