Chiang Mai Cobras maiden rugby tour was to hit Chiang Rai and take on the Chiang Rai Bears.
The Chiang Rai Bears have been around for quite some time, but it’s been awhile since they have been able to put out a team, so its great for Northern Thai Rugby that they are once again, producing players and rediscovering their vocation in the rugby fellowship.
The Chiang Rai Christian International School was the venue and it was the first time the school has hosted a rugby match. The pitch, overlooked by an impressive temple, made it a picturesque setting for the Bears & Cobras to do battle.
The Cobras are fielding a settled side these days and, with the introduction of some young Thai lads, apart from bringing the average age down, it has injected a new dynamic into their game. The side captained by kiwi and overlooked all black star Matty Valentine were confident that they could continue their good form and get a first win on the road.
The Bears were a young, fast moving side who aimed to cause problems out wide, so it was interesting to see how the game would develop as the Bears kicked off. The Cobras have grown in confidence with each game and they took early control of the match using their big forwards, with Opart Nawasit dominant in the early exchanges and Charlie Jones, doing what he does best, stopping any opposition attack that strays into his zone, with crunching tackles. Jones showed what he can do in attack as well by smashing over for the first try. This was quickly followed by Wasin Khong racing away to score on his debut. With it looking like the Cobras would dominate, the Bears started to find some rhythm and a well worked individual try by Tanachod Omsin brought them back into the game and saw the Bears go in at the break down 10-5.
That try was a wake-up call for the cobras and as the second period progressed the big forwards, with Dave McRitchie prominent at the breakdown, and Josh Lim, producing some barnstorming runs, it was only a matter of time before the punishment took its toll. With Valentine and Richie Davis constantly testing the gain line, gaps appeared with hard running South African centre Matt Nunn, taking full advantage and setting up Josh Lim for a superb score. Captain Matty worked a classic move with Davis to slice through the defense and once again get on the board. He should have been on the score sheet again but after some confusion as to where the dead ball line ended it was disallowed. Charlie Jones would put that right with another powerful surge that gave him another score and the half was rounded out when the impressive Nils Deichert went in for his maiden Cobras try.
Although the Bears were reeling from the relentless pressure they kept coming forwards and with the little ball they had they produced one of the tries of the day when their centre brushed off some half-hearted tackles to race away and score to start the third period. The Cobras though would not be denied and with Frank, Khong and Tor using their pace against a tiring Bear’s side, the flood gates opened and a hattrick for Tor inside 10 minutes killed off any thoughts of a fight back. Damion May just rolls back the years and scored a couple of fine individual tries sniping from the back of the scrum. Captain Matty Valentine scored his second before Charlie Jones went in for his hattrick try towards the end and, with Rory McLaughlin getting just rewards for all his hard work, the ref blew for full time.
Tries: Charlie Jones 3, Tor 3, Damian May 2, Khong 2, Frankie 1, Nils 1, Rory 1, Josh 1, Matty 2.
Nils Deichert was voted player of the match by his peers. Well done Nils.
Lonny Levi has done great work promoting the sport in Chiang Rai and to see the Bears performance, even though they were outclassed in the end, bodes well and the Cobras look forwards to hosting them in the future.
The Cobras retired to their hotel and held a pool court session before heading off to the venue for the after-match session.
With a touring party of 16 players and many supporters, the maiden tour was a great success. Thanks to Lonny and the Bears for their hospitality and for all the cobras around the world for their support. A special mention to Rowan Carroll and Sam Morphett who ran the water and Sam for his bar tendering prowess at the court session.
Roll on the next one!