Heres the last Yalla Rugby roundup of 2017 and the fixture list for after the holiday season.
Team of the Week – Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2’s
Abu Dhabi Harlequins may have seen their stranglehold on UAE Rugby dented at the Dubai 7s but there can be no question that when it comes to strength in depth, they remain the country’s strongest club. On a weekend where their 1s were preoccupied it’s the small matter of the Abu Dhabi derby with Saracens and at a time of year which typically tests squad depth, their 2s were left with a potential banana skin assignment of an away trip to Al Ain Amblers. Al Ain despite a lowly league position are the top scoring side in the UAE Conference this year and competed in the premier ‘League’ tournament at the 7s. To come away with a 62-12 victory and restrict the Amblers to just two scores is no mean feat and sees Harlequins 2s deservedly top the conference table at the half way point. The only blemish on an otherwise unbeaten record for the second string Quins’ is a reverse to Exiles 2s, which they will be keen to avenge in the second half of the season as the league splits. That grudge match promises to be a cracker and whilst there is plenty of rugby to be played, few would bet against a third clash between the two outfits in the eventual Conference final.
It was business as usual at the top end of the Premiership with comfortable wins coming for the top two placed teams, Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins, both of whom will doubtless have been glad to get back on the field after disappointment at the 7s. Jebel Ali were indeed back at the Sevens Stadium taking on Dubai Hurricanes and their 30-13 win sees them top the table going in to the new year. Harlequins remain unbeaten having played a game less and swept aside winless city rivals Abu Dhabi Saracens 78-6. It has been a tough start to the season for Saracens both on and off the field, particularly in contrast to the success being enjoyed by their neighbours. The capital city deserves a meaningful rivalry so we can only hope for an upturn in fortunes for Sarries in the new year. Elsewhere in a West Asia fixture, Dubai Sports City Eagles fell to a 39-5 defeat to Bahrain who also put a disappointing 7s showing behind them to resume their impressive form in the 15s format.
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There were just two completed matches in the final round of Conference fixtures before the league splits to top and bottom half competitions. Harlequins 2s, already well assured of a top half berth, put an end to Al Ain’s hopes with their victory in the garden city. Dubai Tigers were assured of their place via a walkover with Arabian Knights unable to fulfill the fixture for a second time this season. Sharjah Wanderers also pulled out of their fixture with Exiles which is perhaps more surprising given their strong performances this year, which have also put them in the top half of the table. That left Dragons 2s and Hurricanes 2s vying for the final spot and despite a 47-25 win for Jebel Ali, bonus points leave Hurricanes one point ahead and in fifth spot. The Dragons will be left to contest the bottom half and will go in to that as likely favourites.