Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2014

Pattaya had been sweltering in the hottest weather of the year so far and the forecast for the weekend of 3rd and 4th May was that it would be hotter with a high possibility of thunder showers, however none of this deterred the teams that gathered at “ The Tavern By The Sea “to register for the 14th edition of the Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament.

Jim Howard Chairman of the Pattaya Panthers had warned them all to expect a very steamy weekend and to remember to keep well hydrated and drink lots of water!, Well most of the teams certainly did that but many of them chose to indulge in the amber fluid variety in the name of good health!! Teams had travelled from as far away as Australia, Cambodia and Hong Kong and they were all determined to play hard, fast running rugby not only on the field but as they demonstrated under the watchful eye of General Manager Brendan Daly of the Amari Orchid Resort off the field as well. Some hungry souls ( Stray Cats ) also attacked the Churrasco Buffet and caused the chef to hastily call for more supplies. Brendan’s comment as he closed the bar on Friday night was that there would be no threat of starvation or dehydration after the quantities of food and beer that had been consumed. Then it was off to view the cultural attractions along the beach and walking street the perfect preparation for a rugby tournament but then rugby players are hardy souls!!

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and the facilities at Horseshoe Point were in perfect condition, tents had been erected around the playing area creating the amphitheatre like atmosphere for which this tournament is now famed. The facilities around the ground were ready to cater to the expected hordes of players and spectators alike and there was even a children’s area complete with bouncy castle to keep the little ones occupied whilst mummy and daddy enjoyed the rugby. Steve Mines from the British Pie Shop was already busy baking fresh pies to cater to the hungry hordes and with his trusty assistants he was also cooling down vast quantities of cider that had proved such a hit in previous years. The Horseshoe Point playing field was in excellent condition thanks to the hard work of Khun Thatree and the ground staff . Our sincere thanks was also due to the Management of Contract Resources ( CR Asia ) who had provided all the tents, which were to prove very welcome as shade from the heat and the rain that was bound to come. So everything was ready for the fourteenth edition of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament, the organizers had oiled all the necessary wheels, there was plenty of water, pies were in the oven and a vast choice in beers and ciders were already on ice.

The tournament took place over the weekend of 3rd and 4th May, and 16 rugby teams from all over Thailand and other parts of the world had arrived in Pattaya to contest what has become one of the principal 10 a side tournaments in the region. There were many familiar faces returning to try and capture some of the silverware however there was also a very welcome appearance from some new clubs proof that rugby is gaining in popularity in the Kingdom. Many of the so called super teams from Thailand were committed to training for the upcoming HSBC Asian 5 Nations but in their absence it was looking to be a much more even tournament with no runaway winner. As usual we had received good support from Hong Kong, as we welcomed back The Hong Kong Scottish who have committed to make their visit to the Chris Kays 10’s an annual pilgrimage and The Valley Griffins were once again to the fore led by the indomitable Boris, the winner of the Chris Kays Trophy 2013, who has still not collected his trophy!!!

We also welcomed for the first time The Stray Cats from Darwin and whilst they were a mature bunch and not likely to challenge for the cup they were certainly the most entertaining side in the tournament. Stade Khmer, a team of French expats and local lads from Phnom Penh organized by Jean Baptiste Suberbie from the “ Kampuchea Balopp “ programme, had travelled by bus from Phnom Penh and must be credited for their fine performance against much bigger and more experienced teams.. As usual there was strong representation from the expatriate teams in Bangkok, The Southerners were favourites from this group as they had found some new talent and those wary old campaigners the Bangkok Bangers had also found some young Bangers and they were expected to be in and around at the final showdown, under the leadership of “ Mr. Almost Happy “ they were certainly going to be competitive. Perennial crowd favourites the Bangkok Japanese have also found some new blood and they were expected to make a stronger showing as the tournament was being played over a holiday weekend …. the Japanese do take holidays so they had more of their players available and have cunningly followed the lead of their national team and recruited a few “ gaijins “ including former Panther D.J. Robbie Lurrve. We also welcomed back The Phuket Vagabonds, who have undergone a recent revival under the astute leadership of Patrick Cotter, assisted by the recruitment of several South African teachers, and were promising to take the cup down south!! There were several new Thai Teams that were a rather unknown quantity The Khon Kaen Blue Hawks, Thai Archa ( a team of architects ) and the usual academic interest from Thammasat and Bangkok Universities and Mosquitoes F Team an offshoot of the former Thai Legends. We were also very happy to welcome for the first time the Royal Thai Air Force who are once again becoming a major force in Thai Rugby as well as our old friends Elephant Brutal from Surin. Finally and not least the host club the Pattaya Panthers were fielding an experimental team a mixture of experience and young players who have been moulded into a strong team under the expert coaching of that wily old fox Tom Kerr. The Panthers were expected to go one better than their previous best performance of being losing Plate Finalists. An eclectic bunch from various backgrounds united in their love of the game and their quest for the Chris Kays Cup. Proceedings were once again to be controlled by David Viccars and his band of merry referees, under the watchful eye of Mark Coombs as Tournament Director with the statistics under the control of Jeff Powers.

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 rather warm conditions hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day for the Thais and rucking and mauling for the larger and more mature foreign players. Most games went to form as expected and there were strong performances from all of the Thai teams especially the Thai Mosquitoes and the Royal Thai Air Force, unfortunately as luck would have it these 2 teams were destined to meet in the quarterfinal of the cup tournament so one of them would be eliminated. The Phuket Vagabonds made everybody sit up and take notice as they won all of their group games without anybody scoring against them. The Southerners, Royal Thai Air Force and the Bangkok Bangers were the other group winners. The host team stunned everybody including themselves by playing out of their skins and actually finished second in their group on points scored, with 2 victories and a draw against the group winners the Southerners thus qualifying for the cup competition. Elephant Brutal Surin, Thai Mosquitoes F Team and the Bangkok Japanese made up the quarter final lineup for the Cup competition. The Bangkok University, Thammasat, Valley Griffins and the Hong Kong Scottish led the way into the plate competition. The participants in the Bowl and Shield would not be decided until the Cup and Plate quarter finals were completed under the cunning trickle down system designed by our devious Chairman.

Following the departure of the mature rugby players it was the turn of the youth, this year’s tournament was for the under 16’s age group and was sponsored by the Kingdom Property Group. It was very gratifying to see the return of many of the boys who had played last year at under 15’s and the improvement in their fitness and technique was a delight to see. Despite being let down at the last minute by several schools and the Bangkok Lions there were 8 teams contesting the trophy and a new team from Bangkok under the banner of the Bangkok Barbarians led the way. It is always gratifying to watch these youngsters play the game and those that bothered to stay and watch were treated to some of the finest pure rugby of the weekend played by the boys. For many of them it was a great experience to be playing under floodlights for the first time. There seems to be a growing interest in rugby in the schools and if this tournament is any indication there is a good future for Thai rugby ahead.

After a hard days play, cooling off in the pool was obligatory and a strong start was made on some of the mighty hangovers that were to be seen the following morning. Sunday dawned and the weather was overcast and more heavy rain was threatening however it was cool and the intermittent morning drizzle actually provided cool temperatures and perfect conditions for rugby. After the youngsters had shown their paces and produced some outstanding rugby with Surrawittyakarn Surin again emerging as winners of the Kingdom Property Trophy after beating the Bangkok Barbarians in a thrilling final and Thepsirin Samutprakarn taking the plate from Ratchaborikarnukroh Ratchaburi it was on to the main tournament.
Due to the Chairman’s carefully crafted draw the teams that had qualified for the Cup and Plate competitions were required to play early as the losers from first round knock out games then dropped down into the next competition. Many teams had obviously taken the advice to hydrate and large quantities of the local soothing balms had been consumed. Many looked much the worse for wear and headed straight to the Horseshoe Point Spa or Bar for rejuvenation. Amazingly The Panthers who had surpassed all expectations in qualifying for the cup were there early and with a full complement of fit players!! Tired limbs were anointed and strapped and the knockout phase commenced with few complaints and the quest for Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield got under way. The night‘s partying had definitely taken it’s toll and the men ground their way through a very heavy schedule that finally weeded the weak from the strong. Many first time losers were surprised to find that they then had to play more games than if they had won as the trickle down worked. Again there were some superb performances and some very close encounters with not a few surprises.

Eventually the plot unfolded and with some short sharp showers the conditions remained cool and perfect for rugby and we all witnessed some fine rugby. The Phuket Vagabonds led the way into the Semi Finals with Thai Mosquitoes F Team, Southerners and the hosts filling the other spots, which meant that they could all now take a well earned rest while the battles for the minor trophies continued. In the Plate we saw some fine performances from the Royal Thai Air Force F 15’s, and the Bangkok Japanese, whilst the Bangkok Bangers struggled to squeeze past Thammasat University and Stade Khmer surprised even themselves to beat Elephant Brutal. This of course meant that Hong Kong Scottish, Valley Griffins, Thammasat Univesity and Elephant Brutal would now contest the Bowl semi finals.

The Semi Final rounds went mostly true to form with Phuket Vagabonds overcoming the host Panthers and Mosquitoes F team despatching The Southerners in a one sided game. In the Plate the Bangkok Japanese finally succumbed to the Royal Thai Air Force and Stade Khmer’s fine run was ended by the much more experienced Bangkok Bangers. There were some very tight battles, in the bowl where in the “ Local Derby “ Hong Kong Scottish prevailed over their Hong Kong cousins the Valley Griffins and Thammasat University ended Elephant Brutal’s quest for more silverware.

The Shield was won by the Bangkok University in a fierce contest with newcomers Khon Kaen Blue Hawks with the more experienced university team finally running out the winners by 2 tries to 1 14:7. In the bowl Hong Kong Scottish managed to get their all round game flowing but could not breakdown the stubborn defence of the Thammasat University who matched them in all phases of the game which ended all square after to allotted normal time. Finally Hong Kong Scottish took advantage of the “ Golden Score “ rule in extra time and kicked a penalty to win the Bowl.

In the Plate it promised to be just as exciting and hard fought as the vastly experienced Bangkok Bangers took on the newly emerging Royal Thai Air Force F 15’s. However it turned out to be something of a mismatch as the younger and fitter fliers had some real fliers on the team and they literally ran away with the match and the plate winning quite easily 31 : 0. However the Bangers are to be applauded as they stuck at it and never gave up despite giving away many years and lots of weight!!

So the stage was set and the Cup Final was to be between the resurgent Phuket Vagabonds and the new pretenders The Mosquitoes F Team. True to the claim of Pat Cotter he did have a team capable of taking the cup back to Phuket who had demonstrated just why they now should be considered in the top tier of Thai Rugby, with their aggressive style. It was an absolutely cracking final in which no quarter was asked or given. The Thai boys displayed total commitment, great handling and superior fitness and tackled like demons but the Phuket Vagabonds with their older and more experienced heads in the team managed to hold out and used what little ball they did secure to full advantage eventually winning a very tense and exciting final by the narrowest of margins. The Vagabonds triumphed 10 : 7 so for at least a year the Chris Kays Trophy will be staying in Phuket.

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 , he also presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, for the first time in the history of the award it was given to a team rather than an individual the Stray Cats had preserved their enviable record of never having won a game and kept the crowd at the games and most of Pattaya entertained with their antics, in their game against Thammasat University they came dangerously close to scoring a try and mystified the young students with a call of “ Dead Ants “ from a Kick off. We hope to see a lot more of Brutal Bruce and the Cats as they were a thoroughly entertaining group and worthy winners of the award, which I am sure Chris himself would have approved of. The player of the tournament was Khun Somsak Mitlux from the Royal Thai Air Force

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen, Kingdom Property sponsors of the Youth Tournament, Amari Orchid Resort Pattaya, Cranes and Equipment Asia Ltd., AusGroup Corporation, Manpower Thailand, Jardine Shipping, Hemaraj Land, Societe Generale de Surviellance, Lord Edward Devereux, Casper the anonymous benefactor, The British Pie Shop, Your Pools and Conor’s Bar and Phoenix Pacific Inc. Also a big vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia, who provided all the shade and Bangkok Pattaya Hospital for the first aid and medical attention, Pattaya Mail for printing the programme and giving us valuable space in their news columns, of course Horseshoe Point for providing a perfect venue and Mr. and Mrs Rock and Roll, for the sounds and music. The referees with Commissar David Viccars in command, who kept the games running smoothly with his team of Thai and Foreign referees were an important part in the success. Tournament Director Mark Coombs and Statistician Jeff Powers. Finally all those who made the trek to Horseshoe Point to play, spectate, eat and drink to play however small a part to make the weekend such a success thank you all very much for we couldn’t have a tournament without you.

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