UAE Expat Rugby News

UAE rugby team Thailand 2019

UAE Rugby captain Luke Stevenson giving a team talk


Perelini Names Starting XV To Face Guam In Asia Rugby Semi Final

Head coach of national UAE Rugby, Apollo Perelini, has named his starting XV ahead of their first ever fixture against Guam in the Asia Rugby Championship 2019. The UAE will kick off their semi final match in Hua Hin, Thailand on the 15th May, and will be looking to progress to the final where they will play either Thailand or pre tournament favourites, Kazakhstan.

Perelini’s men will be looking for promotion back up to Division One following their relegation to Division Two last year when they withdrew from the tournament. They will have the opportunity to gain automatic promotion should they beat Guam and then either Thailand or Kazakhstan in the final which will be played on the 18th may 2019.

Louie Tonkin (left) and Apollo Perelini (right)

Louie Tonkin (left) and Apollo Perelini (right)

A Boost From Bahrain

An already strong looking set of forwards will be boosted with the addition of former Bahrain Rugby Club coach, Louie Tonkin as he joins Perelini as UAE Forwards Coach for the competition. Following the trip in Thailand, Tonkin will be heading to UK Premiership rugby side, Exeter Chiefs’ as Academy Coach, having just ended a superb stint with Bahrain, winning the West Asia Premiership after a thriller of a match against the Exiles.

Captain, Luke Stevenson thinks Tonkin has had a great impact so far;

“Louie is a class coach and has implemented a few new things that I think will be of great benefit to our forwards”

UAE National Rugby Team 2019

Starting Lineup To Face Guam

Forwards: Chris Jones-Griffiths, Gio Fourie, Craig Nutt, Daniel Perry, Isaac Porter, Matt Mills (VC), Hamish Anderson, Jaen Botes.

Backs: Barry Dwyer, Luke Stevenson (C), Sean Carey, Andrew Powell, Sakiusa Naisau, Thinus Steyn, Matthew Richards

Finishers: Lukas Waddington, Murray Reason, Ahmed Moosa, Stephen Ferguson, Sean Stevens, Edward Armitage, Kini Natuna, Majid Al Balooshi

You can view a live stream of the match which will be shown on the Asia Rugby Facebook page at 12:30 UAE Time.

Photo credits: Stephen Ferguson

Justin Brits - Dubai Warriors Rugby Player

We have a Choosday Chat with Dubai Warriors Fly-Half, Justin Brits.


Age: 16
Born: Pretoria, South Africa.
Club: Duabi Warriors RFC
Position: Fly-half / Inside Centre
Height: 185cm
Weight: 76kg

“My blood’s always been blue”

Justin Brits

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

From a young age, I’ve always grown up playing rugby and wanting to play professionally has always been a big goal for me.

Which team do you support from your home country?

I support the ‘Blue Bulls’ which is the team representing Pretoria in South Africa. The day I was born, my dad put a Blue Bulls beanie on my head and since that day my blood’s always been blue!

Do you have any nicknames?

My teammates either call me ‘Chris’ or ‘Ystervark’ (which is Afrikaans for porcupine, because of my short hair…!)

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Apart from just passing a rugby ball around, I like to do anything to relax like go to the pool or hit the local beach.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to have the ability to fly, it would be cool to just go wherever you want, whenever you want.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can play the guitar a little bit.

Who does the cooking at home and what’s your favourite meal?

My mother does most of the cooking and my favourite meal would definitely have to be boerewors and mielie-meal when we have a ‘braai’.

What would you like to do when you leave school?

I’d love to go to university and study something along the lines of sports management as it seems like an interesting subject. I’ll definitely push to play rugby for my university as well, and hopefully the local club.

Who are the jokers at the Warriors?

I’d have to say Reese O’Connell, he’s always got a smile on his face and cracking jokes… even during fitness training!

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

I’d probably choose Bradley Tarr – I’d like to see and experience how a prop plays the game. They’re absolute workhorses.

Which opposition do you look forward to playing against the most?

I love playing against the Dubai Hurricanes as they’re our toughest opposition and I thoroughly enjoy playing and testing myself against the best.

Who’s the best dancer in the Warriors squad

Again, probably Reese O’Connell, he loves his performing arts.

Whats been your proudest moment playing rugby in the UAE?

Captaining our u16 Warriors team to our most successful season yet and winning the league final this year!

What are the best things about being part of the Warriors rugby club?

It really is a brotherhood. We’ve all built such a great bond with each other, even with our teammates’ parents – which is something really special.

How’s life in Dubai?

Dubai is awesome! Especially with friends and family here, and the opportunities we have here are amazing.

Amblers Ladies vs Eagles Ladies - 15s Rugby

Amblers Host Eagles For Ladies XVs Encounter

After a long hard season of rugby 7s, and 10s tournaments, UAE women’s rugby teams, Dubai Eagles and Al Ain Amblers, came together to play the first leg of a mini 15s series at the Ambler’s home ground on Friday evening.

The 7s form of rugby between these two teams has always been a physical encounter, and this was no different. The Eagles side (a combination of their A, B and C teams) was under pressure from the start with the Amblers scoring an early try from what would be their main and prominent play – quick recycling of the ball to their power runners.

The Eagles, although putting in some impressive tackles, were under pressure off the rucks and the scrums. It was only when they did what brought them success at the 2018 Dubai Sevens, which was retaining the ball and work their support play, that they managed to get ball wide.

ladies rugby 15s fixture between Amblers and Eagles

With the Amblers going in at half time 21-12 up, the Eagles knew they had to be patient, trust in their fitness, and work on their offloads and it paid off with an early try. Amblers responded by drawing the Eagles’ defence in and use width and a simple but effective two vs one out wide. This was to be the only try of the second half for the ladies from the Garden City as the Eagles started to find their rhythm, securing cleaner ball off the set piece and offloading to their dynamic runners to punch through and score out wide.

The final score was 46-26, with both teams exhausted and shuffling off the pitch to the cheers of the ever supportive Al Ain home crowd, after what was a true 15s battle.

Simon Dodd - UAE Rugby referee

We have a Choosday Chat with UAE Referee, Simon Dodd.


Age: 40
Born: Rinteln, Germany
Referee Level: Premiership

“I try and stay away from them”

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I’m a full time teacher with a family…not sure what this ‘spare time’ is?

Do you have any phobias?

Rucks mainly, I try and stay away from them.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?

A lift engineer, if one is not available then Donald Trump. What a conversationalist!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Flying, have you seen the price of plane tickets these days?

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating an entire tub of ice cream and then blaming it on the children.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Refereeing – it’s a very hidden talent.

Who or what inspired you to pick up the whistle?

My Dad, an injury and Spreaders (Tony Spreadbury) in South West England. Best seat in the house.

Out of all the refs, who has the worst dress sense?

Well it has to be Hermann – we’re in the new century!!

What’s the toughest thing about reffing?

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork in triplicate.

If you could be one of the other UAE Refs, who would you be and why?

A combination of James and Niell, they are both young and fit – just like me.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

It was an Indian – I can’t resist an Onion Bhaji or four.

What industry do you work in?

I work education, I’m Chemistry Teacher.

Hows life in the UAE?

I live in Al Ain which is great for the family. The Ramblers (Al Ain Amblers RFC) provide a really good set up with pool, bar and of course the rugby. Both kids are settled and enjoy lots of activities, particularly eating ice cream in the plethora of malls!

rak rugby chairman simon williams

RAK Rugby Chairman To Step Down

The Chairman of RAK Rugby, Simon Williams has announced he will step down from his role and a new Chairman and several new board members will be sworn in at the upcoming AGM for the club.

“Now comes the time for me to retire. I have thoroughly enjoyed the three years in charge and will take away many wonderful memories. I’m particularly proud of what we have achieved at the club, transitioning into a proper functioning business as we needed to, both legally and commercially.”

RAK Rugby Club have been through difficult times throughout Williams tenure at the club. In particular, the death of Nick Young had been a horrific time for all members of RAK Rugby and the wider rugby community. Such is the rallying spirit within the UAE rugby community though, Nick will be honoured forever with the Nick Young Trophy. Funds continue to be raised for Nick’s wife and boys who will be having a well deserved holiday with the recent funds raised.

his highness sheikh saud


Other notable changes made during Williams’ time in charge have been the name change from the RAK Goats to RAK Rugby and the set up of the club up under Royal Decree from His Highness Sheikh Saud, the ruler of Ras al Khaimah and getting his endorsement was a key moment in the club’s development.

At the beginning of the 2017/18 rugby season, the club moved to playing on to a grass pitch and the changes put in place attracted new coach Craig Chapman, as well as new players. This was reflected in wins at the Dubai Sevens, Barrelhouse 10’s, the inaugural Nick Young Trophy against the Knights RFC as well as finishing 4th in the UAE Community League 2017/18. The club also managed to introduce a women’s team under Williams as Chairman.

“The season before we’d been the whipping boys of the Community League and now we’re beating teams we’ve never beaten before and achieved respect across the leagues, resulting in the Yalla Rugby Club of the year award for 2017/18.”

RAK Rugby Cub Of The Year 2018

During the 2018/19 season, RAK Rugby continued their success with the Men’s rugby team hitting their highest league position of 3rd place and the vets team winning in the Dubai 7s. The Womens rugby team have developed further this year, winning the Cross Border Sevens Series C league tournament, several B league wins and finally cementing themselves in the A league as a force to be reckoned with for 2019/20.

Williams has highlighted some of his best memories throughout the three years as RAK Rugby Chairman:

simon williams

  • Playing away at Al Ain Amblers in the 2016/17 season and winning their first match with just 15 men (Williams getting the forwards Man of the Match award) and enjoying a now legendary bus journey home!
  • Coaching and developing two mini/junior rugby teams and seeing the kids and parents beaming with delight at our first match against the Dubai Hurricanes
  • Helping start the Women’s team and watching them play their first tournament when we only had 5 girls and they managed to win one game against 7!
  • Managing our Vets in the Dubai 7s 2018/19 tournament, where we won the bowl and a bunch of us old guys were all jumping around like kids at the final whistle!

“Of course, I couldn’t have enjoyed or done any of the above without a fantastic team of committee members, sponsors and volunteers around me. It truly has been an honour and privilege to be Chairman at RAK and I look forward to watching them play as a spectator in the new season.”

Matt Rubin Barrelhouse rugby Dubai

We have a Choosday Chat with Barrelhouse loose head prop, Matt Rubin.


Age: 41
Born: Buckinghamshire, UK
Club: Barrelhouse Rugby Club
Position: Utility back/Loose head
Height: 180cm
Weight: 120kg

“I developed a trademark bosh”

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

My dad! He took me all around the UK for mini/junior, colts and county and then divisional rugby every week for over 12 years.

Do you have any nicknames?

Most of the lads call me “Rubberman” because I developed a trademark bosh with people bouncing off me, which has since been shortened to just “Rubber”.

Whats been your proudest moment playing rugby in the Middle East?

I haven’t played that much rugby here (3 joint recons on top of 3 previous ones) but personally this season playing 15s in the UAE Community League for the first time in 10 years and beating two very good Dragons and Harlequins teams in the league and playoffs and feeling like I can still contribute to the team. From a club perspective seeing the Warriors team I nurtured for 8 years finally win Dubai 7s in 2017 after 2 previous final losses.

Who does the cooking at home?

That would be either Deliveroo or my housekeeper!

Do you have any hidden talents?

I don’t have many, but I know my electronic music pretty well and I have 100 x DJ mixes in iTunes (Rubber Stamped).

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

I last ordered a Taqado Steak Burrito.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Definitely 90’s rave tunes.

What’s the daftest thing you’ve ever bought that just collected dust?

I once bought a music production keyboard in 2009 when I started playing sport again. That was 2500AED down the drain!

Who’s the best dancer in the Barrelhouse squad?

Hempies, there’s no doubt! He’s a light footed winger on the pitch and a complete groover on the dance floor. You will only find me moving on the other side of the decks.

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

Sorry Pasha/Iceman it has to be PJ, he’s a 20+ tackles / 20+ carries a match kind of guy. He’s a beast with a rugby brain and can do it on and off the pitch and he’s a great tourist too.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

I’d love to have a sit down with Jason Leonard, Mickey Skinner and Bakkies Botha, but it would need to be a long lunch.

Who has the worst Dress sense in the squad?

Probably me although I have to say the Red Mist/Gus were seen sporting a terrible green number on our rugby tour.

Which team-mate would you most definitely not like to be stranded in the desert with?

Ha, that would have to be Steve Phoenix. While he would be incredible company during the day with his wonderful jokes and karaoke ballads, he’d no doubt be “lights out” by 8pm after a few too many Coconut Arracks.

How’s life in Dubai?

Well my beautiful now wife Sandy and I came here in 2008 as a couple, but we are blessed to have the delightful Sammy and Grace with number 3, a little sister on the way. The future of Barrelhouse is pink!

Tigers End Season With Huge Club Photo And Prize Giving

The Dubai Tigers Rugby Club officially closed their 2018/19 UAE Rugby campaign with a huge prize giving held at Dubai College. Over 600 players, parents and members were present at the event which saw prizes given out to all age groups of their club. It’s been the culmination of a huge season for the club which saw them lift the UAE Conference trophy for the second time in succession and earned them promotion to the UAE Premiership for next season.

Club Chairman Shane Thornton said;

“We had a fantastic prize giving this morning at Dubai college. We awarded players that have shown sportsmanship, improvement and players that are valuable to the team. We also acknowledged every Tiger’s player, girls and boys from under 4s upwards, that have given their all week in week out.”

Thornton went also paid tribute to the support that the club has had throughout the season saying;

“A big thank you to parents, coaches, managers, medics and our sponsors! We also said farewell to many players that have been with us for a few seasons that are leaving Dubai. What a year we had and we look forward to next season.”

tigers prize giving 2018 19

The Dubai Tigers RFC started life in 2013 with a small mini/junior section of only 40 players to now having over 300 playing members across its mini and youth, women’s & men’s senior rugby teams.

Lucian Jensen - Amblers Rugby Player

We have a Choosday Chat with Amblers outside centre, Lucian Jansen.


Age: 33
Born: Cape town, South africa
Club: Al Ain Amblers
Position: Outside centre or wing
Height: 180cm
Weight: 107kg

“We do have a few clowns in the team”

Do you have any nicknames?

Yes, I have two actually. One is “Hadji”, I was dubbed this name by my team mates back home because I was the only coloured, Indian looking rugby player in the team. Second one is Wakanda. I went on tour last year to Thailand and told my mate, Tito Asafo, every African looking person that walks past us I will do the Wakanda sign from the Black Panther movie and they will respond, which they did and the name just stuck. Half the team was doing ‘Wakanda forever’ throughout the tour.

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

My high school athletics coach, Thys Ruthven, got me in to rugby mainly because the under 16s school rugby team needed speed and I was the only one keen to do it. That was my first time playing this lovely sport and from then I’ve never looked back.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Braai, Smoking some Shisha, having a beer and spending time with family and friends, in that order :)

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

Wow, after being part of rugby for such a long time I haven’t given it much thought. I guess enjoying the finer things in life, smoking shisha and occasionally playing FIFA.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can make a mean sponge cake or so I’ve been told.

Who’s the best dancer in the Amblers squad?

It has to be Tom “Run it straight” Hanks (Not the movie star!!).

Who do you listen to to get pumped for a match?

Baby shark, doo doo hahaha, just kidding. I listen to an American football motivational speech by Coach Flowers called “I am a champion”.

Who are the jokers at the Amblers?

We do have a few clowns in the team. To name a few I have to say definitely Alaa Samman, FC Holdt and I count myself too.

What are the best things about being part of Amblers RFC?

The brotherhood on and off the field, the culture and ethos of the Amblers team, oh also not forgetting the bus rides when playing away games.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

That’s a no brainer, McDonalds because McDonalds is life!

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

They would probably be Ma’a Nonu and Richie McCaw because it would be awesome to have dinner with those legends and Trevor Noah to add some comic entertainment.

Which opposition do you look forward to playing against the most?

I would have to say Harlequins, always a tough battle on the field.

Who has the worst Dress sense in the squad?

Sean Emmit “Gimmly”, our very own leprechaun ;) He is going to kill me.

Hows life in Al Ain?

Al Ain is good, been here about 2 years and loving it so far. Definitely an easy going life style. It’s an amazing place for my family.

We’ve compiled all of this year’s Premiership Rugby stats to show club performances throughout the 2018/19 season.

Next season the UAE Rugby Premiership will be boosted by the inclusion of the Dubai Tigers. This comes off the back of two consecutive Conference championship winning seasons for the ‘red and whites’ as they earn their place in the top tier of Gulf rugby.

In its short time of existence (founded in 2013), the Dubai Tigers Rugby Club has gone from strength to strength, starting with a small Junior rugby section of 40 players to today where it boasts over 300 playing members across its Junior, Women’s and Men’s senior squads. The Tigers once again confirmed their status as champions two weeks ago when they beat a spirited Al Ain Amblers side to lift the UAE Conference trophy after a dominant unbeaten 2018/19 rugby season.

shane thornton tigers chairman dubai

Club Chairman and founder, Shane Thornton said;

The promotion to the Premiership means a lot to our club. All players that have been with us for the past 5 years have got us to this point. We’re all really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

The Dubai Tigers will join current Premiership teams – Dragons, Eagles, Exiles, Harlequins and Hurricanes and will also see their 2nd XV team rise from the UAE Community league to the UAE Conference League.

uae national rugby squad announcement 2019

Perelini Announces His 27 Man UAE Rugby Squad Ahead Of Thailand Championships In May

High Performance Manager and Coach of the UAE National Rugby team Apollo Perelini has announced his squad to train for this years Division 2 Asia Rugby Championships which will be held in Bangkok, Thailand. The UAE Squad will play their first game on the 15th May against Guam at the multi-purpose Chalerm Phrakiat Bang Bon Stadium in Bangkok. Other opponents in their Division 2 Pool table will be Thailand and Kazakhstan, with the final being played on the 18th May.

Perelini announced his 27 man squad to the players on the eve of the UAE Premiership Final which saw the Abu Dhabi Harlequins regain their crown as Champions of UAE Rugby 2019. The UAE Rugby squad includes 8 players from Harlequins, 7 players from Exiles, 3 from Hurricanes, 3 from Eagles, 3 from Shaheen and 3 players from Dragons.  Training sessions will happen over the coming weeks in preparation for the departure to Thailand on the 12th May.

stephen ferguson uae rugby player

Dubai Exiles lock forward Stephen Ferguson will be looking to make his UAE National team debut having just missed out last year due to the residency threshold. Ferguson said,

“To be selected in the UAE squad has been an absolute dream. I came here over 3 years ago to play rugby for the Dubai Exiles under Coach Jaques Benade and it never entered my mind that I’d still be here now and in the UAE National XV squad. The standard of the players in the squad list is unreal and it’s getting better every year. There’s still lots of hard work to do over the coming 6 weeks to put a claim in to get in the tour squad. And it’s one you really have to relish. I’m really pleased to be selected and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. Time to knuckle down and put in some hard yards.”



  • Emosi Vecanua (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Andrew Powell (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Sakiusa Naisau (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Niko Volavola (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Kini Natuna (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Matthew Richards (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Thinus Steyn (Dubai Exiles)
  • Sean Carey (Dubai Eagles)
  • Edward Armitage (Dubai Exiles)
  • Majid Al Balooshi (Dubai Shaheen)
  • Mohamed Suleiman (Dubai Shaheen)


  • Chris Jones-Griffiths (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles)
  • Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Gio Fourie (Dubai Exiles)
  • Ahmed Moosa (Dubai Shaheen)
  • Daniel Perry (Jebel Ali Dragons)
  • Isaac Porter (Dubai Eagles)
  • Esekaia Dranibota (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Mohamed Hassan (Dubai Eagles)
  • Matt Mills (Dubai Exiles)
  • Sean Stevens (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
  • Jaen Botes (Dubai Exiles)
  • Hamish Anderson (Dubai Hurricanes)
  • Stephen Ferguson (Dubai Exiles)

abu dhabi harlequins premiership rugby champions 2018/19

Harlequins regain UAE Premiership Title

Abu Dhabi Harlequins regain the UAE Premiership Title as they overcame a fired up Jebel Ali Dragons side from Dubai. It was a similar result to the 2017/18 UAE Premiership Final where Harlequins defeated the Dragons in a year which saw them lift the trophy for the second time in the space of three seasons.

Dragons, pushed them all the way, keeping the scoreboard closely tied up to the final 10minutes at 27-27. The side from the capital won 37-27 at The Sevens to confirm their status as the number one side in UAE Rugby.

Final score 37-27 to the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Highlights of the UAE Premiership Final 2018/19

You can watch highlights of the match by clicking the video above.

dubai tigers conference rugby champions 2018/19

Tigers Crowned 2018/19 UAE Conference Champions

In what has been the culmination of an unbeaten season for the Dubai Tigers, they managed to sweep aside a spirited Al Ain Amblers team in this years UAE Conference Final to be crowned 2018/19 Champions for the second time in back to back seasons. It was this time last year that they won a dramatic Conference final with an extra time golden try against Sharjah Wanderers.

Amblers started strong but with relentless attacking force of the Tigers they couldn’t hold on to what had been in large a very close fought contest at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai.

Final score 37-21 to the Dubai Tigers.

Highlights of the UAE Conference Final 2018/19

You can watch highlights of the match by clicking the video above.

The domestic season draws to a close this weekend with the now traditional end of season UAE Finals day which will see champions crowned in both the UAE Premiership and Conference. The action takes place at The Sevens this year, having previously been held at Dubai Sports City with events getting underway with an exhibition Veterans match at 13:00. As ever Yalla Rugby will be your place to go for updates on the season’s climax, if we witness anything like the dramatic conclusion to the West Asia Premiership final out in Bahrain, UAE rugby fans will be in for a treat.

uae premiership rugby final 2019

UAE Premiership Final

UAE Premiership Final – Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Jebel Ali Dragons (KO 16:00)
Semi Finals:
Abu Dhabi Harlequins 43-27 Dubai Hurricanes;
Dubai Exiles 24-28 Jebel Ali Dragons

With this year’s West Asia Rugby crown having been claimed by Bahrain, for the big names of UAE Rugby, this year’s UAE Premiership carries extra significance as the remaining chance for major silverware. The Dragons sprang something of a surprise in seeing off Exiles, runners up in the West Asia Final to qualify for this showpiece against an Abu Dhabi side who finished 17pts clear at the top of the UAE regular season standings and must go in as favourites. The capital city outfit also won all three of the regular season meetings between the two, although there were only four points difference in the most recent clash at Jebel Ali. Having claimed a historic ‘quintuple’ of domestic trophies in 2017, Quins have surprisingly not won a major final since then, falling to lacklustre defeats at both this year’s Dubai Sevens and last year’s UAE Premiership. This weekend looks an opportunity to reclaim their position as the top side in the country but will be wary of a Dragons side who will relish the opportunity to express themselves on the big stage.

uae rugby conference final 2019

UAE Conference Final

UAE Conference Final – Dubai Tigers v Al Ain Amblers (KO: 14:00)
Semi Finals:
Dubai Tigers 57-17 Jebel Ali Dragons 2s,
Dubai Hurricanes 2s 22-31 Al Ain Amblers

Reigning champions Tigers have swept all before them this year and this final will not only put their Conference title, but also the prospect of an unbeaten season on the line. The last time Tigers failed to win a game in 80mins was indeed in last season’s final, where a draw with Sharjah Wanderers was settled by an extra time golden try. Can Al Ain push them all the way here? The formbook suggests that they have every chance. The most recent meeting between the sides went Tigers’ way by a narrow three point margin, and they have the confidence of coming through what were a series of cup-finals of their own just to qualify for the knockouts ahead of Abu Dhabi Saracens. Two straight hard fought wins over a strong Dubai Hurricanes 2s team will ensure they go in battle hardened and Tigers must be wary of complacency if they are to end what has been a remarkable season with the trophy they will feel they deserve.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Bahrain Rugby Club 2019

It is often said that Rugby is a game of fine margins, and no one will better attest to that than those who witnessed the heart-stopping finale of this year’s West Asia Premiership in Bahrain. The home side ran out 23-21 winners, yet for a fleeting moment, it was the Dubai Exiles celebrating victory as Durand Gerber’s last gasp 50m penalty sailed straight and true towards the uprights. A cluster of red shirts under the posts frantically indicated that the kick had fallen just short, and time stood still until, after consultation with his assistants, the UAERF Referee – Tony Duminy confirmed their verdict. Cue pandemonium in the stands and enormous relief for a Bahrain side who had looked to be cruising towards the title just moments earlier.

Leon Mauer’s penalty with just ten minutes on the clock had restored a 10 point cushion for the home team who had led 17-6 at half time and came into this fixture undefeated since falling to Exiles at The Sevens in October. Exiles though, having hung in there for large periods of the encounter played out in-front of a partisan Bahrain crowd began to take control of the tight exchanges as Bahrain seemingly caught the jitters.

Durandt Gerber Dubai Exiles fly half

First a scrum penalty with just 4 mins on the clock was converted by Gerber to reduce the arrears to one converted score. Then after a series of further infringements at the breakdown helped the visitors gain field position, they worked an opening on the right flank for winger Stubbs to score with what would have been the last play of the game. With tensions boiling over ahead of the prospect of extra time, Bahrain were adjudged to be the guilty party in instigating an off the ball altercation meaning that Exiles would restart with a penalty on half way and a chance to win the game outright with the final kick, even after the touchline conversion drifted wide.

The thrilling climax had looked unlikely for much of the game, Bahrain having taken an early lead through a converted score by centre Jack Phillips. A second Phillips score from a perfectly executed set piece move and the boot of Ross Preedy had at one stage built up a 20-6 advantage before a much improved second half showing from Exiles nearly culminated in the most dramatic of smash and grab raids.

As impressive as Exiles’ comeback was on the day, few can begrudge Bahrain their slice of luck in holding on at the death. They have been the outstanding team in this year’s West Asia Premiership competition by some way and hosted a fitting showpiece occasion for the final – which can be relived in full courtesy of Bahrain’s facebook live video.

Article By: Huw Harrow

west asia premiership gulf rugby final 2019

Bahrain v Dubai Exiles (KO: 17:00 UTC+3, Saar, Bahrain)

After 47 fixtures and over 2,500 points scored, this season’s West Asia Premiership reaches its climax on Friday with a grand final to decide the 2019 Champions. Here’s what you need to know.

When and where is it on?

The final will be hosted by Bahrain at their home ground in Saar. Having gone into the end of season playoffs as number one seeds, they earn the right to stage the final at home in front of the so-called ‘red wall’ of support. The event promises a carnival atmosphere with live music and kids entertainment, entry is free for club members and BAR2 for guests. Kick-off is scheduled for 17:00 but if you can’t make it to the game in person, Bahrain are planning to run a live stream via the club’s facebook page.

How did they get there?

Finishing first and third respectively after 15 rounds of regular season games, saw both sides through to last weekend’s semi-finals. Top seeds Bahrain benefitted from home advantage, cruising to a 56-7 win over reigning champions Jebel Ali Dragons. Exiles faced a tougher assignment, away to Abu Dhabi Harlequins side who had finished 13pts above them in the final league standings, coming away with an upset 31-16 win.

What does the formbook say?

It would be difficult to argue against Bahrain going into the final as favourites. Any away fixture in Saar is a tough assignment for sides having to take the morning flight across the Arabian Gulf – let alone in a season where Bahrain have been beaten only once in the XVs format. Intriguingly however, the only side to have got the better of them this season, is in fact the Exiles, in a 31-20 win back in October at The Sevens. The recent return fixture saw a Bahrain win by an identical margin of 11pts. So in head to head fixtures there is nothing to choose between the two and Exiles will fancy themselves as the side to halt the Bahrain juggernaut at the final hurdle.

Adam Wallace Bahrain RFC captain

Bahrain Captain: Adam Wallace

Bahrain Captain Adam Wallace is relishing the upcoming match against Exiles. He said;

“Winning the title at home would mean everything to us. As a squad we talk a lot about giving back to the club and being able to repay their support with knockout games and title playoffs is massive for us. We have a fantastic fanbase at the club and that’s seen every week in the size of our crowd and we know that without that we wouldn’t be where we are today. As the only club on the island we get huge support from everyone. The club itself will benefit massively on the day, but if this had been an away game you would have seen an entire crowd of redshirts making their way over to the UAE this weekend and I think that’s rare out here. We’re expecting a big turnout this weekend and the #redwall will be out in force.”

“There have been some issues with the league structure over the past couple of seasons and we are well aware that we are the only team outside of the UAE since Doha’s exclusion. Winning the title this weekend will hopefully cement the idea that inter-gulf rugby must continue if you want to have the most competitive league and continue to develop the sport in the region.”

The Lineups

Bahrain: TBC
Dubai Exiles: TBC

Article By: Huw Harrow

Gulf Rugby Roundup Week 16

A look back at the final round of regular season action in the top two leagues, and our first taste of knockout rugby in both the Premiership and Community leagues.

Jump right in…

Al Ain Amblers RFC

Team of the Week – Al Ain Amblers 1s

One of this most intriguing storylines to evolve from this season has been the rivalry between Al Ain Amblers and Abu Dhabi Saracens as both looked to secure the second Pool B semi-final slot, behind the dominant Dubai Tigers. An impressive 34-22 away win at Hurricanes 2s sealed qualification for the Amblers and indeed second place in the combined league table having lost only three matches this year (two coming against Tigers). They must now repeat the trick in the semi finals as, despite a larger points haul, Canes will enjoy home advantage due to the fact they were top of Pool A.

Bahrain will face Exiles in this years final

West Asia Premiership

Bahrain and Dubai Exiles will contest the final next week in Bahrain after both winning their semi finals this weekend. Bahrain will go in as favourites, having topped the league rankings they underlined their pedigree in crushing Jebel Ali Dragons 56-7. Exiles upset Abu Dhabi Harlequins 31-16 at Zayed Sports City to earn their place in the showpiece. The season will then culminate with the UAE Premiership semi finals offering Quins, Exiles, Dragons and Hurricanes (who missed out on the West Asia knockouts) another chance for silverware at finals day.


Amblers RFC


The aforementioned Amblers were the big winners of the weekend in claiming the only playoff spot left up for grabs. Abu Dhabi Saracens benefitted from a forfeit by Exiles 2s to also gain a 5pt win, but Amblers superior point difference takes them through by the finest of margins. In the only dead-rubber match to go ahead, Dragons 2s eased past Sharks 41-12.

UAE Conference Semi Final Line-up (March 22)
Dubai Hurricanes 2s (A1) v Al Ain Amblers (B2), Dubai Tigers (B1) v Jebel Ali Dragons 2s (A2)


Barrelhouse vs Dragons Cup Final


The semi final fixtures took place last weekend and as widely expected it will be Barrelhouse and Dragons 3s who meet to contest the honours on finals day. There was nearly a shock in the first semi final however, with Barrelhouse surprisingly pushed all the way by a Harlequins 3s side, perhaps benefitting from absence of a 2s fixture. In the end, Barrelhouse edged out a 19-15 win and will look to complete an unbeaten season by winning the final. Dragons’ qualification was somewhat more straightforward, overcoming a spirited RAK Rugby side 31-5.

UAE Community Final (March 8)
Barrelhouse v Jebel Ali Dragons 3s

Article by: Huw Harrow

Vote For Your West Asia Premiership Winner 2018
Below you can vote for who you think will win this years West Asia Premiership 2018/19. Simply click on an image to choose your winning team!

Please wait a second for the results calculate…

Kyle Bennie RAK rugby

We have a Choosday Chat with RAK Rugby‘s Fly Half, Kyle Bennie.


Age: 30
Born: Larkhall, Scotland
Club: RAK Rugby Club
Position: Fly Half
Height: 178cm
Weight: 93kg

“I’m pretty good on the triangle”

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

Two people really spring to mind; Firstly my big brother Mitchell, he got into rugby and was obsessed. We used to throw the ball about for hours trying to perfect passing off both hands and then move onto kicking with both feet, we also used to watch as many rugby games as possible! We even used to rent old international games which were recorded on VHS. Secondly, my old school teacher Mr Jon Kendry, a proper Welshman, he would push me to my limits in the majority of sports but helped me focus on my rugby and was one of the main reasons I stuck at it and didn’t go down the football route. Thank God!

Whats been your proudest moment playing rugby in the Middle East?

Being in the UAE on and off for over 20+ years has many great and proud moments, but to some it up in three selfish points, they would be;

  1. Representing the Arabian Gulf (Rugby Union) and UAE Falcons (Rugby League)
  2. Being part of a band of brothers who revived Sharjah Wanderers and a band of misfits who established Dubai Wasps
  3. Running out onto a field with my brother, few really close mates and a heap of different international players

Do you have any nicknames?

When I was younger and playing with the wrong shaped ball, I was nicknamed “Wee Barra” after a famous Rangers player but when I turned to the proper egg shaped ball I didn’t really have one. Everyone just referred to me as “Bennie” or “KB” until I joined the Lakes Legends many moons ago, unfortunately with bad hair doos and a few questionable dressed to impress moments at 7am for training – they refer to me as “Corey Jane” or “Corey”.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

I have four kids and a corporate job so I don’t have much spare time but when I do…. I like to spend it with the family out exploring and camping or playing golf or going out motorbiking in the dunes.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Ironically I asked the Mrs recently if she knew any of my hidden talents and she said YES! “Looking busy and achieving Sweet FA around the house!” Apart from that, some say I am pretty good on the triangle and not to shabby around the kitchen.

What was the last takeaway you ordered?

Easy – Eat and Drink, Charcoal Chicken, full service with mutton soup and extra fries. I’m not even ashamed.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Definitely flying. It would be easy to travel about and I’d never sit in another traffic jam again!!

What do you miss most about back home?

I miss the usual – the family, the fresh air of the countryside and the different seasons (usually within the same day in Scotland!) and reality! Sometimes being here, you get engulfed with living the expat lifestyle.

Who are the jokers at RAK Rugby?

Of late it would have to be Brian O’Discin (Disco) for his constant messing about and pulling some funny snide remarks out the bag and Dale Rooney, simply because he is a Northern lad and rugby league convert, bringing a completely different yet hilarious chat to the group.

If you could be one of your team-mates, who would it be and why?

It would be a mix between Tomas Young (Mossy) as on his day, he is a tackling machine and seems to be everywhere around the park or Kieran Dorgan as he is lighting and has a great kicking game from his Gaelic football background.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests?

Elvis Presley, I’m pretty sure he would have a few good stories to tell. Sir Richard Branson, business knowledge and his approach/views on life and one of my late grandparents, purely from a personal perspective on who, what, where, when, why and the old family stories.

Who has the worst Dress sense in the squad?

They are all contenders in their own right, but it would have to be Oisin MacPartlin for his horrendously bright training gear or Neil Jose Carleton with his “don’t give a s&%t attitude (Yes mate – green trainers, yellow socks, blue shorts and a red t-shirts does work! Looks spiffing).

What are the best things about being part of RAK Rugby?

Being part of an up and coming rugby club like RAK is great, there is excitement, growth potential and real belief! It does unfortunately have its down sides, like being so remote and purely relying on teacher retention and new recruits. If the Gaelic football is on the same weekend we play, then we loose 40% of our squad, but all in all the camaraderie is solid and everyone gets stuck in. There is a real family feel and we’re performing the best we have since reviving the club. I hope it can only move forward. Oh….cheap membership and free Dubai 7’s tickets too. (Bonus!)

How’s life in Ras Al Khaimah?

RAK is good. I have only been here 2 years but it reminds me of the “Good old Dubai days”. The community isn’t too big, so you can always see a familiar face or two around town. There is also lots on offer, more adventurous and outgoing opportunities as the mountains are in the back drop and there is a slight temperature difference.

gulf rugby

We look back over the past two weeks which saw final regular season games take place in the Community league two weeks ago, along with Premiership and Conference action this weekend.

Jump right in…

Barrelhouse Rugby Club - Team Of the Week Feb 2019

Team of the Week – Barrelhouse

We began the season back in Week one by picking out Barrelhouse as a team to watch this season after seeing them rack up 50 points on an impressive league debut. So it has proved as the season has progressed with the newcomers defeating Dragons 3s 32-31 in a thriller to finish top of the regular season standings in the Community league. They now go into the playoffs as top seeds and will be heavily favoured to get past Harlequins 3s for a place at Finals Day. An impressive effort for the club in their first season of competitive XVs.

Dubai hurricanes line out

West Asia Premiership

Little change in the standings this week as Hurricanes came close to recording a win away at Harlequins that would have lifted them back into the playoff places but fell agonisingly short in a 35-34 reverse at Zayed Sports City. Exiles recorded a comfortable victory over the Eagles, which guarantees their playoff spot.


abu dhabi saracens conference rugby


Three fixtures took place this weekend, with all being won by sides from Group B. Abu Dhabi Saracens and Al Ain Amblers continue to match each other in the quest for the final playoff spot both recording comfortable home bonus point wins over Hurricanes 2s and Eagles 2s respectively. Level on 46 points, it is Amblers superior points difference that gives them the edge at the moment, a bonus point win next week over Canes 2s should see them through but Sarries are poised to pounce on any slip up. Elsewhere Dubai Tigers 1s kept up their unbeaten run, grinding out a 31-17 victory away at Quins 2s.


barrelhouse vs dragons


This round of fixtures saw the final league standings and playoff fixtures decided. Barrelhouse edged Dragons 3s in the clash of the two unbeaten sides for top spot. A high scoring win for Tigers 2s away at Al Ain briefly put them in contention to gate-crash the top four, but both RAK Rugby and Harlequins 3s were able to get the job done in their respective fixtures to earn themselves a top four finish. RAK were pushed all the way by the Shaheen who will be pleased to have put 38 points on the board in their final fixture despite falling to defeat.

originallyit was looking like it was going to be a top four playoff in the Community League, but GRM have opened the league up to a knockout playoff between all teams. It does look as though they have been seeded so should make for an interesting few fixtures as below:

[Q1] Barrelhouse 1s vs Harlequins 3s
[Q2] Dragons 3s vs RAK 1s
[Q3] Amblers 2s vs Sharks 2s
[Q4] Tigers 2s vs Shaheen 1s

Article by: Huw Harrow