There was a particular buzz around Suthep Stadium over the weekend of 25-26 November as the U 14’s prepared to start off proceedings. The Rugby 11’s concept is gaining momentum as teams find it a more liberating format to play. Having a rampaging No 6(8) who can break from the scrum, opens up a whole range of options in both attack and defence.
The U 14’s in particular were exciting to watch and shows that with the Doi Tao Boys Club, Lanna Lions Cubs and the Prince Royals College clubs, that the future of Northern Rugby in Thailand, is in a good place. They are all obviously well coached and the skills in both defence and attack were a joy to watch. The Doi Tao boys in particular, had never played a game and only picked up a rugby ball when Nisachai “Ball” Maneesai started a coaching initiative up in the mountains, two months ago.
The U 14s was a great tournament in its own right that was eventually won by the PRC Tigers, though they had a few scares along the way as both the Doi Tao & Lanna Cubs pushed them to the limits. The Plate final was won by the Lanna Cubs who beat Doi Tao and the final saw mate against mate as the PRC Tigers beat the PRC lions, by virtue of scoring first in a 10-10 draw, to win the Cup.
Ladies’ rugby is on the rise across the globe and Thailand is no exception. The Bangkok Bangers came with 2 teams, the Bangkok Bangers Belles & ReBelles, defending champions Southerners ladies brought a strong squad & the local Lanna Lionesses were looking good. In what was an exciting tournament with all the ingredients required to entertain. It was fast, hard and direct, with superb skills on display. Ladies’ rugby has come a long way in a short space of time & it’s exhilarating to see. Day one had all the group games, and with it all being pretty close by the end of the day it was all still to play for on day Two.
Its always tough to back up on the second day, but the ladies always do it with enthusiasm and a smile. After the final group games, reigning champions, Southerners, were top, with Bangers Belles a close 2nd. Lanna Lionesses were 3rd with the ReBelles in 4th.
The Lionesses played the Rebelles in the Plate Final and though the ReBelles fought hard all the way, they just couldn’t get over the line and the Lanna club won by a score of 15-0
The cup final was played with 2 x 11-minute halves, a tough ask in the tropical heat. The Bangers Belles & Southerners ladies know each other well and always produce some classic games. This would be no exception. In a fast paced, hard tackling game, it ebbed and flowed. As it looked like one side were becoming dominant, the other found a way back and put the pressure back on. In the end the introduction of Ratalalin Bursill, last year’s player of the tournament, was the difference. Her pace and vision set the Southerners up & she steered them to a 17-5 win over a tough & resilient Bangers Belles team. Back-to-Back Champions………Bangkok Southerners Ladies.
As you get into the twilight of your career, you drift into the more sedate world of vet’s rugby. Or that is the perception. The reality is the complete opposite!! If anything, it’s as competitive and brutal as opens rugby!! There were only three vet’s teams but they made a huge impact on the tournament. The Bangkok Bangers Vets, The Muddy Buffalos from the Philippines and Chiang Mai’s own, Cobras. From the outset it was obvious that the bangers would be the team to beat. Chiang Mai Cobras were unlucky not to make the final, losing 12-10 to Muddy B’s, 0-5 to Bangers & 12-12 again against the Muddy B’s.
The Bangers Vets, showed their pedigree by keeping the best till last, as they overpowered a tiring Muddy B’s team, with the highest score of the weekend, 47-0 to be crowned Vets Champions.
The main event, the Men’s Open, had 9 teams competing in two groups. Having just finished the world’s first Rugby 11’s league here in Chiang Mai, the local teams were match fit and ready for action. Defending Champions, The Hanoi Dragons were back with a strong squad and looking to go back-to-back. The Bangkok Bangers and Bangkok Southerners were looking at taking home the cup themselves. Local sides Chiang Mai All Stars, Chiang Mai Cobras, CMU Purple Blacks & Lanna Rugby Club were all looking to compete.
After day one in Group A, Bangkok Bangers had gone throughout unbeaten, to top their group. Phuket Vagabonds were a close second with 2 wins followed by Lanna who managed a draw out of their three games with the Chiang Mai All Stars at the bottom, after surprisingly struggling in their games.
Group B, saw the Bangkok Southerners, top on points difference from the Dragons, after they both had 3 wins and a draw during the group games. Chiang Mai Cobras, who had put in a strong showing, were in third after 2 wins and 2 losses. Debutants Chiang Rai Bears went down to defeat against the CMU Purple Blacks, to finish bottom of the group and would be eliminated from the Cup rounds, and drop down into the Shield Final.
All the local interest in the Cup was ended during the Cup quarter finals. The Bangers were too strong for the Purple Blacks, and looked likely contenders for a run at cup glory. Hanoi Dragons dispatched the Lanna Rugby Club 14-5, whilst the Cobras were in it till the end only for a last-minute score to eliminate them against the Vagabonds. The All Stars took the game to the Southerners and were unlucky to be on the wrong end of a 12-0 scoreline.
Bangkok Bangers went toe to toe with the Dragons in the first Cup semifinal, but they began to tire, as the weekend caught up with them. The Dragons defence is strong and repelled numerous Bangers attacks before hitting them on the counter, with a quick one two, to win the game 10-0. The Southerners controlled their game well against the Phuket Vagabonds, eventually coming out on top 17-7.
The final was 2 x 11 minutes and both the Dragons & Southerners were up for the challenge. Early pressure from the Dragons, had the Southerners on the back foot, and it was only a matter of time before they went in under the posts, for a 7-0 lead. The Southerners never give up, and they gradually worked their way back into the game. Scrum half, Doug Bursill, was rolling back the years and putting in a man of the match performance, as he went down the blind side from a scrum, to dive over in the corner, just before half time and cut the deficit. 7-5 Dragons at half time. The Dragons were given a heavy blow just after the restart when captain Sholto Torr had to leave the field with an ankle injury. Bursill continued to apply the pressure, using all his experience, to harass the Dragons. With their energy levels dropping, gaps appeared, and they were exploited by the Southerners, who took the lead wit a converted try. Bursill went in for a second as the Southerners closed the game out 29-7 to be crowned, the Dimbulla Estate CNX International Rugby 11’s Champions.
The Bangers went on to win the plate beating the Vagabonds 19-0, Lanna Rugby Club beat the All Stars 12-7 with the last play of the game for the Bowl and the Cobras got the consolation, of winning the Shield beating the Chiang Rai All Stars, 19-5.
The owner of Dimbulla Estate and the driving force behind the Rugby 11’s concept, Dilip Kumar, was on hand throughout the weekend. Dilip attended all the games and the parties, at the Welcome Inn, enjoying the atmosphere and talking to various people, to get their thoughts on the game. Unfortunately, Dilip had an early flight Sunday, so was unable to present the trophies. In Dilip’s stead, Chris Birch, ex director of NSW Rugby Union presented the Men’s Open trophies. Terry Collins representing HELL Energy Drink, presented the Ladies & Mike Penistone the Vets. Bangkok referee Nattapong “KK” Wangcharoensap presented the U 14 Trophies.
Many thanks to Jean-Luc & his team of officials, who did a great job over the weekend. Kiattichai Noptakul & his team for providing a great venue setup, Toprit Lekkijcharoenchai, for his help in bringing the U 14s together. Khun Oam, for the smoothies and last but not least, my wife, KAI for her continued support over the years.
A very special thank you goes out to all you teams, for providing an exciting & fun experience over the weekend. We provide the outlet; you provide the fun. Without what you guys do, we wouldn’t have a sport. Thank you for embracing the Dimbulla Estate Rugby 11’s concept. I think I can safely say, that Rugby 11’s is here to stay.
Keep up the good work and see you all at the next one.
Men’s Open Champions
Ladies Open Champions
BANGKOK SOUTHERNERS’ LADIES
Men’s Open Plate Winners
LANNA RUGBY CLUB
CHIANG MAI COBRAS
Ladies Open Plate Winners
LANNA RUGBY CLUB LIONESSES
Vets O35s Champions
BANGKOK BANGERS VETS
U 14 Champions
Men’s Player of the Tournament
Tran Chi Hien – Hanoi Dragons
Women’s Player of the Tournament
Amawasri “Anna aka No 9” Sawangwong – Bangkok Southerners
Vet’s Player of the Tournament
Rowan Caroll – Chiang Mai Cobras
All the weekends’ results can be found here
See you all again in 2024!