Southerners Gold Team wins Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2022

Southerners Gold Team win the Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2022.

The long wait was finally over, having missed two complete years we were about to witness the revival of Thailand’s most popular rugby tournament the Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament! Unfortunately due to the travel restrictions that remained in place it had been impossible for any overseas teams to participate and therefore the field would be drawn entirely from the domestic arena. The skeptics said that it would be impossible to organize a complete tournament without any foreign teams participating! For once I think that we were able to prove the doubters wrong, very wrong.

It had not been easy but by scouring the local scene, from North to South and East to West, we were able to convince the local clubs to support our initiative. Finally a field of 12 teams accepted the invitation and teams from Chiangmai in the north through Surin in the east down to Phuket in the south the hot spot of Bangkok and of course our home in Pattaya assembled on Saturday 30th April at the Pattana Sports Resort in Sriracha for the 20th edition of this famous tournament. Many of the teams thought that playing a tournament so far out of town would not attract much attention once again the doubters were to be proved wrong.

Jim Howard presents the Mike Cobb bowl to the captain of Kacha Rangers from Surin.

As the day dawned we realized that for once the weathermen had got the forecast right, it was a steamy morning that greeted the players as they arrived for the start of Pattaya’s foremost rugby tournament. All of the participants and the supporters were either tested or produced proof that they were vaccinated and healthy, Covid-19 was barred from entry! It was EXTREMLY HOT! and prior to the 10:00 am start players were already taking ice baths to cool off!

The facilities are probably the finest in Thailand with a proper 7,000 seat concrete stand with perfect facilities. The grounds of the Pattana Resort were in fine condition and in a hark back to the historical scenario surrounding this tournament the amphitheatre effect had been created for the players with a long line of tents along the open side of the playing area.

Bangkok Bangers F Troop winners of the shield trophy led by the “Cornish Cappie” Andrew Tates.

The tents were provided by the Contract Resources company introducing their new identity as CR 3 (a nod to their move into the modern era as CR Third Generation!). The number of participants was lower than we would have had normally but this gave the organizing committee the opportunity to draw up a carefully concocted programme that meant that every team would get more games throughout the tournament.

Teams discovered that it was more like the triathlon (which coincidently was being run around the adjoining golf course) than the rugby tournament that they had expected, as there always seemed to be just one more game to play! Pattaya Panthers Chairman Jim Howard warned all participants to expect a very hot weekend and cautioned everybody, even spectators, to keep well hydrated and drink lots of fluids!

Jim Howard (red hat) with the whole group of Kacha Rangers the elephant boys from Surin.

The entries were led by the reigning champions Southerners Black who were determined to retain their title and had brought a very strong squad and even a second team Southerners Gold. The resurgent Bangkok Bangers were expected to make a strong challenge and they were to be ably supported by their senior side the Bangkok Bangers F Troop. Also strongly fancied were the Kacha Rangers a newly formed team from Surin, who had been the runners up in a recent Thailand National Tournament. There was also a return to the tournament fray by a team from Bangkok University, which was composed mainly of students and alumnae from the University.

Those great tourists the French Asian Barbarians (FABS) were bound to bring plenty of colour and Gallic flair along with copious quantities of cheese, pastis, wine and foie gras. We were also happy to welcome back our old friends the Phuket Vagabonds, who would as usual arrive late and want to leave early! There was also a warm welcome for the newly formed Chiangmai Cobras. We were also going to experience the first foray into tournament rugby by The British Club Legends a newly formed team of Thai players who had in their heyday played for the British Club, when they were arguably the number one team in Thailand.

Jim Howard (red hat) with the captain of the Bangkok University team.

The BC Legends were formed by Khun Dakorn Amarukajorn as a way to preserve the memory of an outstanding era of rugby based on the joint enterprise of British and Thai cooperation! Khun Dakorn was also to be responsible for dragging our tournament into the modern age as his company Huma Vista were responsible for enabling the entire live streaming of our tournament to a worldwide audience. Perennial crowd favourites the Bangkok Japanese were expected to make a stronger showing as the tournament was being played over a holiday weekend so they would have more of their regular players available.

The roster was rounded out by the hosts the Pattaya Panthers, who had been training hard and trying to improve their ball handling by playing touch rugby, which has expanded the numbers playing in Pattaya and led to an expansion of numbers particularly of the fairer sex, which has led to the Pattaya Panties being reborn! As a result of the growing numbers playing and the interest in Touch Rugby we have also scheduled a small Mixed touch tournament to run alongside the main event!

The finalists in the shield, the Hosts Pattaya Panthers v Bangkok Bangers F Troop.

With the lower numbers forced upon us by the restrictions we decided, to go with two pools of six teams which Chairman Jim managed to massage into 30 round robin matches which would determine the ranking for the knockout phase of the tournament to be played on Sunday. This format meant that every team would need to play 5 games in the pool rounds, which would stretch team’s resources. Despite the heat and the pressure of playing more games the quality of the rugby was of the highest level throughout and was a credit to all who played their part. There were strong performances from all of the teams and many of the games were very close.

In pool A there was a major surprise as the students from Bangkok University finished in first place having drawn with the reigning champions Southerners Black who had to settle for second place! The Bangkok Japanese managed to finish in the third place despite having a very small squad of players. The Phuket Vagaonds took time to warm up but were able to score a win over the BC Legends, who had obviously grown out of shape since their halcyon days. Pool B seemed to be a little more even and to everybody’s surprise it was the Southerners Gold that swept all before them winning all 5 of their pool games and racking up a total of 111 points (cricketers among you will recognize the significance of the number 111 known in cricketing parlance as Full Nelson !)

Southerners Mixed Touch Team.

They were followed by the Bangkok Bangers Colts, who also racked up 100 points! Another team that had been very impressive were the Surin boys of Kacha Rangers they displayed a very courageous and fast paced game and lost narrowly to finish in the third spot. Bringing up the rear were the hosts Pattaya Panthers, who had suffered a couple of injuries to vital players which had derailed their carefully planned strategies. The French Asian Barbarians were also not at their best, the typical French panache had been dulled by the pastis and fromage, but they were promising to be back on their game on Sunday after restocking their larder in walking street!

Due to the large number of pool games we were not able to complete all the pool games on Saturday the final games of the pools would be played early on Sunday morning which would mean that the unlucky ones would need to come in early to finish off the knockout rounds, and try to avoid getting caught up in the Tri- Athlon, which would start at 06:00 am. After a hard day’s play that ended with the promise of some light showers, there was a mad dash to get back into town and most players just resumed where they had left off in the early hours of the morning. There had been some rumours that it was to be a dry evening in Pattaya.

Bangkok Belles Mixed Touch Teams.

This was definitely proved to be wrong as normal service seemed to be the order of the day and a strong start was made on some of the mighty hangovers to be seen the following morning. Sunday dawned bright and early and the runners in the Tri-Athlon were at it bright and early. There had been a tremendous thunder storm in the night and most of us awoke expecting to see a flooded playing area. As the knock out was not to start until 11:00 some payers had managed to get some sleep and to everybody’s surprise the field was in perfect condition and by comparison it was much cooler than the first day.

Those unlucky ones that still had pool games to finish were trying hard to shake off the effects of a night on the town and focus on qualification for the afternoon finals. There were some casualties from the night‘s partying which had definitely taken its toll and tired limbs were anointed and strapped and the smell of liniment filled the air. There were players missing from most teams, it is very difficult to keep everyone on the straight and narrow and it leaves a heavy burden on those guys that do turn up! The well-known Pattaya Trickle Down format was now the format for the knock out stages.

The hosts, Pattaya Panties Mixed Touch Team.

The quest for Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield got under way and many first time losers were surprised to find that they then had to play more games than if they had won as the famous trickle down came into play. There were one or two surprises as some of the teams found that by losing they had to play more games than if they had won. First up were the quarter finals of the Mike Cobb Bowl Competition which featured those teams that had finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth in their groups.

The four winners would proceed to the Mike Cobb Bowl semifinal and the four losers would compete in the Shield semifinals. The Cup competition semifinals would feature the first and second teams from the preliminary groups, the winners going on to contest the cup final and the losers competing for the plate. There were some superb performances and some very close encounters in the knock out rounds with not a few surprises.

Southerners and Pattaya Mixed Touch Teams.

The Cup semifinals saw some very good and hard games, and contrary to expectations the first semifinal saw Southerners Black v Southerners Gold and everybody cried fix! However the actual game was hard fought and in a surprise the Gold eased past their supposed first team 11 v 5. In the other semifinal the surprise team of the tournament Bangkok University were set against probably the most experienced team in the tournament the Bangkok Bangers Colts.

The youngsters played their hearts out but the superior size and craft of the Bangers finally told so we were now going to see a final pitting Southerners Gold against their fiercest rivals Bangkok Bangers Colts. With the Cup semifinals decided we now knew who would contest the Plate final which would see the Southerners Black against the Bangkok University. The semifinals of the Bowl and the Shield levels would see the BC Legends against the hosts and Kacha Rangers against Bangkok Japanese. Having squeezed past the Bangkok Japanese, Kacha who were improving with every game, won the honour of playing in the Mike Cobb Bowl against the fiery FABS, another clash of cultures.

A pensive Joe Edama of Pattaya Panthers wonders, “should I join the scrum?”

Before the final of the Mike Cobb Bowl competition a minutes silence was held in remembrance of Mike and other absent friends who have gone to the great rugby club in the sky! Mike’s memory lives on and we are proud to have known him! The Gallic wizards are experienced and unconventional, cheese eating and wine drinking. It was a very interesting game of contrasting styles the Surin boys were content to work the ball around the field, take the ball on and work through the phases.

French trickery and experience did not work against the Elephant Boys, who were much fitter and had not been fed on gourmet cheese and wine and eventually the superb fitness and good basics proved to be too much for the FABS who were probably confused by the chatter in the scrums and mauls. The youngsters played their hearts out and their superior fitness allowed them to keep the ball and wait for the opportunity to set their flying winger away. Eventually Kacha ran out 29 v 0 winners of the Mike Cobb Bowl, which was a beautiful Benjarong Bowl and probably the finest of all the trophies to be awarded at the tournament.

Pattaya Panthers resident education guru Dr. Mario Carrera.

In the Shield Final the hosts were to battle what has become almost a sister club as they often combine on tours and other tournaments, so the scene was set for a gentle clash as both sides were suffering from fatigue and injuries it turned out to be a gentle afternoon stroll for the elder statesman of the Bangkok bangers F troop, led by that old warhorse the Cornish Cappie “Tates”. Both sides were suffering after a strenuous couple of days play and a few injuries and a heavy night out so the pace of the game was well below what we had just witnessed but there was some good skills and power on show.

The game ended in a 17 all draw, which meant that for the first time a game was to be decided by a golden score. Panthers took the extra time kick off and of course the ball ended up with the F Troop forwards who proceeded to work their way into possession and rumbled down field before setting their fittest player off on a run to the try line! So once again Panthers were denied the winning of a trophy at their own tournament, better luck next year!

The Bangers scrum half has lost his way and sends a perfect pass to the Cobras flying winger.

After the rather sedentary action of the Shield final the Plate final was a cracker with both Teams giving their all, it was very much an encapsulation of the old facing the new! The holders of the Cup for the past 2 years the Southerners Black were facing the new boys on the block Bangkok University. The game was played at a frenetic pace and I suspect that it was age that finally told, this was end to end stuff and the Southerners took an early lead but the students kept their heads and worked the ball keeping the older and heavier opponents moving around and often chasing shadows. The scores were even well into the second half when the youngsters seized the initiative with a breakaway try, which was converted and then held on for a superb win which was well deserved, The final score was 12:5 in favour of the students of Bangkok University.

The cup final was worth waiting for and was worthy of the best in tournament as the Bangers and the Southerners are arch enemies no quarter was asked or given. There were a total of three yellow cards given during the final the only punishments of this kind in the whole tournament. The Southerners Gold team attacked and attacked against the steely defence of the Bangkok Bangers, who defended as if their lives depended on it. The Gold really set the pace and eventually the Bangers finally ran out of steam and Southerners Gold had replaced their Black brother team as this year’s champions. So the Southerners provided the Cup winner for the third year in a row but Gold had prevented a hat trick for the Black!

It looks like he’s lost his head “Cornish Cappie” looks concerned.

After the final whistle everybody gathered in front of the grandstand and presentations were made to all trophy winners. Jim Howard the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC commended everybody for the great spirit in which the tournament had been played and the outstanding quality of rugby throughout despite the weather’s interference.

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers, supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen, of course major plaudits to the Pattana Resort for the provision of the magnificent facilities and good food and cold drinks! Our sponsors lead by Regents International School Pattaya, WHA Industrial Development PLC, Manpower Group, The Baron Devereux, Societe Generale de Surveillance ( SGS ), Owen Coyne of the Wickman Group Ltd. the Outback Sports Bar, Jetts 24-hour Fitness, Lucy Electric Ltd., Pocari Sweat, The Jungle Gym, Integrated Global Services and World Flair. Our media partners Pattaya Mail.

Great skills from the “Cornish Cappie”, will he get there first?

Also a heavy vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia ( now CR 3 ), who provided all of the tents and shade, the Sawang Boriboon Foundation for the ATK testing, standby ambulance and first aid and medical team. David Viccars the referees supremo who kept everybody under control even the referees, who themselves deserve a mention for the great effort in keeping all the matches running smoothly with the minimum of fuss. Thanks also to Tournament Director, David “ Animal “ Slater, Jon Prichard author and microphone jockey and Ron Keeley, our IT wizard who produced our first digital programme, which was a great success.

Plaudits too for Khun Dakorn Amarujakorn of Huma Vista, who persuaded us to venture further into the digital age by live streaming all the action around the world, where we had more than 7,000 viewers. Finally Joe Edam who as the Activity Coordinator and swimming coach at Pattana did a magnificent job in making everything run smoothly. A final thank you to everybody who supported us this year, and made it another great tournament. We hope that you enjoyed the experience and hope to see you all again next year. If you had a good time tell all your friends if you were disappointed tell us!

Flying F Troop winger leaves half the Cobras team in his slipstream.

A final note the streaming of this great weekend is still available on the internet, the links to follow are Saturday and Sunday
The official programme for the tournament can also be viewed on internet using the following links :-
View or download PDF from
View or download PDF from Google Drive:
View Online via ISSUU