Its Saturday 11th December and Nestled in the foothills of Doi Suthep, the Suthep Municipal Stadium is the perfect venue for a sporting event and the venue, for the TRU Chiang Mai National 7’s qualifiers. With all the restrictions that had to be overcome, which forced the tournament to be cut down to a single day’s play, it was a great achievement by the Thai Rugby Union and the teams, to get the tournament played at all!
The reduced tournament still produced some thrilling rugby and it was fantastic to see the various schools age groups, boys & girls getting on the pitch and enjoying throwing a ball around.
There was also a university division which was a bit more serious. Maejo, CMU and TNSU university teams were all represented and played some great rugby before the open tournament, that the Cobras were entered into, began in the afternoon.
Things didn’t start well for the Cobras with talismanic captain and play maker Matty Valentine ruled out with a viral infection and scrum half Sheldon Terblanche, failing to recover from an ankle injury sustained the week before.
First up for the Cobras was Phayao Rugby Club, who have a reputation in the North for producing some outstanding players over the years and this team, was no exception. They were exceptional at the breakdown securing quick ball and denying the Cobras any momentum. Although the Cobras put in strong performances across the park, Phayao’s overall game and pace out wide, saw them run out 17-0 winners.
The next game was a much closer affair with Maejo Rugby Club starting at a furious pace and running in 2 quick tries. As it looked like the Cobras were going to be overrun, they started to gain possession of their own and some good driving play by Julian Tremblay , Dave McRitchie and Rory McLaughlin saw scrum half Ice go in and, with Rich Davis dropping the conversion, the lead was halved.
Maejo had started to tire and their lack of discipline was giving the Cobras field position. As the clock ticked down some good interplay by McRitchie & Opart Nawasit down the touchline, saw Dave go over in the corner. With Davis just missing the conversion from out wide, it left Maejo, hanging on to a slender lead. The Cobras secured possession from the kick off as the clock turned red and, although they pressured the Maejo line, they couldn’t break the defense and Maejo held on to run out narrow 14-12 winners .
The final game for a depleted Cobras side saw the reemergence of the Chiang Mai All Stars, an invitational side of old and new Northern rugby stars. It was obvious from the kick off that the well drilled Stars team was going to be a hand full. With plenty of pace and strong at the breakdown they denied the Cobras any front foot ball and although the Cobras defended valiantly there was only going to be one winner. The Stars ran in four tries overall and ran out 24-0 winners.
The Chiang Mai All Stars played Phayao Rugby in the final with the All Stars 10-0 winners and crowned champions.
Maejo Rugby Club won the university division and the TNSU ladies team took out the women’s honours.
Cobras chairman Dave McRitchie said “It was a great day full of rugby and Suthep Municipal Stadium is a great facility with the mountains in the background. Throughout the tournament, it was great to play against friends from Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. Cobras want to say thanks to TRU and our local teams and also our family and friends who really make days like this so special for all of us. Thank you!!”
The Cobras, though not being suited for 7’s, gave a good account of themselves and made many new friends and reconnected with old ones. At this level it’s all about the participation, enjoyment of the game and gaining experience for the younger players.
A BIG round of applause to the TRU Northern committee and Khun Mai Kiattichai for running a well-organised tournament under trying circumstances. The officials, support staff, volunteers, the video feed and medical support were all awesome.
See you again next year!