Royal Thai Navy Take the Honours
By Pat Cotter
The sun was shining in Chiang Mai as the Northern division of the 2020 Thai Rugby Union 7s National qualifiers were hosted at the Suthep Municipal Stadium in Chiang Mai over the weekend of 10-11 October 2020. Teams from all over the North, of all age groups, had descended on the regional capital for a weekend festival of 7’s rugby.
TRU general manager Khun Atapol Wongratana and his Management team were on hand to oversee the organisation and to make sure that the tournament ran smoothly and were happy to see so many teams competing even though many were unavailable due to school exams. A fully qualified team of TRU referees and AR’s were eagerly awaiting to officiate and take control of the games.
The tournament was officially opened by Chiang Mai governor Khun Charoenrit Sanguansat, after a short opening ceremony. Khun Charoenrit, who is an avid rugby fan, was happy to see so many youngsters out on the field enjoying the spirit of rugby.
Of particular interest to the Thai National Coach, New Zealand 7s legend, Lote Raikibula and his assistant Dthun, were the university and open divisions, which showcased the senior talent on display and possible future national team candidates. “It is refreshing to see so many youngsters with a passion for the game and it bodes well for the future of the sport in the Kingdom” said Lote. “With the drive and vision of our current TRU President Pol.Lt.Col. Kulthon Prachuabmoh it’s going to take Thai rugby to the next level”
Saturday was dedicated to the group round robin stages. In the men’s open division the Lanna Rugby Club, Maejo Rugby Club, Phayao RFC and a very strong Royal Thai Navy squad who were a late replacement for the Chiang Rai team, were looking to take home the division one title. From the first games where Lanna took on Maejo and the RTN, Phayao, it was obvious the RTN were going to be the team to beat.
The Lanna Rugby Club, a combined Thai and local expats side, Sponsored by Sheryl’s Bar and Restaurant, were always going to struggle as their seasoned veterans and young novices wilted in the blazing sun against younger and fitter opponents. Although putting in brave and courageous performances, the Lions lost all 3 games, though they had the distinction of scoring a couple of excellent tries by Louis Stanton and Tom Stubley.
As was evident from game one, the navy lads would dominate, and finish top of the group without a blemish, leaving the runners up spot to be fought out by Maejo and Phayao. After a close tightly fought battle Maejo prevailed to finish second in the group.
In the knockout matches on Sunday, Lanna were overwhelmed by the slick Navy outfit with Maejo edging Phayao to make the cup final. Lanna played Phayao in the minor final and although Dave McRitchie, the oldest player in the tournament at 55, put in a man of the match performance it wasn’t enough and Phayao eventually ran out easy winners. The final between Maejo and the RTN was the last game of the day and although Maejo were committed and gave it their all, the superior skills and fitness of the Navy lads saw them prevail with ease.
Lote observed that “The teams were playing some good rugby which shows that the coaches were teaching them many of the skills that had been emphasised during the recent TRU coaching clinics held across the country”.
The university final was a lot closer affair with Chiang Mai University just being edged out in a thrilling final by Maejo University Rugby Club.
The youth division was eagerly contested across all age groups in both the boys and girls competitions with teams coming from as far afield as Nan, Pitsanaluk and Phayao.
In the school age groups aggression, commitment and enthusiasm especially amongst the girls who were impressive throughout the weekend entertained the large and enthusiastic crowd.
The outstanding boys team was the Kosana under 14 side from Nan who dominated their division, playing at times, some sublime rugby. In the girls division it was a tighter call and the youngsters from Pitsanaluk and Nan impressed as they dominated their respective age groups.
Dr. Pongson Yaicharoen and his medical team were on hand when needed, and when asked said that “They had been kept quite busy but thankfully there had been no serious injuries, especially after some of the ferocious tackling on show”. Dr. Pongson is a staunch rugby fan having lived in and played for Western Australia University for five years and will be taking up a role as chief medical advisor for the recently formed Northern Thailand Rugby, an umbrella group set up with the aim of unifying rugby in the region.
The skills and enthusiasm for the sport on show over the weekend, show’s that the game of rugby has a bright future in the North and, with the continued drive and forethought of the Thai Rugby Union, throughout the country.
Rugby in Chiang Mai continues on October 17th with the 4th round of the Lanna Rugby 10’s League with games at Chiang Mai University with the CMU Rugby taking on Payap Rugby at 3pm and TNSU CMI Rugby Club taking on The Lanna Lions Rugby Club at 4pm. Supporters are welcome to come down and watch what will be a couple of fiercely contested games as the season continues after its recent break.
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