Chris Kays Memorial Rugby Tournament 2016

Thailand had been sweltering in the hottest and driest weather for more than 50 years and the forecast for the weekend of 30th April / 1st May was that it would be getting hotter with the likelihood of some heavy thunder showers!!

This could of course not deter the teams that gathered at Hooters, the newest hot spot in Pattaya, to sign up for the sixteenth staging of the Chris Kays Memorial 10’s Rugby Tournament, which was to be contested at the Horseshoe Resort. In his welcome address the Pattaya Panthers Chairman Jim Howard warned all participants to expect a very steamy weekend and cautioned everybody, even spectators, to keep well hydrated and drink lots of fluids. Well the teams certainly did that but many of them preferred the amber fluid variety in the name of good health. The tournament participants arrived from all over Thailand and other parts of the world, one team even came from Derby in England. They all descended on Pattaya to contest what has now been established as one of the principal 10 a-side tournaments in the region. Many of the visitors arrived early and left very late after having drunk Hooters almost dry!!! There would be no threat of starvation or dehydration after the quantities of food and beer that had been consumed before an evening tour of the cultural attractions along the beach and walking street. Hardly the ideal preparations for a rugby tournament, but then rugby players are hardy souls.

The tournament was to be contested by 16 teams with a very strong local bias, former champions Phuket Vagabonds ( 2014 ) and the reigning champions the Southerners ( 2013 and 2015 ) led the way. The Bangkok Bangers Colts and Bangkok Japanese as well as the hosts Pattaya Panthers were all potential outsiders. There was a strong Hong Kong influence led by The Valley Griffins returning for their third year and determined to win something this year!!! They were joined by the Hong Kong Scottish, who were also returning for their third year and newcomers Borelli Walsh USRC Tigers. We also welcomed all the way from Derby in England “ La Vache Rouge “, who were already feeling the heat in the air conditioned splendor of Hooters. The Thai teams that had accepted the invitation were mainly newcomers and a fairly unknown quantity at the start of the weekend. Still Young Blood, Archa Thai a team composed of Architectural students gathered from various Bangkok Universities and Team Elephant Brutal from Surin, a team that has graduated through the youth tournaments and are now making their mark at the senior level. A completely unknown quantity were a young team from Ubon Rachathani, who according to their coach “ Bomber “ Bombell, were actually rugby league players with little or no rugby union experience, this was to prove an illusion. 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 following the national team’s performance in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and looking forward to 2019 when the Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan has increased the interest in the game there. We also welcomed back the Phuket Vagabonds former champions, who according to Pat Cotter were only here to take the cup back with them!! Also returning after a couple of years away were the Suas from Chiangmai and after a decade of debauchery our old friends the French Asian Barbarians ( FABS ). The roster was rounded out by the hosts and the Pattaya Panthers, who had been training hard under the watchful eyes of coaches “ Stout “ and Bazz Bain, who had introduced greater defensive awareness and an eye for the gap!!

The field was in perfect condition for running rugby, 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 down and the Hooters girls were practicing their moves. Ken had great breakfast baps on the go and Steve “ Pieman “ Mines from the London Pie Company was already warming his wares, all was ready to feed and water the hungry hordes. We also had Jed Thian an internationally known commentator at the microphone.

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 dry 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 without losing a game and holding the strong Phuket Vagabonds to a 5 : 5 draw. The biggest surprise of these early exchanges was the young boys from Ubon Rachathani, who had overnight acquired considerable rugby union skills!! They won all 3 of their pool games and easily qualified for the cup from pool A. They were joined in the cup by Southerners Black whilst Bangkok Japanese and Arch Thai dropped to the lower division.
The Champions Southerners Gold the Phuket Vagabonds and Bangkok Bangers Colts were the other division winners and they were joined in the cup quarter-finals by the hosts and Still Young Blood and most surprisingly the FABS. The FABS had been hoping for a late start on Sunday morning but were outmaneuvered by the Valley Griffins, who forfeited their game with the FABS claiming heat exhaustion, which meant that the FABS were in the cup with an early start on Sunday morning!! La Vache Rouge put up a plucky display but unfortunately the weather conditions and the standard of the opposition were just too much for them. They have vowed to return next year with a stronger squad and having trained in the local sauna. There were also good performances from Hong Kong Scottish, Arch Thai and the Chiangmai Suas with exciting cameos from La Vache Rouge and Valley Griffins.

After a hard days play ended with some light showers, 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. Downtown Pattaya was awash but most of the hardy souls made it to Hooters, where the Valley Griffins had organized a bull riding competition. It was hilarious fun but most spectators and the management of Hooters awarded a stunning victory to “ Ricardo “ the BULL!! A good time was had by all and the Hooters management reported record sales of Vodka Cranberry, Singha Beer and Burgers.

With the heavy overnight rain in town everybody was expecting cooler weather and easier going on Sunday morning but the traffic was horrendous and as most teams were staying on the west side of Sukhumvit some of the teams were forced to change into their playing gear on their bus or in their songtaew to be ready to start on arrival. The now well-known Pattaya Trickle Down format was in effect, this puts the Big Boys on early and gives the others a slightly later start. The night‘s partying and Bull Riding had definitely taken its toll and tired limbs were anointed and strapped and there was a rush for places in the massage tent!! 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 came into play.

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 Gold, Bangkok Bangers Colts and the surprise package Ubon Rachathani all progressed effortlessly 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 Southerners Black and joined by Youngblood and the ebullient FABS to face Elephant Brutal, Bangkok Japanese, Hong Kong Scottish and the revitalized Chiangmai Suas. Whilst the Bowl Quarter Final line up would be Archa Thai, Borelli Walsh USRC Tigers, La Vache Rouge and Valley Griffins

With the Quarter Finals completed the lineup for the Plate Semi Finals featured the hosts against Southerners Black and The Bangkok Japanese against the Chiangmai Suas. In the Bowl Hong Kong Scottish, who were hoping to retain the Bowl, which they won last year were pitted against Elephant Brutal whilst Still Young Blood were to take on the mighty FABS in their 4th match of the day!!! Finally the FABS would run out of stamina against the much younger Young Bloods and H.K Scottish finally halted the Elephant Brutal charge. In the Plate Semis the Panthers kept their hopes of silverware alive with a convincing 19:0 victory over the Southerners Black and were into the final where they would meet their old friends and adversaries Bangkok Japanese who had squeezed past the Chiangmai Suas in a very exciting and closely fought game.

Both semifinals of the cup were hotly contested and the Ubon Rachathani lads showed just what a potent force they will be in the future as they ran Phuket Vagabonds right down to the wire scores were even at full time and Phuket squeaked in with a golden score in extra time. A fantastic first time appearance for the boys from Ubon and I am sure that we will be seeing much more of them in the future. Southerners Gold had a much easier time in the other semi beating their old rivals the Bangkok Bangers Colts 19:0. So setting up a Clash of the Titans 2014 Champions Vs 2015 Champions!!!. Once again the Cup Final had to be brought forward to accommodate the Phuket early leavers but a mouthwatering clash was a certainty, before the dash to the airport!!!

The shield competition saw Arch Thai beating USRC Tigers and then facing a rested and now fully dressed Valley Griffins. The architects were not overawed and the Griffins were overdressed so in the end Archa Thai proved too strong for the Griffins and ran out 19 : 0 winners. The Bowl competition was a contest of fitness and age and that is what finally told on the FABS, who finally went down in their 4th game of the day to Still Young Blood by a score of 32 : 5 in the other Semi Hong Kong Scottish squeezed home narrowly 10 : 7 against the Elephant Brutal with another extra time golden score. In the Final Still Young Blood had just too much gas for the Scottish boys, who will I am sure be back to reclaim the Bowl next year.
The Plate saw the Hosts overpower The Southerners Black to set up a repeat appearance in the final and a chance at the silverware. The Japanese narrowly beat the Suas to set up a Plate Final that promised to be just as exciting and hard fought as the earlier Cup Final 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 excellence of the Bangkok Japanese yet again the scores were tied at full time and the winners were decided by a golden score from their old enemies.

So the Cup Final was to be the reigning champions Southerners Gold against the team that they had dethroned last year. It was a scintillating final and no quarter was asked or given no doubt the two best teams had made it all the way to the final and they put on a magnificent display of hard running rugby the Southerners took an early lead with a solo try and then displayed a watertight defence against the Vagabonds wave after wave of attacks. Just as it looked that the Southerners would hold out and retain the trophy the Vagabonds scrum half picked the lock and sent their speedy winger away to touch down under the posts, which was easily converted just as the final whistle blew so the Vagabonds had regained the cup winning a close final 7 : 5, 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 except the Cup Champions Phuket Vagabonds as they had caught an early flight home. Jim Howard the Chairman of Pattaya Panthers RFC commended everybody for the great spirit in which the tournament had been played and the outstanding quality of rugby throughout. For the second year in succession the prestigious Chris Kays Award, for the person contributing most to the tournament on and off the field, went to a team although they do not know it, the Valley Griffins / La Vache Rouge were selected on the basis of their good sportsmanship and conviviality throughout the weekend, congratulations Aarann and Boris for your outstanding organization and performance!!!

A vote of thanks is due to all the organizers supporters and sponsors without whom a tournament like this could not happen Hooters Pattaya and the Hooters girls, Amari Orchid Resort, home of the Tavern By The Sea and Mantra restaurant, NMT Global Project Logistics, Hemaraj Land and Development, The London Pie Shop, Manpower Thailand, S 5 Asia Shipping Agencies , Phoenix Pacific Inc., The Baron Devereux, Societe Generale de Surveillance and our media partners Pattaya Mail and Pattaya People, Also a heavy vote of thanks to Contract Resources Asia, who provided all the shade, Drinking 4U all the drinking water and the Sawang Boriboon Foundation for the standby ambulance and first aid and medical team. David Viccars the referees supremo who kept everybody under control even the referees. Thanks also to Mark Coombs Tournament Director, Jeff Powers statistician and Ron Keeley, our IT wizard who has produced another superb programme. A final thank you to everybody who supported us this year and made it a great tournament, we hope to see you all again next year.

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