Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2015

In the immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme “ It is all over now “!!! Yes the fifteenth staging of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament has now passed into the history books of this famous tournament and it was one of the best.

The weather for the weekend was forecast to be HOT and for once the forecasters were right and the rugby was hot too!!! The tournament took place over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd May, and 16 rugby teams from all over Thailand and other parts of the world descended on Pattaya to contest what has now been established as one of the principal 10 a side tournaments in the region. The teams had gathered in The Tavern By The Sea at the Amari Orchid Resort for the registration where they were royally entertained by the General Manager, Brendan Daly, who is a very keen supporter of local rugby. We were also very honoured to have Chris Kays’ parents Ray and Lin present to welcome the visitors and see how Chris’ memory lives on. The visitors all arrived early and left very late after having drunk The Tavern almost dry!!! There were a few bruised egos to be seen as the teams lined up to play early on Saturday morning.

The main tournament was to be contested by 16 teams with a very strong local bias, old foes the Bangkok Bangers and the Southerners led the way and both clubs had entered 2 teams as had the “ Old Bill “ a club from Hong Kong with strong Police connections and they had also brought along a cheering squad of WPCs, Hong Kong were also represented by The Valley Griffins and the Hong Kong Scottish, who whilst they have strong affiliations with the land of the glen and heather had nary a “ Jock in sight, the kilts were also missing this year. The Thai teams that had accepted the invitation were mainly newcomers and a fairly unknown quantity at the start of the weekend. Youngblood, Samutprakarn, Arch Thai a team composed of Architectural students from around Bangkok Universities and Team Elephant Brutal from Surin, a team that has come up through the youth tournaments and are now seeking to make their mark at the senior level. 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 and there does seem to be more Japanese playing the game as the Rugby World Cup, which will be held in Japan in 2019, has increased the interest in the game there. We also welcomed back the Phuket Vagabonds the reigning champions, who according to Pat Cotter were only here to take the cup back with them!! Our old friends from the Australian Navy “ The Buccaneers “ had returned, or at least some of them had, in a new guise as the Military RPL Vikings with the addition of some younger players and they were fully expecting to at least out drink all other teams!! The roster was rounded out by the hosts and the Pattaya Panthers, who had been training hard under “ The Coach “ Tom Kerr, with an animal side to the exercises spiders, frogs, monkeys etc. all appeared at training sessions and they felt that at full strength they also stood a good chance of getting amongst the trophies but with Tom’s departure for sunny Ireland the fitness levels were dropping and the alcohol levels were rising.

The location was in perfect condition, the weather was HOT The organizing team under Chairman Jim Howard had, despite a number of late scares managed to shuffle the pack and Tournament Director Mark Coombs with the able assistance of the referees supremo Dave Viccars had all the answers ready and with Jeff Powers keeping the scores all was set for another great tournament. The Beer and Cider were cooling and some great food catered by Selena, the cider honey, was ready to feed and water the hungry hordes.

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 to be played on Sunday. In the perfect conditions hard and fast running rugby was the order of the day and most games went to form as expected. 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, there were one or two surprises and some of the teams found themselves in unfamiliar territory. The host team stunned everybody including themselves by playing out of their skins and actually finishing 2nd in their group after a disastrous start against the Vikings they found their mojo and actually beat their longtime nemesis the Bangkok Japanese to qualify for the cup. The Champions the Phuket Vagabonds sailed through the preliminaries without having their line crossed and urged on by their new sponsors the Hooters girls ( rumour has it that after an exciting weekend in Pattaya the Hooters franchise is now planning to open in Pattaya ). In pool C there was a titanic battle between the Southerners Gold and the Bangkok Banger Colts with both teams qualifying for the cup with the Southerners just holding the edge. There was a big surprise in Pool D, where the unknown newcomers Samutprakarn swept the board and led the way into the cup quarterfinals followed by the Southerners Black. There were also good performances from Hong Kong Scottish, Bangkok Japanese and Valley Griffins

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 Hosts had also issued a number of challenges to each team and the success or failure in completing these challenges would count towards the prestigious Chris Kays’ Award, The preliminary rounds of the of the Junior Tournament were played in the cool of the evening with final rounds to be played early on Sunday morning to allow the old fellas time to sleep in. The Kingdom Property Trophy for Under 16’s tournament was contested by 8 teams with 7 teams all from Thai schools around the country and The Bangkok Barbarians a team comprised mainly of the sons of expatriates based in Bangkok. The games were all very hotly contested with the team 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 boys 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. It was an absolute delight to watch these youngsters playing according to the book and I was very impressed by the great respect paid to the referee’s decisions. No arguing, no back chat, except for one or two very excited parents!!! The tournament was won in some style by the Bangkok Barbarians, whose size and experience finally told as they overcame the boys from Rachaborikarnukroh. The big surprise was the failure of the team from Surawittayakrn School from Surin, who have dominated this tournament for the last few years. They did however win the plate so their efforts were not in vain. Thank you to all the boys that participated and to Henri Young and Nigel Cornick of Kingdom Property for their generous sponsorship of this event.

With a slightly later start and the desire of almost everybody at Horseshoe Point to watch the scheduled “ Fight of the Century “ between Pacio and Mayweather the actual 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 and some judicious rejigging. 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, 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 the famous trickle down was enforced. Again there were some superb performances and some very close encounters with not a few surprises. The Cup quarter finals saw some very good and hard games and eventually the Phuket Vagabonds, Southerners Black and Gold and the surprise package Samutprakarn progressed to the semifinals of the cup whilst the first time losers then dropped into the quarter finals of the Plate led by the Panthers and Military RPL Vikings and joined by Youngblood and Bangkok Bangers Colts and Bulls, Bangkok Japanese, Hong Kong Scottish and Valley Griffins.

Both Southerners teams made the semifinals of the cup and thankfully they were kept apart, whilst the defending champions Phuket Vagabonds and Samutprakarn took the other spots. The lineup for the plate featured the hosts against Hong Kong Scottish, who were hoping to go one better than last year when they won the bowl. Bangkok Japanese and Military RPL Vikings was to be the other Plate semifinal and the Vikings seemed to be getting stronger with every match. The lineup for the semifinals of the bowl saw rather ironically Young Blood matched against the Old Bill Colts and the Bangkok Bangers Colts against their sister side the Bangkok Bangers Bulls this particular game was contested as a boat race in which the older and more experienced Bulls triumphed despite having the handicap of Keith Coljohn!!

The shield final saw Elephant Brutal taking on Arch Thai and the brutes were just too strong for the architects and in the end ran out 29 : 0 winners. The Bowl final was a contest of age and that is what finally told on the Old Bangkok Bangers as the Young Blood squeezed home narrowly 17 : 7. In the Plate Final it promised to be just as exciting and hard fought and it was hoped that the Hosts, the Pattaya Panthers would be able to reproduce their form of earlier in the day and finally nail down some silverware. However that was not to be, they were undone by the all-round experience of the Vikings who used their size and weight to out muscle the Pattaya boys. Still a creditable performance and many lessons learned.

So to the Cup Final, which was to be the reigning champions against the Southerners Gold team after overcoming the Southerners Black in the semifinals. Pat Cotter was confident of retaining the trophy and asked ( before the game ) if the presentation could be made quickly as many of his players had an early flight home. It was a scintillating final and no quarter was asked or given but two portions of the Southerners proved to be just a little too much for the Vagabonds and the Gold team won a close final 12 : 0, a fitting finale to another great weekend..

After the final whistle everybody crashed into the pool and the presentations were made to all trophy winners by Ray Kays assisted by Jim Howard the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC. In a tournament first he also presented the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, to a team although they do not know it, the Old Bangkok Bangers were selected on the basis of their good sportsmanship and conviviality throughout the weekend, congratulations Tates and your Colts and Bulls!!!

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen Amari Orchid Resort, Kingdom Property Company, NMT Project Logistics, MAS Ausgroup, The Lion Pub, Steve of The London Pie Shop, Manpower Thailand, Jardine Shipping, Phoenix Pacific Inc., The Baron Devereux, Hemaraj Land and Development, Societe Generale de Surveillance, 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 staff for providing a perfect venue. David Viccars the referees supremo who kept everybody under control even the referees. Thanks also to Jeff Powers and Mark Coombs and Ron Keeley, who produced another superb programme.

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