Raimon Land Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2009

The scene was set. The staff at Horseshoe Point had done a great job, the playing surface was in perfect condition and the facilities around the ground awaited the crowds to test them. The weekend of 2nd and 3rd May saw the staging of the tenth edition of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament and 16 rugby teams from all over Thailand and the rest of the world had descended on Pattaya to contest what is now becoming one of the principal 10-a-side tournaments in the region. Raimon Land were once again the principal sponsors of the Tournament and everything had kicked off in great style at the Jamesons Irish Pub with registration and early high jinks from the participants going under names like SCC Growlers, The Buccaneers, and Kaysies Crusaders!! Our hosts at Horseshoe Point and the local organizers had oiled all the necessary wheels even introducing draught English Bitter and Cider to ensure that the tournament progressed smoothly from start to finish.

This year the junior section had been expanded and despite some late drop outs the Boys Under 18 tournament was very hotly contested with teams from Bangkok and the provinces battling the local boys from Regents School. The boys set a very high standard for the men to live up to and everybody who witnessed the ability and courage of these boys agreed that the level of play is improving very quickly and with the introduction of an improved diet the Thai boys are bulking up and are now more than a match for their foreign counterparts. The tournament was won by the Surawittayakrn School from Surin and surprisingly the runners up were the Chalermprakiet Team from Roi – Et.

This year’s main tournament was to be contested by 16 teams with a very strong local bias and some strong challengers from overseas. The Thai Barbarians, who were the champions in 2006 returned after a two year hiatus and there was strong representation from the expatriate teams in Bangkok. The Southerners were as usual favourites from this group but the Old Bangkok Bangers had found some young Bangers and they had impressed with their fitness and energy. The British Club and perennial crowd favourites, the Bangkok Japanese together with a new Thai club team the Thai Legends, Youngblood and the Bangkok University rounded out the domestic challenge. We also welcomed back a team from the Berkshire heartland, the newly amalgamated Reading and Abbey RFC in the guise of “ Kaysies Crusaders “ led by the mighty Ray Kays, Chris’ father!!! Another of Chris’ old sides the Singapore Cricket Club had entered two teams “The Nomads “and “The Growlers “. Our old friends from the Australian Navy “ The Buccaneers “ returned at full strength this year after word got out around Sydney about what a great destination Pattaya was!! We also welcomed back many old friends who had previously played with the Panthers who came as the Panthers Exiles or “Black Panthers “.

The location was in perfect condition, the weather was benign, the quality of the rugby was of the highest level throughout and there were some very special displays during the weekend. All likely protagonists assembled at Horseshoe Point at 09:30 am on the Saturday morning and the organizers tent was besieged by team captains anxious to know when would be their turn to take to the lush turf of Horseshoe Point. Unflappable as ever tournament organizer Graham Macdonald with his dour assistants Malcolm “ The Root of all Evil “ Clare and Wayne “ Blowfly “ Oganoski soon had everything sorted out. Play commenced under the control of David Viccars and his merry band of referees. I guess that they did a good job as I actually received a compliment on the quality of the officiating and none of them were drowned in the pool on Sunday night.

The sixteen teams were divided into 4 groups and Saturday’s games were played in a round robin format to determine the ranking for the various tournaments. In the perfect conditions hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day. There were strong performances from all of the Thai teams and the Southerners whilst the host team stunned everybody including themselves by playing out of their skins and actually winning their group and consigning the highly fancied British Club to bottom place!! The Thai Legends I and II, Thai Barbarians and the hosts led the way into the quarter finals with Bangkok University, the Southerners, Buccaneers and the Bangkok Bangers threatening to gatecrash the cup party.

Neither of the Singapore teams lived up to their early promise but there were some strong performances from Kaysies Crusaders and the Young Blood to qualify for the plate quarter finals.

After a hard days play, cooling off in the pool was obligatory and a strong start was made on some of the mighty hangovers to be seen the following morning. The final rounds of the Junior Tournament were played early on Sunday morning to allow the old fellas to sleep in, but some of the hardier souls were there to support the youngsters. With a slightly later start the order of play was in some doubt?? However the Chairman and his organizing team had everything under control and the knockout phase commenced with few complaints. Partying had definitely taken its toll in general but on the home side in particular and several other teams were also short on resources. Tired limbs were anointed and strapped and the quest for Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield got under way. Many first time losers were surprised to find that they then had to play more games than if they had won as a trickle down was enforced. Again there were some superb performances and some very close encounters with not a few surprises.

After the youngsters had shown their paces it was on to the main tournament and the men ground their way through a very heavy schedule that finally weeded the weak from the strong. The Cup quarter finals saw some very good and hard games and eventually Thai Barbarians, Thai Legends I and II and Southerners progressed to the semi finals, which arguably produced the finest rugby of all with Southerners only going down to the Thai Legends II in a very hard and tense match that went right down to the wire. The Thai Barbarians fought gallantly against the other Thai Legends team but were finally outclassed by the new boys!! So the Cup Final was to be an all Thai affair and a one club affair with the Thai Legends I and II playing against one another. Any thoughts that after a joint warm up that there would be any favours granted were quickly dispelled as both teams were determined to lift the trophy. It was an absolutely cracking final in which the young Thai boys displayed total commitment, great handling, the superior fitness of Thai Legends I eventually triumphed over their second squad. The Thai Legends I captured the title in style winning a hotly contested final 19-7.

In the Plate it seemed obvious that the foreign sides SCC Nomads, Kaysies Crusaders and the Buccaneers would set the pace and it was hoped that the hosts the Pattaya Panthers would be able to reproduce their form of the previous day and the fallen stars of the British Club would shine again. However Bangkok University and Youngblood had other ideas and there were some very closely fought encounters. The local boys finally prevailed and age, injuries and the heat accounted for most of the protagonists. So we had another all Thai final between Bangkok University and Youngblood we saw a cracking final which was only decided in the last move of the game when Bangkok University used their secret weapon Ian “ The Tank “ Brydon to crash over with almost the whole Youngblood team on his back!!

The competition for the bowl was by contrast a bagful of surprises with clubs like The Bangkok Bangers, The British Club and Kaysies Crusaders all vying at this level when everybody would have expected them to be in the Cup!! Eventually the final came down to those old rivals The Bangkok Bangers and British Club contesting a very close final, which saw the Bangers squeeze home against the young BC side in a high scoring game 22 : 19.

This year we had introduced a Shield Competition in the hope that the Panthers might win something but after flattering to deceive on Saturday the Panthers could just not get up for it on the Sunday however the final between the scholars from Shrewsbury School and the Bangkok Japanese produced some very exciting rugby and after toing and froing the final result was arguably the most popular result of the weekend as the Bangkok Japanese had finally won a trophy!!!!

After the final whistle everybody crashed into the pool and the presentations were made to all trophy winners by Jim Howard, the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC and Henri Young the Marketing Director of Raimon Land. Ray and Lin Kays (Chris’ parents) were also on hand to assist and Ray presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, to and this was not fixed, Chris’s brother Simon!!! When told of Simons achievement Lin Kays comment was “Just like Christopher …. but at least he kept his clothes on!!! “The best Player of the Tournament” was presented to Tim Bell from Kaysies Crusaders, so they didn’t leave empty handed.

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