Kelly’s Eye: Proud to say I was there to see Hartlepool’s success in Bangkok Sevens

Hartlepool Rugby Sevens team.
Hartlepool Rugby Sevens team.

Unless you are of a certain vintage and Welsh, or both, you probably view Max Boyce as a pain in the backside.

Though the chances are, unless you are over the age of 412, you’ll have never heard of him.

You are not missing much, just ask your grand parents, only kidding Max, I’m sure you had your moments.

But, like any fourth-rate hack worth his salt, and those not worth their salt (including your columnist, currently working just outside the Mail circulation area), you nick the best lines for your own pieces.

And now I must thieve Max’s greatest line “I was there.”

Boyce coined it after watching Llanelli humble the All Blacks last century.

And to quote one of the foremost Welshmen, or should that be one of the four most Welsh men, I was there when Hartlepool set foot into international territory.

Now, Hartlepool’s impact on the rugby richter scale does not match what Max’s Scarlet heroes did to New Zealand back in 1972.

But the town’s united men travelled 6,000 miles to take part in the Bangkok International Rugby Sevens.

They did not win, that truly would have been something given the champions contained two former All Blacks sevens stars who were the size of a small country.

However, Hartlepool won the Shield competition in the Thai capital.

Given their preparations had been affected by cry-offs and the resulting preparation been scant, seeing Liam Bailey lift the consolation trophy in the Bangkok International Rugby Sevens was a great achievement.

Hartlepool performed on the international stage and they were not found wanting against international outfits, crack sevens exponents and, most pertinently, the weather.

Bangkok was like an oven, just walking around the pitches at Patana International School brought you out in a sweat, so heaven knows what knocking out a sprint or six was like.

Kelly’s Eye was proud to be out in Thailand to report on this moment of history.

I can’t summon enough words of praise for the squad of Liam Austwicke, Liam Bailey, Brad Green, Peter Howe, Cameron Lithgo, Jack McCallum, Lee Maddison, Alex Rochester and Adam Smith.

All did the town, their clubs and themselves proud, a mention also to the two Kiwis from Hong Kong Football Club who came along as guests, Alex Bayliss and Bernie Reeves.

Every player scored points, bar Bernie, but all contributed to a man.

Only in one game were they turned over, losing 24-7 to the incredibly fit and agile Thai national development side, All for One.

Perhaps All for One should have been Hartlepool’s motto, even in that defeat, Brad galloped in from distance with the last play of the match even though the match had been lost much earlier.

Kelly’s Eye never put in a run or a tackle or made a pass, but I was there feeling every moment of joy or every bit of pain when the result went against the team.

It was a privilege to be there reporting on a new chapter of our rich rugby history and hoping its not a one off.

Thanks go to the people who made it possible, especially Alby Pattison, of Hart Biologicals whose Hart Innovations were the tournament’s principal sponsors, Seymour Civil Engineering and Utility Alliance.

This writer has reported on a number of major sporting events, and many minor ones, but the Bangkok International Rugby Sevens is up there with the best.

Almost 40 teams took part in its 21st staging after only four had played in the first back in 1995.

There were U18 and U16 divisions, a social league and 10 teams in the female section.

Hartlepool were part of the party and what a location – Bangkok must be one of the most intoxicating, breathless places on the planet.

This teaming city was incredible to sample, but it will be the rugby and the blood, sweat and cheers which will live long in the memory.

They might not have beaten the All Blacks, but the Boyce, sorry boys, done good.