After a hiatus of coming up for two years due to the Covid pandemic the Pattaya Panthers were delighted to be able to return to the grass pitch and finally put into practice some of the tactics and moves that had been practiced diligently at the weekly touch / training sessions. This being the first actual game for so long and with many new faces, club captain Marcus Large was unsure of the richness of talent available to him and had wisely invited a number of players from the club’s associated club the Bangkok Bangers to assist.
The match was set for Saturday 20th November, and the opponents would be the Southerners, one of the strongest teams in Thailand and the reigning holders of the Chris Kays Memorial Tournament trophy for the last two occasions that it has been held. As such the Panthers could not have chosen a stiffer challenge to begin the renewal of full contact rugby and a tough baptism for the many new recruits. It was a great day for rugby and the field at the Horseshoe Point Resort was in perfect condition for the match. As it was the first game for many of the participants and it was a very hot afternoon it was agreed that play would be over four quarters of 20 minutes.
The match started at a frantic pace, the players were so happy to be able to run and tackle that they simply threw themselves into the fray. There was a small but boisterous crowd of spectators who cheered every move urging their favourites to run harder and tackle the opposition. From the kick off the Panthers started with unusual discipline and gusto, and the newbies were playing like they had been together for ages. The benefits of the weekly training sessions soon rewarded the Panthers with the opening try.
Tom Pope scored the first try of the game catching the Southerners on the back foot and surprising the defence with his speed as he broke their defensive line and touched down near the left touchline. The conversion was missed from wide out. Buoyed by this early success the Panthers played the remaining minutes of the first quarter in their opponent’s half and their aggression was rewarded with another runaway try scored by Xavier York from the Bangkok Bangers and on this occasion the try was converted. The inclusion of a few of the Bangkok Bangers, players definitely helped in the approach to the game and the score stood at 12:0 at the end of the first quarter.
The welcome break and some refreshment definitely came at the right time and both teams made some changes for the second quarter. Southerners realizing that it was not going to be a walkover, were more aggressive, and pushed Panthers onto the back foot. The Panthers’ defense was up to the task with some tough tackling, keeping the Southerners at bay. However, under the pressure indiscipline soon showed with the Panthers giving away several reckless penalties close to the try line, which finally led to the referee awarding a penalty try, which was easily converted.
Cue Captain Large to the rescue, after some powerful exchanges in the midfield rucks and mauls Marcus emerged with ball in hand and powered through the Southerners defenders and scored the game’s third try. However not to be outdone the Southerners struck back just before the half time whistle to score a converted try. So, everything was nicely poised at the halfway mark with the Panthers ahead 19:14.
In the hot weather both sides were visibly tiring and in the third quarter the pace of the game settled into a gentler rhythm. There was still plenty of action but no quarter asked or given. Despite this there was no movement on the scoreboard. Both teams used their standby players and more fresh blood was brought into the game the changes livened play up and the Panthers backs tried some fancy chip and chase, getting the ball moving, and making some piercing runs, frustrating the visitors more. But there was no breakthrough in this quarter as all the participants started to slow down. The final quarter was going to be decisive with both teams giving their all in a final thrust for victory. The Panthers seemed to find some hidden reserves and gave a well-organized display of possession rugby.
Panthers South African contingent showed their metal, standing up to the tackles and putting in some of their own with Dehann Fourie taking the ball over the line for Panthers’ try number four, which again could not be converted. Southerners were visibly shaken and redoubled their efforts and their aggressive tactics took advantage of the greenness of the newer Panthers and claimed a further try which was converted bringing the score to 24:21. Now everything was on the line and both teams threw themselves into the final effort. Luck was with the Panthers and their South African contingent held fast and at the final whistle the Pattaya Panthers had achieved a hard earned and well-deserved victory in their first post pandemic match!!!
Rugby is a social game so, despite the on-field antics, the players and fans had a wonderful time outdoors in the fading sun, chatting, catching up and enjoying each other’s company. Some cooling refreshment was taken and some presentations were made and the Southerners set off back to Bangkok. The Panthers made their way to the nearby Outback Sports Bar and Restaurant for dinner and to watch how the; professionals play (Scotland vs. Japan) on the big screen. The Outback is a major sponsor of the Pattaya Panthers and with restrictions easing the future is looking good for Rugby the Pattaya Panthers and the Outback.
The Pattaya Panthers runs a touch rugby/rugby fitness training session every week at the Planet Football Facility every Thursday evening from 7:00 pm. See our Facebook page for details Pattaya Panthers RFC.