Panthers fall at final hurdle once more

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Being a good host is tough.  Balancing the social aspects of a gathering in addition to the business at hand requires maintaining a duck-like illusion, i.e. furiously moving at one level while simultaneously appearing graceful at another.  Pattaya Panthers RFC hosted its annual Chris Kay Memorial Tournament last weekend (29th-30th April) and eventually ran out as Plate losing finalist once again.

Pattaya Panthers run the ball downfield against RPL Vikings during the 2017 Pattaya Rugby Festival at Horseshoe Point in Pattaya, Saturday, April 29. (Photo courtesy Martin Lynch)

The most social tournament in the region lived up to its billing along with some entertaining rugby.  Kicking off the weekend’s activity, Pattaya Panthers took on The Royal Thai Police team, the eventual tournament champions.  The Police showed they meant business by running away 33-7 winners in this opening game.  After two Police tries, the Panthers got one back through Cyril who was beautifully assisted by Spike and another Frenchman, AD, got the conversion points.  However simple errors, loose balls, and poor handling allowed the Police to lock the game up with quick plays and speed.

RPL Vikings took the second game away from Panthers 14-12.   Pattaya started with a greater sense of conviction in a physical game, taking the lead 12-0 through Spike and Chris and AD’s conversion.  However in the second half Vikings mauled their way back in with two physical tries after weakening Panthers defences.

Up next, the Bangkok University team was kept in line by Pattaya 19-12, despite Panthers attempts to defeat themselves.  Spike led the way with a quick try down the centre, AD had one try on the wing, and Spike scored another through the centre, fighting off two tackles for the breakaway try.  Bangkok were able to get two tries back but were unable to extract more from Pattaya’s mistakes and their quick running.  The result brought sunshine at the end of a cloudy day for the Panthers, both literally and figuratively.

After another night of being the consummate hosts and showing off the Pattaya nightlife, the Panthers returned to the pitch Sunday morning to resume rugby business in bright sunlight.  Facing Bangkok Southerners Gold, a determined Pattaya dominated proceedings with vigorous forward work, line defending, support action and good running.  Captain Emeritus, AD, showed the way by getting all 19 points (three tries and two conversions) in the 19-0 win.

Hong Kong Scottish proved to be more formidable opponents with a similar style of play to the Panthers.  However, with a precise piston type handoff from Pete, Spike was able to score his breakaway try and the decisive first for the game.  The second half was more physical with lapses appearing in the otherwise tight Pattaya defence.  The battle ramming by the Scottish worked to even the scores.  With game time over and the scores level the tournament rules said that first try scorers were the winners, thus Pattaya moved on to the Plate final.

Facing Bangkok Southerners Black, the Pattaya Panthers found themselves in the same position as last year – touching distance of a home trophy.  The much more organize and fitter Southerners started off the brighter though and took an early lead, but quick action off a penalty call saw Chris sprint in for a home a try.  Equal at the half the second period was much more arduous and lapses, lazy play and poor handling due to fatigue (unfitness to others) allowed two tries for Southerners Black.  Disarray led to despair and more disorganized play.  Panthers were unable to claw back any points and left disappointed in 33–7 defeat.  Pattaya Panthers showed they have skill and ability but not the consistency required for on-field dominance.

Post tournament celebrations were held at Horseshoe Point and supported by Retox Group and many other sponsors.  Pattaya Panthers will be hoping that it would be third time lucky next year.

Note: A full review of the 2017 Chris Kay Memorial rugby 10’s tournament will be featured in next week’s Pattaya Mail.