Finishing work on Friday afternoon, the prospect of copious amounts of alcohol and a 12 hour train journey was becoming even more attractive by the minute. While the ‘hardcore’ tourists among us boarded the train, a few not so hardcore (namely Darrel & Ritchie) were on a plane on their way to Laos attempting to take the Thai Barbarians’ captain out for an introduction to the J-Lo (the drink, not the former Southerner), thus destroying his tournament. They failed – he was player of the tournament!

With all tourists aboard the train we headed for the bar carriage which was subsequently turned into the Southerners party carriage, with Hooey showing the boys he had a special ‘love’ for old men and Sod acquiring the nickname of Kang Bang. His mother would be so proud. At pretty much 10pm we were made aware that the bar would be closing, so as disgruntled tourists we made our way back to our beds. Despite Calum’s pathetic attempt (and subsequent failure) to save our remaining beers from being poured down the toilet, drinking continued courtesy of Churchy who had boarded the train with a bag of beer. However, that was quickly finished and he brought to our attention the recent phone call with Calum in which he asked if we needed any more beer, to which Calum replied “No, we have plenty”. Useless.

Nevertheless, the merrymaking went on with Brian wasting the rationed beer that we had left by spilling it, leaving the newly nick-named Lego drenched. The rationing of beer prompted Brian to crack open a bottle of vodka which was finished in a beach ‘ice’ bucket style fashion several hours later. Last note on the train journey is a quote from Toby while up to his drunken antics� “WTF – Gerry is sleeping with his eyes open!”

We arrived in Nong Khai with Glovebox organising a group of hung over tourists to “get on the tuk tuks quickly we need to make the border first”. In an attempt to speed up this process, Brian and Belly decided to play Tuk Tuk Rugby only with Brian trying to pass the ball to the tuk tuk in front with great disappointment. Attempts to retrieve the ball almost resulted in Gerry getting “MOTOR’D”

Queuing up to go through Thai immigration Toby (Ginger) and Hooey (Asian celebrity) decided it would be a laugh to attempt to get through by swapping passports. Hooey successfully made it, but Toby became stuck as Hooey had spent too long gazing at his topless body in the mirror when he should have been getting his documents sorted. So much for getting through the border quickly and making at least our second game! All was not lost though as we attempted to introduce other border crossers to the joy of rugby.

All tourists successfully made it into Laos some 45 minutes later and made it onto our transport heading to the tournament only to be interrupted by a phone call. It was Calum who had been left behind at the border. Whilst at traffic lights a Beer Lao truck pulled up, without any hesitation an alcohol fuelled Englishman who goes by the name of Tobias decided to climb up and almost over to steal “Only one bottle. There are thousands. They won’t notice”. Driving past dozens of bread sellers we thought it was only fair to make Laurent feel at home and buy some baguettes. Yielding our weapons we finally arrived at the stadium.

With our first two matches forfeited, our first drunken game was against Vientiane Baby Hogs on a pitch that can only be described as a dusty hole. An unconvincing win, but a win none the less, saw Richie don a dashing graze on his forehead. Our second game and last game of the day was against Khon Kaen University. From the kick off, the Southerners took control with good passing and running by Sod and Hooey and hard hits from Brian, Belly and Churchy allowing us to dominate the game with a convincing win.

It was off to the Hotel with all of our cuts and grazes in tow (and Calum this time) to attempt to remove all of the Lao dust from areas you didn’t think it was possible to reach, shower and for one Danish yellow toy look-alike, blow-dry hair. We located a suitable bar ideally situated on the banks of the Mekong and the fines session began. Toby (first time tourist) and Spud/Lego, (baby of the group and first time tourist) were nominated beer bitches, each donning a beer bitch head band. Once the court had finished, the now traditional anthem singing too place, including a chart topping performance of the Japanese “Kimi ga Yo” (???) by Kitah, Teru and Teru’s wife (who was as much a part of the fine session as anyone). To top it off, we had a passionate Lao national anthem sung to us by two eight year old boys. It seemed Hooey had been taken the first victim of Beer Lao, as he shamelessly lay on a child’s mattress with a puppy, singing to himself.

A few more bars later and Belly riding high upon the roof of a Tuk Tuk, we announced our arrival to the local ex-pat community with a press up competition to show the rest of the crowd what the Southerners were made of. This particular antic almost resulted in a swift dismissal from the bar and prompted Hooey to once again show his love for men over the age of 55, particularly those who utter the words “I’m Lao and I’m Offended”.

Waking up in the morning with the prospect of more drunken rugby to come was a daunting affair. Again we arrived at the dusty pitch late and dragged our drunken selves through Issan Universities for the win. The less said about that one the better though.

Next up were the Vientiane Buffalos and we had to sober up and challenge these boys. With Hooey and Richie smashing the ‘French clown’ and Brian and Belly making some good breaks through the oxymoronic French resistance, Glovebox, along with a few others, scored a try (my distinct lack of memory doesn’t help). We dominated the game and gained an impressive victory. Our third game of the day was against the Thai Barbarians, an extremely fit and quick side. A good kick off from Hooey allowed the Southerners to dominate from the off with Lego motoring up the pitch, catching the ball and following it with a string of passes that resulted in our first try. This seemed to shock the BaaBaas and besides the one try they scored in response to the Southerners’ three, they never really looked like troubling the Southerners for the rest of the game.

With an unbeaten run (but two forfeits) under our belt, we made it to the plate final against the Vientiane Wild Hogs. Full of confidence the Southerners headed out onto the pitch for a final game and the prospect of silverware. After Bob having a “We really are not bothered mate” discussion with a Wild Hogs Fan on the fact we really weren’t bothered about having uncontested scrums the Southerners looked to march on. The Wild Hogs really brought the game to us. This shook us up and we really had to step up our game to grind out two hard fought tries and win the Plate Final 12-0.

Everyone really stepped up to the occasion and had a contribution to a great tour, so a big thanks to Gerry, Brian and Darrel for enabling the tour to take place and to Bob for the unenviable task of running admin at the tournament itself. Also, Darrel’s maid has asked me to pass on his thanks to us all for not encouraging him too hard to get his backside off a chair all weekend. Cheers boys and bring on the next one!!!

Spud (a.k.a. Lego, a.k.a. Kirsty)

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