What A Final

By: Pat CotterChiang Mai

After what has been a successful nine weeks of rugby in the 2020 Lanna rugby 10’s League, it all came down to what will be remembered as one of the outstanding games of the season. A game befitting any final. With Lanna finishing top of the league as minor premiers and surprise runners up of the season Payap Rugby Club ready to face off, it was all down to this. Lanna Rugby Club v Payap Rugby Club for the 2020 Championship.

The stage was set at the Kanta Anusorn School (San Kamphaeng), and with a large and voracious contingent from the Payap Rugby alumni coming from far and wide to support their team, it was an exciting and jovial atmosphere. Also in the crowd there were the kids from the House For Hope Foundation who have been an integral part of the Lanna Rugby Clubs youth development program and were vocal in their support of the Lanna lads.

For the final, Payap Rugby had some of their top players coming back from injury, but with their talismanic forward Rowan Carroll unavailable, would that impact them in the loose? Would their pace in the backs be able to find holes in the Lanna defence? Would Lanna’s vastly experienced forwards get them enough ball to be able to unleash a talented backline that had amassed the most points throughout the season? Would top joint try scorers Dtun and Tom Stubley find the space to use their pace and ability to break the line and take the game away from Payap as had happened in previous encounters?

All these questions and more were about to be answered as the teams lined up for the kick-off. With Lanna captain Dave McRitchie winning the toss and deciding to receive, Payap kicked off and immediately showed their intent by switching and kicking deep to the backs. Their speedier players were straight in the face of the Lanna team and pressured Lanna into making mistakes which gave them the advantage. It was obvious, having learned from their previous losses to Lanna, that they had a plan to take the game to them which was, fast ball from the breakdown out to the backs, crash it up in midfield, quick recycle, out again and score. The strategy worked and Lanna were shell shocked with balls being knocked on, passes going to ground and tackles being missed and, having no time to settle into their rhythm, were in some disarray as Sitthichai Deechan (Big) went in for the first try. A serious knee injury to Tom Stubley leading to his leaving the pitch was a big blow to Lanna. Things went from bad to worse as Payap old boy and hard running centre, Thanachot Aomsilapa (Tle) went in for two tries to give Payap a commanding lead 15-0 at the break.

Lanna Rugby Club applied all their guile and experience as the game commenced and worked their way back into it as they gained more possession and, with Brave and Paul Bolwell leading the charge in the forwards, the backs finally started to make inroads into the Payap half. Lanna new boy Carlos Victor Da Silva was impressive in defense and attack and with Brian Grieve charging at the line and creating space Dtun finally found open ground and raced into Payap territory, feeding the ball to Louis Stanton who broke through and sucked in two defenders before offloading to Da Silva, who got the ball back to Dtun who sped away to score and bring Lanna back into the game. Lanna were back in it and although they created a couple more chances they were held up by resolute Payap defense, as ref Wittaya Jumnongsub whistled for the break with the game still in the balance at 15-5.

The final stanza was more evenly balanced and, as the speed of the game had been so furious, fatigue had begun to set in, which suited the Lanna side who put Payap under pressure on their own line, but when Ted Guggenhiem had the ball ripped in the tackle the outstanding Udomsak Atthakomol broke out and scored to give Payap a bit more breathing space. Lanna though refused to lie down and a fine individual effort which saw Michael Cresswell track across field before cutting back inside to open up Payap for a fine individual score that brought Lanna back into it at 20-10. As the clock ticked down Lanna kept up the pressure but were unable to find the score and eventually Thanachot Aomsilapa (Tle) had the final say to score his third with the last play of the day. A fine individual man of the match performance by him which was the difference between the two sides. The travelling band of Payap fans broke into song to celebrate a famous victory and the party began.

Lanna captain Dave McRitchie said “Massive congratulations to Payap who were better on the day. Great to get to play with these aspiring stars of Thailand rugby and I’m optimistic for the future of Northern Thailand Rugby. Thanks to all the teams, Payap, CMU, and TNSU and the referees for making this season possible”

McRitchie continued “It was a great day, many supporters travelled to support Payap rugby club and friends and family were present for Lanna rugby as well. It was a great, hard match played in the spirit of rugby. Thanks for letting me be a part of what I feel is something truly special”.

A scintillating first period of fast running rugby laid the foundation for the Payap win. The fighting spirit and belief of the Lanna side ensured it wouldn’t be a walk over and the game was in the balance going into the last ten minutes. Overall the best team won on the day and is a testament to all the hard work that Payap Rugby, a team with so many players who had never seen a rugby ball before, had done throughout the season.

Lanna Rugby founder Tom Stubley had this to say “Payap, I take my hat off to you! A team that started the competition with a brand new squad kept pushing their abilities week in week out. Finally to be crowned the Lanna Rugby Tens Champions of the 2020-2021 league! Well done lads, Stirling effort”.

The improvement across the board with all teams progressively getting more competitive as the season progressed, was a hugely positive factor and we look to build on that success to grow the league for next season. Already more teams are showing an interest and it’s hoped that the 2021 season will have 6 or 7 teams competing for honours.

At the start of the presentations Khun Santisook Weerapant presented sports equipment donated by Payap Rugby Club to the school principle for the kids involved in youth sports programs.

Presentations were

Man of the Match – Thanachot Aomsilapa (Tle) – Payap Rugby Club

Top Try scorer of the Season – Tawan Kiatngamphom ( Dtun )- Lanna Rugby Club

Player of the Season – Tanapol Kaewmanee ( James) – Payap Rugby Club

2020 Lanna Rugby 10’s League Champions

PAYAP RUGBY CLUB

Thank you to all the teams, CMU Rugby Club, Lanna Rugby Club, Payap Rugby Club, TNSU CMI Rugby and the referees for making this season possible.

Next up will be the NTR 15 a side tournament starting on 23rd January.

For more information on that or the 2021 Lanna Rugby 10’s League contact

northernthailandrugby@gmail.com

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