While such events as the Hong Kong 7’s and the successes of Japan at the recent World Cup are, perhaps, the highlights of rugby union in Asia there is a vibrant and growing community both of expat and local teams. Numerous tournaments in the 7’s and 10’s formats are held across the region but the 15-a-side format is also present. In Thailand the Thai Rugby Union (TRU) tournament is held every summer and the Thai national team is (at the time of writing) gearing up to compete in the Asia 5 nations
As part of this preparation they challenged one of Bangkoks expat teams – The Old Bangkok Bangers (the Bangers) – to a game on Saturday 7th May.
The Bangers are a social rugby club open to anyone regardless of experience, they have 3 mens teams: Colts, Vets (over 35) and Ancients (over 50) as well as a female team, however, for this fixture (arranged at short notice) any of the men who wanted to play got a game: players ages ranged from 17 to 50 and ten different nationalities were present.
With the temperature in the high 30’s and it feeling hotter than that the Bangers assembled on a dusty pitch at the 1st Infantry Batallion to play the Thai National 15’s team. Not having played 15’s for some time and with a couple of players in unfamiliar positions meant that in the first 20 minute period the Bangers had to iron out a few kinks while the Thais were able to show their teamwork through repeated and effective use of the maul. Despite stubborn defending by the Bangers the pressure meant that a couple of tackles were missed and the Thais were able to cross the line twice leaving the score at 12-0 at the water break.
Using the opportunity to re-focus meant in the second period the Bangers effectively blunted the Thais attack with some good tackling, not only that but several probing runs by both forwards and backs caused the Thais issues and kept the score line static, however, the heat was taking its toll and even with rolling substitutes the players were finding it tough. Half time and the score was still 12-0.
After half time the Bangers started playing their own game, pick and drives by the forwards brought them up to the Thais try line and then the ball was passed out to the center who burst through from close range to score at the posts. The kick was converted and suddenly the score was 12-7 and the game was wide open. With the temperature dropping fractionally and the players settling in to their roles the Bangers were certainly on the front foot. More pick and drives by the forwards and then the backs found some space and used their speed to break the line and another score under the posts, another easy conversion and suddenly the Bangers are in the lead 12-14 at the final water break.
The forth period started at pace, the Thais having obviously been given a few choice words by their coach, a quick try (but no conversion) made the score 17-14 and both teams dug deep to . Following this some end to end play as well as some excellent defense by both teams kept both the pace and excitement of the game high, however, it was the Thais who scored next with a good team move to take the score to 22-14 and that was where it finished.
An excellent afternoon of rugby and brilliant play by both teams – Good Luck to the Thai National Team in their upcoming competition.