Pattaya Panther Rugby Football Club finally got their full tour season started after Chiang Mai’s annual event was earlier reduced to a one-day rugby touch tournament. This latest tour to Isaan got off to an eventful if not geographically challenging start, i.e. trying to assemble the team (“Which 7-Eleven are you at?”), but eventually 11 players made it to the northeastern city of Surin for a 10’s tournament held at Rajamangala University, Surin Campus over the 10th and 11th of December.
A sliding door and a scattering of van-lagged felines signaled the arrival of the Panthers for their first game, a late 11:10 am kick off on Saturday morning. Facing a fearless foe in the shape of KCH Old Boys, the Panthers pulled off a satisfying 12-5 victory after an all-round team effort and awakening.
With most body parts now fully functioning after a refreshing two-hour break, the Panthers got around to playing rugby with a graceful glee in their next match, pouncing on the opportunities given by the young Thonburi Rugby Club. It was more a case of age and experience giving a lesson to speed and brawn.
Thailand may not be known as a cricket loving nation, but the tournament turned out to be a day-night event without the ball color change. The Panthers’ last game of the day was at 7:50pm and battling lethargy and lights, a little luck saw the Panthers through to a 12-5 victory over All Out (yes that’s what they called themselves).
Day 1 stood out for many reasons, with several players putting in fine performances. Local boy Scott Green was tireless and showed that smarts, strength and strategic thinking can be just as effective as fast sprinting. Though not scoring, Scott’s positioning and pushing in the scrum helped on many occasions to disrupt the opposition’s plays.
Day 2 was another late start, thankfully. Brunch was not on at the hotel, so the proverbial 7-Eleven and som tam stall came to the rescue. Captain AD made it for the second day to bolster the Panther’s squad which now had a substitutes’ bench (more like preferential seating).
The final day however finished with a flounder rather than flourish for the Pattaya tourinsts. After retaining the social title the night before, on field expectation became something of a more distant aspiration as the day wore on. A 22-12 loss against other division toppers Sam Yan (Chula) was a realistic return, with the Panthers’ defense and fitness being exploited by an opposition who had enough players for two teams plus a subs bench.
Game two saw the Panthers getting into groove a bit more and starting to click, but game fitness was lacking and another defeat was in store, this time to (ironically) the Institute of Physical Education, Maharasakham.
The presentation ceremony at the end of the tournament had a unique Surin feel, with elephants handing out awards. The Panthers too got an award, taking the third place runners up spot out of 16 teams.
The Pattaya Panthers’ season is shaping up to be a short one but there are several potential tours on the cards, with Laos leading that list. Players (any age or ability) are always welcomed. Pattaya Panthers’ home tournament is scheduled for the first weekend in May and should bring a few familiar faces into town.