The excellent facility at the new Ambassador Bilingual Academy in Mae Hia was the venue as the newest team in town, the Chiang Mai Cobras Rugby Club, got together for their first match. The pitch was in prime condition thanks to Paul Farran and his ground staff’s hard work.
Players from other clubs were invited down to join the pre season training run with Payap Rugby Club and CMU Rugby having large contingents in the scratch team to take on the Cobras. With star Kiwi back Matty Valentine suffering a calf strain in the warmup the Cobras were already on the back foot before the game began.
Cobras captain Kyle Edwards said “I’d like to thank the ABA for hosting us today, and the boys from Payap Rugby Club and CMU Rugby for coming along and joining the fun”. Club Chairman Dave McRitchie continued “As a first outing for the Cobras, we could not have asked for a better day. Having all our families and friends here providing the extra support is special”.
The large crowd of family, friends and rugby supporters awaited eagerly for the kick off as referee Pattarapon Ekdamrong called the two captains together to let them know that even though it was a training game it would be refereed in the proper manner.
From the kick off it was obvious that both teams were going to relish the encounter. As the first up hits went in with brutal ferocity, rugby in Chiang Mai was back! The work done during Cobras recent training sessions was evident from the start as they took the game to the opposition with some strong carries up the middle. Though initially held up, scrum half Richie Davis got the ball out to Ted Guggenheim, who worked it out wide to debutant Sam Morphett who went for the line. Held up just short, the ball was recycled back the other way for Captain Kyle Edwards, to crash over for the first try. From the restart the Cobras regained possession and continued to pressure the defense. After multi phases of pick and go hooker Brian Grieve fed the ball to lock Ross De Clifford who crashed over for the second score. The combined team was struggling with the Cobras direct running and speedy offloads and it was only a matter of time before the relentless pressure would produce another score which duly arrived as Most Padabyod danced through the defense and raced away to score in the corner as the ref blew the whistle for the break. The second period saw the combined team starting to work their way back into the game with Josh and Rowan coming to grips with the pace of the Cobras forwards. Along with Payap’s James they started to gain possession which saw the speedy backs make inroads that pressured the Cobras defense. Ted forced an intercept and raced away to score but grounded out of bounds. He made amends from the resulting clearing kick as he broke a tackle to again race away and dot down, this time in the in goal, for his first of the day. The combined side finally got on the board after some great approach play that saw the winger go over in the corner, the score being confirmed by the TMO. The Cobras attacked from the kick off and they spun the ball out to the backs with Sam Morphett, who was excellent throughout, going on a jinky run and setting the ball up for Kyle to race away for his second of the day all be it against the run of play. As the third period got under way Kiwi Matty hobbled on to get some much needed game time and was immediately called into action putting in a crunching tackle and inadvertently knocking the ball on. From the scrum some slick handling by the combined backs saw Rowan Carroll go over but he was held up over the line in the tackle by Padabyod and De Clifford. The Combined team had the best of the period and should have scored again but excellent defense by Jirapon Bumpen and Simon Dickinson kept them at bay. The match ended as it began with Kyle Edwards going in for his hattrick score in what was an entertaining game played in the right spirit. Captain Kyle said “It was a great turnout from both sides. As for the match, I was pleased with the skill level of the Cobras. Playing touch rugby on Wednesday’s has helped all of us emerge from Covid. We have some areas to improve on in the next six weeks before the NTR season begins. I know everyone agrees, it feels really good to be back playing competitive rugby again”. McRitchie had this to say “The match was great, old friends and new friends from CMU and Payap rugby club’s, Rush the referee and a great pitch and support from ABA. Having all our families and friends there provided the extra support. We could not have asked for a better day, great rugby with great mates. We would be remiss in not thanking our sponsors and ABA for their support” Man of the Match – Sam Morphett – Cobras Rugby Club