The region had been sweltering in the hottest weather of the year so far and the forecast for Pattaya over the weekend of 3rd and 4th May was that it would be even hotter, with a high possibility of thunder showers. However none of this deterred the teams that gathered at the Tavern by the Sea on Friday night, on the eve of the 14th edition of the Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament.
Jim Howard, Chairman of the Pattaya Panthers, had warned all the players to expect a very steamy weekend and to remember to keep well hydrated and drink lots of water! Well, most of the teams certainly did that but many of them chose to indulge in the amber fluid variety in the name of good health!
Phuket Vagabonds and Mosquitoes F team go head to head in the Chris Kays Cup final at Horseshoe Point, Sunday, May 4. (Photo courtesy Harpic Bryant)
Teams had travelled from as far away as Australia, Cambodia and Hong Kong and they were all determined to play hard, fast running rugby, not only on the field but, as they demonstrated under the watchful eye of General Manager Brendan Daly of the Amari Orchid Resort, off the field as well.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny and the facilities at Horseshoe Point were in perfect condition, tents had been erected around the playing area creating the amphitheatre like atmosphere for which this tournament is now famed. The facilities around the ground were ready to cater to the expected hordes of players and spectators alike and there was even a children’s area complete with bouncy castle to keep the little ones occupied whilst mummy and daddy enjoyed the rugby.
Phuket Vagabonds pose with the trophy after winning the Cup final at the 14th Chris Kays Memorial Pattaya Rugby 10’s tournament at Horseshoe Point Resort, Sunday, May 4. (Photo courtesy Harpic Bryant)
Steve Mines from the British Pie Shop was already busy baking fresh pies to cater to the hungry hordes and with his trusty assistants he was also cooling down vast quantities of cider that had proved such a hit in previous years.
The Horseshoe Point playing field was in excellent condition thanks to the hard work of Khun Thatree and the ground staff. Our sincere thanks was also due to the Management of Contract Resources (CR Asia) who had provided all the tents, which were to prove very welcome as shade from the heat and the rain that was bound to come.
Kingdom Property CEO Nigel Cornick (center) and tournament organizer Jim Howard (right) present the junior Plate trophy to the captain of the Thepsirin Samutprakarn team. (Photo courtesy Harpic Bryant)
16 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. There were many familiar faces returning to try and capture some of the silverware however there was also a very welcome appearance from some new clubs, proof that rugby is gaining in popularity in the Kingdom.
Proceedings were once again to be controlled by David Viccars and his band of merry referees, under the watchful eye of Mark Coombs as Tournament Director with the statistics under the control of Jeff Powers.
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. In the rather warm 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. Most games went to form as expected and there were strong performances from all of the Thai teams, especially the Thai Mosquitoes and the Royal Thai Air Force, unfortunately as luck would have it these 2 teams were destined to meet in the quarterfinal of the Cup tournament so one of them would be eliminated.
The Phuket Vagabonds made everybody sit up and take notice as they won all of their group games without anybody scoring against them. The Southerners, Royal Thai Air Force and the Bangkok Bangers were the other group winners.
Host team Pattaya Panthers stunned everybody, including themselves, by playing out of their skins and actually finished second in their group on points scored, with 2 victories and a draw against the group winners the Southerners, thus qualifying for the Cup competition. Elephant Brutal Surin, Thai Mosquitoes F team and the Bangkok Japanese made up the quarter final lineup for the Cup competition.
The Bangkok University, Thammasat, Valley Griffins and the Hong Kong Scottish led the way into the Plate competition. The participants in the Bowl and Shield would not be decided until the Cup and Plate quarter finals were completed.
Following the departure of the mature rugby players it was the turn of the youth, this year’s tournament was for the under 16’s age group and was sponsored by the Kingdom Property Group. It was very gratifying to see the return of many of the boys who had played last year at under 15’s and the improvement in their fitness and technique was a delight to see.
There were 8 teams contesting the trophy and a new team from Bangkok under the banner of the Bangkok Barbarians led the way. Spectators who stayed on were treated to some of the finest pure rugby of the weekend played by the boys. For many of them it was a great experience to be playing under floodlights for the first time.
After a hard days 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 and the weather provided perfect and cooler conditions for rugby. The youngsters once again showed their paces and produced some outstanding rugby, with Surrawittyakarn Surin again emerging as winners of the Kingdom Property Trophy, beating the Bangkok Barbarians in a thrilling final, while Thepsirin Samutprakarn took the Plate from Ratchaborikarnukroh Ratchaburi. It was then 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 knockout games then dropped down into the next competition. Amazingly the Panthers, who had surpassed all expectations in qualifying for the Cup, were there early and with a full complement of fit players!
As the games were ticked off, interspersed by some short sharp rain showers, the plot for this year’s tournament began to slowly unfold. The Phuket Vagabonds led the way into the Cup semi-finals with Thai Mosquitoes F team, The Southerners and the hosts filling the other spots. This 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 Royal Thai Air Force F15’s, and the Bangkok Japanese, whilst the Bangkok Bangers struggled to squeeze past Thammasat University and Stade Khmer surprised even themselves to beat Elephant Brutal. This of course meant that Hong Kong Scottish, Valley Griffins, Thammasat Univesity and Elephant Brutal would now contest the Bowl semi-finals.
The semi-finals went mostly to form with Phuket Vagabonds overcoming the host Panthers and Mosquitoes F team dispatching The Southerners in a one sided game. In the Plate, the Bangkok Japanese finally succumbed to the Royal Thai Air Force and Stade Khmer’s fine run was ended by the much more experienced Bangkok Bangers.
There were some very tight battles in the Bowl where the Hong Kong Scottish prevailed over their Hong Kong cousins, the Valley Griffins, and Thammasat University ended Elephant Brutal’s quest for more silverware.
The Shield was won by the Bangkok University in a fierce contest with newcomers Khon Kaen Blue Hawks, with the more experienced university team finally running out the winners 14-7.
In the Bowl, Hong Kong Scottish managed to get their all-round game flowing but could not breakdown the stubborn defence of the Thammasat University who matched them in all phases of the game, which ended all square after to allotted normal time. Finally Hong Kong Scottish took advantage of the “Golden Score” rule in extra time and kicked a penalty to win the Bowl.
In the Plate it promised to be just as exciting and hard fought as the vastly experienced Bangkok Bangers took on the newly emerging Royal Thai Air Force F15’s. However it turned out to be something of a mismatch as the younger and fitter fliers had some real ‘fliers’ on the team and they literally ran away with the match and the Plate, winning quite easily 31-0.
So the stage was set and the Cup final was to be between the resurgent Phuket Vagabonds and the new pretenders, The Mosquitoes F team. 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 and tackled like demons but the Phuket Vagabonds with their older and more experienced heads in the team managed to hold out and used what little ball they did secure to full advantage, eventually winning a very tense and exciting final by the narrowest of margins. The Vagabonds triumphed 10-7, so for at least a year, the Chris Kays Trophy will be staying in Phuket.
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. He also presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field. For the first time in the history of the award it was given to a team rather than an individual as the Stray Cats gained some reward for their unenviable record of never having won a game. The player of the tournament meanwhile was Somsak Mitlux from the Royal Thai Air Force.
A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen: Kingdom Property sponsors of the Youth Tournament, Amari Orchid Resort Pattaya, Cranes and Equipment Asia Ltd., AusGroup Corporation, Manpower Thailand, Jardine Shipping, Hemaraj Land, Societe Generale de Surviellance, Lord Edward Devereux, Casper the anonymous benefactor, The British Pie Shop, Your Pools and Conor’s Bar and Phoenix Pacific Inc.
Also a big vote of thanks to Bangkok Pattaya Hospital for the first aid and medical attention, Pattaya Mail for printing the programme and media exposure and of course Horseshoe Point for providing a perfect venue and Mr. and Mrs Rock and Roll, for the sounds and music.
Finally all those who made the trek to Horseshoe Point to play, spectate, eat and drink and played however small a part in making the weekend such a success. Thank you all very much for we couldn’t have a tournament without you.