In a highly anticipated rugby showdown at Horseshoe Point, the Pattaya Panthers RFC and the Royal Selangor Club (The Dog) from Kuala Lumpur played to an exciting 14-14 draw on November 18. This clash, awaited for over two decades, traces its roots back to 2002 when The Dog’s visit to Pattaya was thwarted by unfavourable weather conditions.
Against the backdrop of a sunlit afternoon, the teams convened on the meticulously maintained field at Horseshoe Point. The Dog entered the fray with an impressive lineup of 29 players, ready and raring to go, while the Panthers, still awaiting the arrival of a few team members, strategized on how to handle the imminent shortfall.
When the whistle finally blew, signaling the commencement of the game, the Panthers, comprising a roster primarily composed of seasoned and mature players, faced off against The Dog’s 29-member squad, fully warmed up and familiar with each other. The referee, Pete Hamilton, a Kiwi known for his disciplinary approach, set the tone with a thorough reminder of the game’s laws.
Surprisingly, the Panthers initiated the match with well-structured maneuvers that caught The Dog off guard, keeping them on the defensive. However, The Dog, leveraging their youth and executing quick moves, forced the Panthers into a mode of desperate defence, resulting in an early injury and a reduction in available substitutes.
Undeterred by the setback, the Panthers persisted. Tommy Dixon’s remarkable try, expertly converted by AD, granted the Panthers an early lead in the first quarter. Despite the even pacing of the second quarter, with both teams settling into their respective rhythms, The Dog’s advantage in youth and familiarity with the field’s dimensions became increasingly apparent.
Following a brief respite, both teams returned to the field with renewed vigor. The Panthers, determined to secure additional tries, executed a classic rugby strategy. The forwards skillfully worked the ball up the field, drawing in The Dog’s defenses before executing a precise combination of wide and inside passes. This orchestrated play culminated in the reliable workhorse Dehann crashing through The Dog’s defense, scoring the second try, which was seamlessly converted by AD.
As the match progressed into the third quarter, both teams continued to vie for dominance. The Dog’s sprightly and agile backs disrupted the Panthers’ play with fancy footwork and side shuffles, preventing the Panthers from extending their lead. The third quarter concluded evenly but slightly favoring The Dog.
The final quarter unfolded with intense emotions and physical strain. Despite an inspiring speech from AD, rallying the Panthers for a final push, fatigue began to take its toll. The Panthers, opting for a slower and more controlled game, faced off against The Dog’s fast and furious approach. The game witnessed testing moments with tugging, pulling, and pushing, challenging referee Peter’s authority.
In a turn of events, The Dog managed to score their first try, setting the stage for a dramatic finish. With only one try needed for the Panthers to seal the win and another try from The Dog potentially tying the scores, the game reached a climactic moment. The Panthers, summoning their last reserves of energy, managed to hold on, securing a hard-fought draw as the final whistle blew.
Post-game festivities unfolded in true Panthers style, with both teams enjoying a few drinks at the pitch followed by a meal at Outback. The Dog, sporting Dalmatian print-inspired sarongs, added a touch of flair to the celebration. Club chairmen and captains delivered brief talks, fostering camaraderie among the players. The Pattaya Panthers RFC expressed sincere thanks to the Royal Selangor Club Rugby team for their visit and looked forward to future exchanges.
James Howard and Richard Dutton contributed to this report.