With the weather set fair, with only the slightest possibility of rain, 26th & 27th November 2022 saw teams assemble at the superb Chiang Mai University, for the inaugural World Flair Chiang Mai International Rugby 10’s.
The tournament opened with a registration party at the Score Bar. With plenty of free-flowing ale, curtesy of the organisers, old stories were retold, old friendship rekindled and new ones made. The vibrant atmosphere and obvious excitement boded well for the battles to come!
An exciting Men’s open tournament saw some of the best teams in the region coming together to battle it out on and off the pitch. The Karaoke battle at the Score Bar was particularly good fun with both the men’s and women’s teams getting involved. There was so much talent on show that we could have had our own episode of Thailand’s Got Talent.
And so, it does, not just in the singing stacks, but on the pitch as well. With three strong Thai teams and two expat sides Chiang Mai was well represented and looking to do well. Chiang Mai All Stars, Maejo Rugby Club and Phayao Rugby Club were all fielding strong squads, whilst Lanna Rugby Club had teams in the Men’s & Women’s tournaments and host team, The Chiang Mai Cobras, had teams in the men’s open and the Men’s over 35’s Vets tournaments.
The action kicked off Saturday morning with the seeded Bangkok Bangers having the honour of kicking off proceedings (no thanks there!) against Phayao Rugby Club, who were using the occasion to have a club reunion with players coming from all over Thailand, for the weekend. It was evident that the Phayao lads hadn’t played together for awhile as they went down to an inspired Bangers side who, it was obvious, had come to compete. Both teams improved as the day wore on, with the Bangers taking first spot in the group A division. Old rivals the Bangkok Southerners, though weakened through other commitments or injury, still managed to field 3 teams, two men’s open and a lady’s team. They battled hard and played some class rugby. Their only loss of the day came against, you guessed it,,, the Bangers, going down 7-5 in one of the games of the tournament.
The other two contestants in Group A were Lanna Rugby Club, in their first ever 10’s tournament and the Chiang Mai All Stars, who have been around a while and perform well at tournaments. Both teams kicked off their campaigns against each other and in a game dominated by the Lanna club, the All Stars scraped home 14-10. The All Stars went on to improve in the rest of their games and finished with 3rd place after a classic game against the Bangers where the All Stars were winning going into the last minutes when the Bangers scored a last gasp try, for the game to finish, 7-7. Lanna Rugby Club, though they played and battled hard, couldn’t find that illusive victory and went on to lose their four games and finish last in the group. This meant they had a route straight to the Shield final on day two.
The opening game of Group B was a bizarre affair all round, with the hosts Chiang Mai Cobras taking on old friends and rivals, The Phuket Vagabonds. In an entertaining game, in which the Cobras had the upper hand for a large portion of the game, it was impossible to score. The Cobras had three clear cut chances on attack with over laps with the ball only needing to be taken, to score under the posts. Each time it was dropped or passed forwards. The nil nil score line however, looked destined to be broken when, the Vagabonds broke through the Cobras defense to speed away for the posts. For some unknown reason and under no pressure the Vagabond went in with the swan dive and dropped the ball!! That was that and nil, nil it remained. It was obviously an omen as the Cobras, though playing some attractive and entertaining rugby, couldn’t get across the line for the rest of their games
and finished the day without scoring though they did have a point on the board for their draw with the Vagabonds.
The others in Group B faired rather better and had no such qualms about crossing the white wash. The Southerners Black were looking slick as they went the day unbeaten to finish top of the group followed closely by the Hanoi Dragons from Vietnam who grew better with every game. Maejo Rugby Club had an outstanding day winning 2 and losing 2 to end up a creditable 3rd in the round robin stage. The Phuket Vagabonds, undermanned and over paid were struggling to come to terms with the pace and the heat whilst the Cobras woos continued. Still unable to cross the line they finished 4 and 0, but with a precious couple of points in the bag. It wasn’t enough to make it to the Cup quarter finals though and they would play local rivals, the Lanna Lions for the Shield.
Its just so good to see that Ladies rugby is still getting stronger by the day. It was particularly exciting to have the two biggest ladies’ teams and biggest rivals in Thailand, The Bangers Belles & the Southerners ladies, competing against the local Lanna Lionesses. The skill and fitness levels were great to see and they entertained the large crowd with their never say die attitude, flair and ability. In some ways the women’s game is showing the men how the game should be played. The Southerners Ladies, recently reformed, were the class act on day one winning both their games. The Belles had a shock defeat against the Lanna club going down 5-0 before losing to Southerners 10-0.
Some people think that when they get to vet’s rugby age that its going to get easier. Sadly, that’s not the case. In a lot of ways, it’s more competitive and the tackles hurt just as much!! We were privileged to have the Colombo Synergy All Stars come pay us a visit. Though there were only two teams, Colombo and hosts the Cobras, the action was fun to watch. Both teams went at it hammer and tongs with the All Stars shading both games, 14-0 & 7-0 respectively. Great to see the Sri Lankans on the pitch, it’s a rugby loving nation and they always give their all.
Sunday saw teams turning up with battered and bruised bodies which paled into insignificance compared to the sore heads on display! This didn’t affect the quality of play as things got underway with the Ladies finishing off their round robin games. The Bangers Belles beat a tenacious Lanna Ladies 15-5 avenging their defeat a day earlier.
The men’s cup quarter finals were next with some mouthwatering match ups, that made for exciting viewing. The Bangkok Bangers had the easiest route defeating a depleted Vagabonds side by 24-5. The Southerners Gold had a real fright, as Maejo Rugby took the game to them and just lost out in the dying moments, going down 7-0. Likewise, Chiang Mai All Stars fought tooth and nail with Hanoi Dragons pushing them all the way but going down to first and last-minute tries 14-0. Phayao Rugby had also come to play and took a shock lead which they held for most of the game before going down to Southerners Black 14-5.
The Cup semifinals were looking tasty with the Bangers taking on Southerners Gold and Hanoi against Southerners Black. The Bowl competition was just as good with Vagabonds versus Maejo and the All Stars against Phayao.
Both the cup semis went down to the wire. Ultimately, the Bangkok Bangers were too strong for Southerners Gold winning 14-0 and Hanoi Dragons taking out the second Southerners team 15-5. Maejo prevailed against the Vagabonds 19-0 and Chiang Mai All Stars downed Phayao 22-5. With the Southerners Ladies and the Bangers Belles qualifying for the Ladies final it was going to be a great finale to be kicked off with the O35’s Cup game between our Sri Lankan friends the Colombo All Stars and hosts Chiang Mai Cobras.
To say the lads from Sri Lanka had saved the best till last would be an understatement. The Cobras struggled to gain possession and found it difficult to hold on when they had it. The talent in the Colombo side was evident as they took control and eventually ran out 33-7 winners. They were made to fight every inch of the way by a dedicated Cobras side who fell short at the end.
The Shield final was won in an entertaining game by the Chiang Mai Cobras over local rivals Lanna Rugby Club 14-19
The Bowl final was another local derby with the Chiang Mai All Stars eventually getting over Maejo Rugby by 12-5 in an epic tussle.
The Southerners played out the Plate final with a piggy back race which was won by the Southerners Gold.
The Cup final was a fantastic game of cat and mouse with the Hanoi Dragons taking an early lead, then relying on their solid defense, as the Bangers pressed hard. The Bangers got back into it early 2nd half and kept pushing. Although they scored a converted try late on, they fell agonisingly short and Hanoi Dragons were crowned champions 14-12.
O35’s Vets Winners
COLOMBO SYNERGY ALL STARS (Sri Lanka)
CHIANG MAI COBRAS
CHIANG MAI ALL STARS
Ladies Cup Winners
Men’s Cup Winners
HANOI DRAGONS (Vietnam)
Vets Player of the Tournament
CHANNA (Colombo All Stars)
Ladies Player of the Tournament
RATALALIN BURSILL (Tang) Southerners Ladies
Men’s Player of the Tournament
COREFF AN DAVARN (Tommy) Hanoi Dragons