The Pattaya Panthers rugby team went north to play in the Khon Kaen 10’s on March 25-26 and returned in good spirits and with some silverware to boot. ‘Division 2 champions’ maybe does not sound quite as impressive as competition winners, but they were still winners nonetheless.
It was a wonderful weekend with the Panthers enjoying the luxury of having enough players to form a substitutes’ bench and also taking inspiration from the return of captain emeritus ‘AD’.
Having been drawn in the relative ‘group of death’, Pattaya started the opening day with a 12-0 win over Mahasarakham Institute of Physical Education. AD demonstrated that he had lost little while he was away, getting a break on the wings for the first try and conversion. Playing an uncomfortably slow game against their younger opponents worked well for the Panthers. Frustration in the opposition ranks led to Spike being given a breakaway opportunity in the center, sprinting past the Mahasarakham defence for a try between the posts. However, the sprint sapped the energy from Spike’s legs and the conversion bounced off the crossbar.
The Brutal team came next and they lived up to their name and reputation – but Pattaya held on for 12-10 win with tries from AD and Jurgen and Spike making up for his earlier conversion failure. Mismanaging the substitutes almost cost the Panthers the game as they took a 12-0 lead at one point only to falter later, but experience allowed them to hold on.
The last game of the day for the Panthers was always going to be tough and eventual tournament winners Royal Thai Airforce showed that they were in a different league with a comfortable 29-0 victory. Fighting spirit can only compensate so much against superior fitness, training and tactics.
Day two brought wet and muddy conditions along with a two-hour delay, and the extra rest was definitely appreciated by all the players. In an eventful first game versus the Sperm Team, the Panthers lost 7-0 on a golden try. Young Jurgen featured prominently in the game, getting the ball across the try line but unable to ground it properly and also making some try-saving tackles. Jurgen also provided several good support runs.
With rolling mauls, line-outs and tough tackling, the younger Sperm Team took all that the Panthers could throw at them and in a questionable call they were awarded a penalty 10 meters from the Pattaya try line and were able to slip in an overlap for a golden try.
Pattaya Panthers did end the day literally over The Moon (that was their opponents’ team name) with a 12-0 win in their final match to take the Division 2 title. Spike got the first try through the center again, an unlikely position for a winger, and also made the conversion. Newcomer Tong got the second down on the wing with a darting run.
Overall it was a pleasant trip with plenty of good rugby, no significant injuries, and excellent camaraderie. This tour augurs well for the Pattaya Panther end of season tournament on April 29th and 30th in Pattaya. For more details on that event, turn to page 36.
(Photos courtesy of Martin Lynch)