Pattaya Rugby Report - Panthers Lose Narrowly to Visiting Japanese - 22/01/06 Horseshoe Point

Brilliant sunshine and temperatures topping 25C saw the Pattaya Panther’s first outing of 2006 at Horseshoe Point on Sunday last. The very welcome visitors were the Bangkok Japanese, no strangers to the Pattaya rugby scene. The Panthers team showed some changes from the side that had beaten the Bangkok Bangers at the end of last year, and the pack was beefed up considerably from that which had struggled in the tight against the experienced bangers. Tristan Lawrence and Mark Bowler made their debuts. Richard Holt was back in the side as was Jim Sherman, and visiting Neil Smith added some necessary solidity. Jim Howard again held things up at loose head.

Pattaya Panthers and Bangkok Japanese rugby
sides after last Sunday’s encounter.
The Pattaya Panthers went down 26-29.

The first period saw some tentative early exchanges, and it became clear that the Japanese would, as expected, seek to use their pace out wide. With Pattaya traditionally playing an open game the stage was set for an entertaining match, and the big crowd was lustily vocal in its abuse. Pattaya had ascendancy in the scrum, and the line out was functioning as required with Paul Crouch jumping well at number 2 in the line. After 20 minutes a scrum just inside the Japanese 22 was won well by Pattaya. Sherman picked up at number 8 and fed scrum-half Eoin Quirke who dotted the ball down after a half-tackle. He was judged however to have been guilty of a double-movement and the try was thus disallowed. Nonetheless, this spurred the Japanese into action. Some sweeping back play and impressive interplay in the centres saw two fine tries scored in quick succession, both converted. At 14-0 down Pattaya regrouped and decided to tighten things up. Some bullocking runs from Bowler and Smith and good ball retention, coupled with inch perfect line kicking by fly-half Steve Turner allowed Pattaya to get right back into the game. If it seemed that Panther Malcolm Gray was everywhere during this advance, that is because he was. Prop, second row and centre. On the stroke of half time, after sustained Panther’s pressure, the Japanese were penalised 15 yards from their try-line for hands on the floor. A quick tapped penalty ball was and fed to the charging Bowler who could not be denied by committed Japanese tackling, and scored some 10 meters in from the left touchline. Turner converted and half time saw the Panthers 14-7 down.

The second half began with Pattaya setting up camp in the Japanese 22. Persistent infringement by the overeager defence led to a succession of Pattaya attacks, but the defence held and managed to turn Pattaya over in the fifth minute to clear to touch. The ensuing line out led to a very well-worked Pattaya try. Lawrence threw short to Crouch who thundered up the tram-lines drawing the opposing winger in-field before off loading back to Lawrence who scored on the touchline. The long conversion into the wind proved too tricky and the Japanese retained their lead, but only just. 14-12.

Pattaya picked up straight from the restart with Turner giving his side field position back deep in the Japanese half. The Japanese won the line-out but the clearing kick was charged down by Quirke. The breakaway forwards in the form of Patrick Kennedy secured possession and more Pattaya pressure ensued. A fine strike by Steve Ball won the resulting scrum which was locked by the impressive second row pairing of Corin James and Bowler, and the pressure was rewarded eventually by a fine solo effort from Sherman, who picked up from the scrum base beating three men to score left of the posts. Turner converted easily and Pattaya took the lead for the first time in the game, 19-14.

The Japanese threw caution to the wind and began to run from everywhere. Good tackling in the centres from Simon Sowden and Hiro stemmed the tide, but only briefly, as superior fitness began to allow the Japanese to outnumber the Pattaya defence. After a fine break from Yoshi-San in the Japanese centre, Pattaya’s winger Mark Coombs bravely took down the ball carrier only to see him offload to his support to score in the corner. The conversion was missed and the game was tied 19-19.

Pattaya had the chance to go 3 points ahead some 5 minutes from time, after another infringement on the floor. However with the crowd baying for action, Pattaya spurned the goal kick and elected for field position, which Turner duly gave them. The line-out was secured and the ball was mauled infield. The ball was popped from the back to Turner, who ran back towards his big men, dragging them over to score. Turner converted his own try and Pattaya were 26-19 up.

The Japanese came charging back, still running from everywhere. Try saving tackles from full back Phil Drake and hooker Lawrence capped fine performances from both players. However the Japanese were not to be denied and more clever back play saw a good try in the corner. The conversion was missed and as full time approached it seemed that Pattaya had done enough to secure a 26-24 win. Pattaya took the ball into Japanese territory and set up a ruck. It seemed that a further attack might be enough to seal the win. Then all was to change. Amazingly the ball popped out on the Japanese side and they moved it quickly along the line, despite the brave attention of Pattaya’s Phil Dunn. The Japanese were halted by another heroic effort from Drake, but in desperation the arriving forwards joined offside and a penalty was given on the Pattaya 22. The Japanese tapped quickly, and powered over for the conclusive score, thus winning the match 29-26.

Apologies for any inaccuracies in the above. This may be due to the fact that the author was exhausted and lying under piles of bodies for much of the afternoon.

Our thanks to referee Dave Williams for allowing a fine free-flowing game. Further thanks to Grady, rising from the remains of Steve Fraser’s wedding on Saturday to assist (briefly) in the front row.

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