Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2010
Thai Legends retain title in rugby festival at Horseshoe Point

The weekend of May 1-2 was forecast to be ideal for this 10th edition of the annual Chris Kays Memorial rugby tournament, the upgraded facilities at Horseshoe Point were in perfect condition for the expected hordes of players and followers, and the playing surface looked like a billiard table.

The tournament took place despite the ongoing political and economic problems, which had caused a number of the foreign teams to withdraw, but still some 15 rugby teams from all over Thailand and other parts of the world descended on Pattaya to contest what is now becoming one of the principal 10 a-side tournaments in the region.

The teams had gathered at the Amari Orchid Resort for the registration where they were royally entertained by the General Manager, David Cumming, who is a very keen supporter of local rugby. The Buccaneers a loose gathering of Australians with some Defence connections were the only overseas side that had braved the “dangerous conditions” to travel to Thailand and they were determined to take away some of the silverware!

Even the junior section had been affected by the prevailing situation, but despite some late drop outs the Boys Under-18 tournament went ahead with 7 teams, all from local schools and clubs. Their tournament was played on Saturday evening and Sunday morning so the boys had little time to rest. The games were very hotly contested with teams from Bangkok battling against the boys from the Provinces.

The boys set a very high standard for the men to live up to and everybody who witnessed the ability and courage of these lads agreed that the standards are improving very quickly. It is obvious that 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 team from Vajiravudh College and surprisingly the runners up were the Surawittayakrn School from Surin, last years champions.

Due to some late withdrawals, the main tournament was to be contested by 15 teams with a very strong local bias. The Thai teams had really taken up the slack and there were no fewer than 10 all-Thai teams with several Thai players in other squads. The Thai Barbarians, who were former champions, led the local challenge and they had 2 teams in the draw. Last year’s champions Thai Legends were back to defend their title and they also had 2 teams in the draw.

As usual 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 under their new captains. The British Club had undergone a makeover and appeared in the guise of “The Goosers”, a team composed mainly of young Thai students, whilst 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 had more of their players available.

Young Blood, Nakorn Pathom University and the Bangkok University provided the academic challenge, and we also welcomed back The Chiang Mai Suas and the Phuket Viagrabonds to round out the local challenge.

Our old friends from the Australian Navy, “The Buccaneers”, with an even bigger touring party than last year, were fully expecting to at least out drink all other teams!! The roster was rounded out by the hosts, the Pattaya Panthers, who felt that at full strength they also stood a good chance of getting amongst the trophies.

There was some confusion when the protagonists assembled at Horseshoe Point at 09:30 am on the Saturday morning to discover that there had been some overnight shuffling of the playing schedule. 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 Director Malcolm “The Root of all Evil” Clare with his dour assistant Wayne “Blowfly” Oganoski soon had everything sorted out and play finally commenced under the control of David Viccars and his merry band of referees.

The teams were divided into 4 groups and Saturday’s games were played in a round robin format to determine the ranking for the various knockout tournaments. In the perfect conditions, hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day and most games went to form as expected.

There were strong performances from all of the Thai teams and The “Suas”, whilst the host team stunned everybody, including themselves, by playing out of their skins and actually winning their first group game but thereafter faded badly.

The Thai Legends I, AIA Legends and The Thai Barbarians II led the way into the Cup quarter finals with Bangkok University, Nakorn Pathom University, the “Suas” and the Bangkok Bangers threatening to gatecrash the cup party. The hosts led the way into the Plate competition where the Southerners and Thai Barbarians I had surprisingly ended up after lack lustre performances in the qualifying rounds. The Bowl participants would not be decided until the quarter finals were completed.

After a hard day’s 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 preliminary rounds of the Junior Tournament were played in the cool of the evening with final rounds played early on Sunday morning to allow the old fellas to sleep in.

With a slightly later start the order of play was in some doubt, however the Chairman and his organizing team soon had everything under control and the knockout phase commenced with few complaints.

The night‘s partying had definitely taken it’s toll in general but on the home side in particular and several teams were short on resources. Tired limbs were anointed and strapped and the quest for Cup, Plate, and Bowl 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. Even a torrential downpour in the early afternoon failed to dampen the spirits of the players although everything else was soaked through.

The Cup semi finals saw some very good and hard games and eventually it was whittled down to a final between match between the Thai Legends I and the surprise package of the tournament, The Chiang Mai “Suas”, who had grown in strength as the competition progressed. It was an absolutely cracking final in which no quarter was given. The Thai boys displayed total commitment, great handling and superior fitness but the “Suas” had some older and experienced heads in their team and they gave their all but finally the superior fitness told as the “Suas” legs tired. So Thai Legends I eventually triumphed and retained their title in style, winning a hotly contested final quite comfortably 19 - 0.

In the Plate it promised to be just as exciting and hard fought as several of the favourites had failed to fulfill their promise to make the Cup and it was hoped that the hosts, the Pattaya Panthers, would be able to reproduce their form of the first game the previous day. However that was not to be, they were undone by getting a bye and finally succumbed to the boys from Bangkok University, who had produced outstanding rugby and were the surprise package of the Plate.

The Southerners and The Old Bangkok Bangers also failed to live up to their early promise and both went home empty handed. The Plate final was between Bangkok University and the Thai Barbarians (the pre-tournament favourites) who finally found their form and ran out easy winners 29 -5.

The competition for the Bowl was by contrast a bagful of surprises with clubs like The Buccaneers and The Goosers 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 Buccaneers and the Viagrabonds, who contested a rather one-sided match which saw the Buccaneers (with some help from the Panthers) running out comfortable winners 24 - 0. So they did win a trophy but the Bowl was actually Benjarong ... so still no silverware!

The Phuket Viagrabonds did however create something of a record as they finished the entire tournament without a win and indeed without scoring a single point, yet reached the Bowl final, but they did not leave empty handed as they were awarded the “Wooden Shield”!

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, who also presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, to Mark Goodwin from the Buccaneers who had apparently set an incredible pace throughout the weekend and is rumored to have touched every blade of grass on the Horseshoe Point field!

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen: MBMG International, European Safety Concepts, Amari Orchid Resort, Omega Logistics Ltd, G4Ssecuricor, Modern Access Thailand, Mackenzie Smith Law, Cranes & Equipment Asia Ltd., WMS Thailand, Construction Cost Consultants, Synovate Thailand, Jardine Shipping, NZ Asset Management, The Comcon Group.

Also a heavy vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia, who provided all the shade and Bangkok Pattaya Hospital for the first aid and medical attention, of course Horseshoe Point for providing a perfect venue and Thai Asia Pacific Brewery who supplied the beers and the very attractive beer servers, who definitely brightened up the whole weekend, just ask Russell Jay from Mix 88.5 FM radio station and Soundzgood Discotheques, who kept us amused with his style on the mike and the music.

A final mention should also be made of the boys and girls from the Croston House Children’s Home, who provided the ball persons for the weekend, they did an amazing job especially as they had never seen a game of rugby before! David Viccars the referees’ supremo praised them highly saying, “that he had never officiated in a tournament where the ball persons had been so effective and worked so hard”.

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