New Years Gulf Rugby Review – 2019
Gulf Rugby returns this weekend after the winter break. With plenty to be decided across all levels of the game – we outline the titles on offer at the business end of the season, and which rugby clubs stand to be in with a shot of each.
Jump right in…
West Asia Premiership
Up for grabs: Six rounds of fixtures remain with the top four teams then going into a playoff to see who will make it to the Final of the league and crowned West Asia Champions.
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In the Hunt: Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Harlequins
It might seem a little early to be calling this a two horse race, but the form showed by these two towards the end of 2018 would mean it would require a sizeable collapse if one of them is not to be lifting the West Asia Rugby title this season. While there are six rounds of fixtures to go and plenty of time for form to change, third place Exiles are already 14 points off the pace, which looks an insurmountable gap. As such, the January 18th clash between Quins and leaders Bahrain at Zayed Sports City has ‘title decider’ written all over it.
Up for grabs: Fixtures not including Bahrain also count towards UAE Premiership standings, with the top four sides facing off in playoff to determine who plays on finals day.
In the Hunt: Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Exiles, Jebel Ali Dragons
Luckily for the rest of the teams in the top flight there is still plenty to play for in the form of the UAE Premiership. With Bahrain out of the picture, Quins 14 point advantage over second placed Hurricanes gives them one foot in the final but the remaining place is very much up for grabs. Only four points separate Hurricanes, Dragons and last season’s winners, Exiles so fixtures between these sides will carry extra edge in the season’s closing weeks.
Up for grabs: The two best 1s and 2s sides respectively will qualify for semis and a chance to make it to finals day.
In the Hunt: Dubai Tigers, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Al Ain Amblers, Hurricanes 2s, Dragons 2s
Conference sides find a shake up with their remaining fixture list with sides playing each other across the ‘1s Group’ and the ‘2s Group’. Semi-finalists will still consist of the top two from each respective group however. Amongst the 1s, defending champions Dubai Tigers remain unbeaten in this campaign and look set to make the knockouts with Abu Dhabi Saracens and Al Ain Amblers battling it out for the second spot. Hurricanes and Dragons 2s have broken clear in the 2s standings with Harlequins a further 13 points back so look unlikely to contest the knockouts.
Up for grabs: At the moment, the top two teams are playing for a place at finals day, but there is still talk of a possible playoff between the top four teams.
In the Hunt: Barrelhouse, Dragons 3s, RAK, Harlequins 3s
At the halfway point, two sides remain unbeaten, last year’s runners up Dragons 3s and the newcomers Barrelhouse. The two sides meet on February 8th in what could be a final dress rehearsal, but RAK and Quins 3s have a shot at breaking into the top two if they can pull off an upset in coming games. With teams only having 3 or 4 games remaining, each fixture is crucial for those competing at the top end.
UAE Womens Sevens Series
Up for grabs: Four additional one-day tournaments with results from each going towards deciding the cumulative Sevens League Champions.
In the Hunt: DSC Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes
Eagles Ladies remain unbeaten this season and boast a 6pt cushion at the top of the standings having come out on top in all three tournaments thus far as well as claiming back to back Dubai 7s crowns. It would take a brave person to bet against further dominance from the girls in green, but if any side is likely to break the stranglehold, Hurricanes look the most likely. They have finished runner up in each round so far and also took the Eagles to extra time in a dramatic Dubai 7s semi-final, so will be looking for a change of fortune in the coming weeks.
Article by: Huw Harrow