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UAE Rugby Club of The Year

And the winner of the 2019 Club of the Year is…

Your votes have been counted and we can finally announce who is your 2019, Yalla Rugby ‘Club of The Year’. Congratulations to all four teams who made it to this year’s nominations. It’s been a close contest and we’ve had plenty of players, fans and friends of each of the clubs casting their vote since we announced the nominations of Club of The year last week.

It’s with great pleasure that we can announce the winner of the 2019 Yalla Rugby ‘Club of The Year’ is…

Dragons RFC - 2019 Club of The Year

Dragon’s chairman, Stuart Quinn’s response to winning the award was;

“It’s great to have been voted for and to take home ‘Team of The Year’. The Jebel Ali Dragons is a club for all people and I think we tick all of the boxes when it comes to Expat Rugby. It’s a family first setup, a huge support network for people and a fantastic rugby club to be involved in. Honours were spread around the clubs this year, which is great to see. From 1st XV to 2nd XV to 3rd XV to Vets, to Mini/Youth. I think the current Dragons setup is how it should be done to maximize enjoyment. With a team across all three leagues in a semi final or above is always a great barometer for how we sit as a rugby club in the Gulf. We’re looking forward to growing next year again.”

Poll Results

Congratulations to the Dragons on behalf Yalla Rugby!!

gulf rugby club of the year 2019

It’s been a long old season again with plenty of quality rugby played at all levels of the game from mini/junior and women’s rugby, right the way through to the senior men. We’ve now been in the ‘off season’ for just over a month and many of you are already climbing the wall with the rugby withdrawal symptoms.

Fear not, because before you all get stuck into pre-season training again, there’s still one final chapter of this season to be written for one rugby club. It’s time to decide who is the Yalla Rugby Club of the Year 2019. Last year RAK Rugby Club won the inaugural award after some fierce voting from fans from all parts the globe, (which managed to crash the Yalla website for a short while).

Jump right in:

So, about the award…

What is the Yalla Rugby Club of the Year award?

Within most rugby clubs there’s always end of season awards that are handed out, which is fantastic for players and members of the clubs. BUT, we like to celebrate Gulf Rugby as a whole with some of the most outstanding achievements to have taken place throughout the season. You – the readers and followers of Yalla Rugby, can vote for the rugby club that you think deserves to win this year.

How can a club be shortlisted?

We select four clubs from all areas of rugby which we feel have contributed and succeeded the most throughout the season and let you, the public decide who should win by casting your vote. Nominations are based on success at all levels of the game as well as contributions to the broader rugby community.

  • Mens Rugby
  • Womens Rugby
  • Mini/Junior Rugby
  • Community Involvement

The four nominees are then pitted against each other and put to a vote to see who is worthy winner of this prestigious award.

Who’s been nominated for the 2018/19 award?

The nominated rugby clubs are listed below. Commiserations to the rugby clubs that have not made this years nominations. It was a hard decision between a couple of other very worthy contenders. Voting is now open and will close at 22:00 on the 25th June 2019:

This poll has ended. To view the results click below

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

UAE play Thailand rugby Asia rugby cup

UAE Thrash Guam in the Semi Final of Asia Rugby Championship

The UAE International rugby side have their sites firmly set on a return to Division One of Asia Rugby, having plowed their way past Guam in a first of two fixtures in Thailand, beating them in convincing style 82-7. To gain automatic promotion to Division One, they will need to beat Thailand on Saturday 18th May in the Cup Final of the Division Two Championship.

With a reformed side, built up of UAE Premiership rugby clubs, Eagles, Exiles, Dragons, Harlequins and Hurricanes, head coach Apollo Perelini will be looking to climb the ranks of World Rugby.

Ranked 70th in the World Rugby leaderboard, the UAE played 69th place – Guam in the semi final in Hua Hin, on Wednesday and put a flurry of points past them with Dubai Exiles backrow Jaen Botes and Dubai Hurricanes centre Sakiusa Naisau both getting their a hat-trick of tries.

Tries: Jaen Botes (4), Sakiusa Naisau (3), Kini Natuna (2), Hamish Anderson, Ed Armitage, Matt Richards.

Conversions: Luke Stevenson (11)

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

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.

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

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…

Gulf Rugby - Round 13

The thirteenth Friday of this Gulf Rugby season – would it be unlucky for some?

Jump right in…

jebel ali dragons 3rd xv

Team of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 3s

Just one of three men’s sides to hold an unbeaten record at this stage in the season, Dragons 3s overcame a potentially tricky assignment away to RAK Rugby Club this weekend. In a game played at the Sevens against the side one position below them in the table, the Dragons put on an accomplished display, in a convincing 55-12 win. Given their superior point difference (though forfeited games have some impact here) this was enough to propel them to the top of the Community league ahead of also unbeaten Barrelhouse.

harlequins vs eagles

West Asia Premiership

Business as usual for runaway leaders Bahrain who recorded their twelfth win of the season, 21-10 at home to Dubai Exiles. Considering the run of form they have been on, failing to record the bonus point may be something of a frustration as it actually sees Abu Dhabi Harlequins narrow the gap at the top ever so slightly thanks to their bonus point away to Dubai Eagles. Eagles themselves took a bonus point out of the encounter, racking up over 30 points and continue to display signs of improvement. With two games to go of the season they will be desperate to secure the win their performances recently have deserved. Elsewhere Jebel Ali Dragons moved ahead of Dubai Hurricanes, and crucially into the final playoff spot, edging out their city rivals 17-10.


dubai hurricanes 2nd xv


We now more or less know three of the four teams who will contest the end of season conference playoffs with just two rounds of regular season fixtures to go. In Group A, Hurricanes’ crushing win over Dubai Sharks should see them top the group and with both Dragons and Quins 2s losing, the gap between the two remains at eight points in favour of the Dragons, which should be enough to give them second. Dubai Tigers are clear at the top of Group B, beating Dragons 2s 48-19 to maintain their unbeaten record this weekend. It will go down to the wire between Al Ain Amblers and Abu Dhabi Saracens to claim second spot, both of whom had good wins this weekend, for Saracens a particularly satisfactory 46-17 triumph over Harlequins 2s in the Abu Dhabi derby. Eagles 2s recorded their second win of the season, beating the Arabian Knights 29-22 in a hard fought contest that saw the Knights pick up 2 bonus points in the game but are still yet to see victory this season.


uae community rugby


The aforementioned RAK-Dragons fixture was the only match to take place this week, but some interesting off field news, in that indications are that the Community league will introduce playoffs for the top four this season, as opposed to the top two going straight to finals day. Unbeaten Barrelhouse and Dragons 3s are already guaranteed a home draw, but who will face them is up for grabs on the final round of fixtures next week. Should either RAK or Quins 3s slip up then Tigers 2s can overtake them if they can come away with a bonus point win from Al Ain.

Article by: Huw Harrow

gulf rugby roundup

This week’s Gulf rugby roundup, from our resident wordsmith – Huw Harrow.

Jump right in…

Dragons 2s - Team of The Week

Team of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 2s

Results might not be going the way of Jebel Ali’s 1s outfit as they look to defend their West Asia Premiership crown, but there is clearly significant strength in depth at the club with their 2s and 3s boasting a record for P9 W9 across the Conference and Community divisions. At 2s level the start to the season has been particularly impressive, racking up six wins on the bounce (five with a bonus point) and continued their winning ways this weekend comfortably seeing off Harlequins 2s 36-12 in what looked a banana skin fixture away at Zayed Sports City. Six points clear at the top of their group, the performances of this second string may bring about some interesting selection discussions for Mike Phillips in weeks to come.

eagles vs bahrain

West Asia Premiership

We wrote last week that there is clearly a good bit of momentum building in Bahrain this season and a crushing 88-7 win over Dubai Eagles this weekend will have done little to stop that. Yes the Eagles may be without a win so far this season, but they have not been blown away to that extent in any of their fixtures, especially not at home. Given the emphatic nature of that result it was key for Abu Dhabi Harlequins to respond and keep up in the title hunt, which they did via a convincing 38-20 home win over Jebel Ali Dragons. That defeat sees Dragons slip to second bottom in the table after Dubai Hurricanes produced another impressive result to overcome Dubai Exiles at the Sevens and find themselves in the lofty position of third as a result. Exiles have now lost three in a row after a promising start and face a daunting trip away to Bahrain next weekend.

tigers rugby


All things pretty much went to form in the Conference fixtures although there were a couple of nail biters with Dubai Tigers and Hurricanes 2s being pushed all the way. Canes held on for a 36-34 win to complete a double for the club over Exiles this weekend while reigning champions Tigers keep finding a way to win this season, edging out Abu Dhabi Saracens by a single late score at Al Ghazal. There were more routine victories for Al Ain Amblers in a typically high scoring encounter with Dubai Sharks and Dragons 2s away at Harlequins.

barrelhouse rugby players


Barrelhouse remain unbeaten after another convincing win over Amblers 2s but the plaudits must go to Tigers 2s for their first competitive win (excluding forfeits), 17-12 over last season’s champions Harlequins 3s. Otherwise it was a quiet weekend of Community rugby due to to the fixture between RAK and Dragons being postponed and the Shaheen forfeiting their game against Sharks 2s.

DSC Eagles ladies Rugby

Womens Sevens Series

It was business as usual in week three of the Women’s Sevens League as DSC Eagles took home their third straight win and still remain unbeaten. They don’t seem to be showing much sign of slowing down either, recording 192 points across their fixtures this weekend, the highest total of any round so far. Dubai Hurricanes and Al Ain Amblers once again provided the closest challenge finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively at the tournament hosted in Al Ain. Judging by the after party photos, the Amblers ladies certainly know how to throw an event – we’ll be hoping to join them when they next host the Womens Sevens Series.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Alex Lee from Jebel Ali Dragons RFC

Jebel Ali Dragons Scrum Half Alex Lee talks dislocations, potato sack fashion and life with the Dragons in Dubai


Age: 31
Born: Hong Kong (But I’m not Chinese despite my last name!!!)
Club: Jebel Ali Dragons
Position: Scrum Half
Height: 178cm… Down hill, with the wind behind me.
Weight: 83kg

“The club and all the boys in it have absolutely helped me. Whether they know it or not!”

Do you have any nicknames?

Just Al. Short for Alex but also because it’s my initials.

What do you get up to in your spare time?

Gym, paddle boarding, drink coffee, people watching, McGettigans, Barasti, Rock Bottoms and Netflix. I’ve just finished ‘The Sinner’ the other day. Although Jessica Biel is easy on the eye it’s pretty disturbing. Good though!

Do you have any phobias?

Seeing joint dislocations usually makes me feel sick.

What do you miss most about England?

Even after 5 years there’s something not right about going to work on a Sunday. I miss a good roast and a pint in a decent pub!

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

Jimmy Saville. Jim’ll fix it and get us out.

Who or what inspired you to play rugby?

I can’t remember initially but watching the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Mike Catt, Martin Johnson and a young Jonny Wilkinson etc back in 1998 definitely inspired me. I remember going down to Twickenham that year, which is a long way from Fleetwood, to watch England v Australia and remember the atmosphere being unreal.

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

Paul Hart. He’s an absolute stalwart, evergreen. He tried to retire this season but he’s just done 80mins in the front row for the 1s XV last weekend. Massive shout out to his wife for letting us have him back!

Who has the worst Dress sense?

Probably our Chairman, Quinney. Despite the constant abuse he likes to regularly don a t-shirt that can only be described as a potato sack. Although saying that there was a pair of purple loafers left at training one night but no one claimed them funnily enough.

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

Usually something chilled like Ben Howard in the car on the way, then Artic Monkey’s in the changing rooms.

Who’s the tightest?

I’ve been told by Matty Henry’s girlfriend he’s pretty tight…

How’s life in Dubai?

People have this preconception of Dubai being very extravagant etc but it’s very much what you make of it. Expat rugby attracts people from so many different backgrounds that you may not otherwise meet out here and our club is very much a family, as cliche as that sounds. So being part of the Dragons makes life out here good. I also work with the UAE Military so this has taken me all over the UAE. Places that people otherwise wouldn’t go to and meeting some very interesting people.

What was the last brunch you went on?

Wanderlust. We’d just lost to ‘Canes the night before so needed to forget that!

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yeh rugby. I’m actually really good but keep it really well hidden.

What are the best things about Dragons?

As I mentioned before about us being a mix of people from different backgrounds, it has to be the people. Otherwise there’s no club. We have a great culture that has definitely evolved over the 5 seasons I’ve been involved.

Being an expat can be tough at times and when life throws some pretty sh*t things at you, it can be even harder. There’s a big awareness of mental health at the minute which I think is great, and I can honestly say that when I lost everything back home, the club and all the boys in it have absolutely helped me. Whether they know it or not. Having a culture that is inclusive of life off the pitch is so important and we’ve got that in abundance. You can guarantee there’s always buy-in whether it’s conditioning work in pre season or a Christmas brunch. There’s a lot of new faces this season and they have definitely become a great part of that. The kit Tsunami provide for us is pretty cool as well! Stops Quinney wearing his potato top for a day anyway!

Mr Lee… it’s been an absolute pleasure. [YR]

gulf rugby season preview 2018

2018/19 Gulf Rugby Season Preview

The start of the 2018/19 Gulf Rugby season is now upon us and with pre-season in full swing at most of the nation’s rugby clubs, it’s time to look ahead at the action in store for us and see how all of the domestic league competitions are shaping up. The summer has not been without its usual period of change as clubs come to terms with the usual spate of player arrivals and departures. Here’s what we know about how things will line up this season.

Jump Right In

UAE/West Asia Premiership

West Asia Premiership season 2018-19

UAE Premiership season 2018-19

Holders: Jebel Ali Dragons (West Asia) and Dubai Exiles (UAE)

Format: A straight league set up with all sides playing each other home and away over three rounds (Home, Away, Home). The champions of the West Asia Premiership will be decided between the top four teams after all league rounds are complete via playoff semi finals and final. Likewise, the top four UAE based outfits (discarding results against Bahrain) will have a semi final playoff to see who will play on finals day for the right to be crowned UAE Premiership Champions.

Ins and Outs: After a difficult season which saw them finish bottom of the pile with only one win, Abu Dhabi Saracens have decided to be relegated to the Conference league this year as they embark on a rebuilding phase.

UAE/West Asia Premiership Teams

Bahrain, Dragons, Eagles, Exiles, Harlequins Hurricanes

UAE Conference

UAE conference season preview 2018-19

Holders: Dubai Tigers

Format: Pay attention because things are about to get a little complicated in the second tier of Gulf rugby!

The ten UAE Conference sides have been split into two groups who will each play home and away fixtures during the first half of the season. Group A are formed of all UAE Premiership represented clubs and Group B are all other UAE rugby clubs. They will all fall under one league table this year with no split league as seen in previous years.

Part two of the season will see the sides face opposition from outside their group but only once. Points earned are added to their initial group totals. The season then culminates with the top two sides from each group entering the knockout stages with the Conference final scheduled for the end of March 2019.

UAE Conference Teams

Group A:
Harlequins 2s, Eagles 2s, Exiles 2s, Hurricanes 2s, Dragons 2s

Group B:
Amblers, Saracens, Knights, Sharks, Tigers

Ins and Outs: The Conference league was dealt a blow this week with the withdrawal of last season’s runners up and one of the UAE’s oldest rugby clubs, Sharjah Wanderers, citing lack of numbers. They will be replaced by the Dubai Eagles 2s who played their first season of Community rugby last year. Abu Dhabi Saracens 1s have dropped down from the UAE and will only field one team this season.

UAE Community

UAE Community season preview 2018-19

Holders: Abu Dhabi Harlequins 3s

Format: An initial league stage with each side playing each other once, aiming to secure a top two finish and a place at finals day where the champions will be decided.

Ins and Outs: Unsurprisingly for a league that fluctuated in size over the course of last season, the UAE Community rugby competition has seen its fair share of off-season activity. Barrelhouse, a club that is well established on the 7s circuit, make a welcome league debut whilst the Shaheen have also signalled an intent to return to the competition this year. Dubai Tigers’ expanding squad size sees them enter a 2s team for the first time. The Dubai Hurricanes will not field a 3rd team this year so will not participate in Community rugby. Disappointment comes in the shape of the Beaver Nomads, traditionally a team to beat at Community level, being forced to withdraw from this year’s competition.

UAE Community Teams

Amblers 2s, Barrelhouse 1s, Dragons 3s, Harlequins 3s, RAK 1s, Shaheen 1s, Sharks 2s, Tigers 2s

uae womens rugby season preview 2018

Womens Rugby

Holders: Dubai Eagles

Format: We’ll be doing a dedicated Womens Rugby article closer to their first set of fixtures (5th October), but to give you an idea of what to expect this season, there will be eight rounds of rugby where we’ll see Sevens rugby played at Harlequins, Hurricanes, Amblers, Saracens, Sharjah, Tigers and finally Eagles.

This season, there will be an invitational 15-a-side match held on finals day at The Sevens Stadium, alongside the other mens rugby Premiership, Conference and Community league finals which will be held on the 29th March 2019 which should bring the close to the season to an exciting climax this year with all levels featured on the final day.

uae mini youth rugby season preview 2018

Mini & Junior Rugby

This season we will hopefully see the Mini and Youth Rugby results and league tables featured for the first time on the website. We’re really looking forward to bringing you as much of the rugby action as possible here in the Middle East, so be sure to check back on a weekly basis.

Article by: Huw Harrow

Jebel Ali Dragons have announced that Mike Phillips will be the new Director of Rugby for the 2018/19 season

Caped 94 times for Wales and 5 times for the British and Irish Lions, Phillips brings a wealth of knowledge to the current West Asia Champions. Working alongside last years coaching team of Andrew Buist and Jonny Macdonald, Phillips will be looking to build on a club that is set to raise the bar higher once again.

As a player that has only just retired from top flight leagues, he brings the most recent and relevant rugby knowledge to Jebel Ali.

Mike Phillips moved to Dubai in 2017 to set up his rugby academy that is growing month by month. Currently with the summer months here you can get involved with his academy down at the World Trade Centre.

“We as a club have decided that our continuing strategy of investing in the very best coaching options available to us is the only way to succeed and achieve sustainability. We believe Mike will take the platform set by the previous DOR (Henry Paul) and raise the quality once again. The standard of rugby is leaping forward in the region and we think that it’s our responsibility to ensure the coaching is always ahead of that. We have a product that we offer to over 120 senior players. We need to make sure it’s the best product in West Asia and the UAE”

Said Stuart Quinn – Chairman of the Dragons

The Jebel Ali Dragons had a successful 2017/18 campaign, winning the West Asia Premiership, winners of Eden Park 7s in both vets and social levels as well as being the Dubai 7s Mens Gulf Open finalists narrowly losing to the Exiles.

rugby roundup

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Action from a weekend where two pieces of silverware were awarded


Jump right in…


    Teams of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 1s and DSC Eagles Women

    West Asia champions 2018 Dragons

    womens crossboarder 7s series winners 2018 dubai eagles

    With both these teams winning trophies over the weekend, the team of the week title has to be shared. Dragons travelled to Bahrain knowing that only a bonus point win would likely be enough to top the West Asia Premiership. By coming out on top 36-32 at a venue where no UAE side had won this season they prove themselves worthy West Asia Premiership champions. Speaking with us after the match, Dragons Chairman Stuart Quinn was quick to compliment the players:

    “It was an amazing win at the toughest fixture of the league away to Bahrain. The game was really decided by a 10 minute spell after half time which kept us in reach of the title and with it being our 25th Anniversary this year, you couldn’t write a better script!”

    The path to glory has been a little more straightforward for the DSC Eagles women. The newly assembled outfit have won five out of the six rounds of the Gulf Women’s 7s rugby Series and they made sure to finish on a high by beating Dubai Tigers women in this weekend’s final round. With a Dubai 7s win also thrown into the mix it has been a dominant debut season for the Eagles and plenty of work to do for the chasing pack over the summer to narrow the gap. Darrell McEwen, Head Coach of the Eagles Womens squad spoke with us after his team lifted the trophy, saying:

    “It’s been a great first season for the Eagles ladies. The trophies are just reward for all the hours of training we’ve done throughout the season. As a coach, a great amount of satisfaction and pride has come from seeing players improve their basic skills and execute them in games. All the clubs have put on great tournaments as the women’s rugby community flourishes and I believe it will only get better.”

    UAE & West Asia Premiership

    abu dhabi quins 2018

    Dragons securing the all important bonus point win in Bahrain meant that Abu Dhabi Harlequins efforts away to DSC Eagles would always be in vain as far as the West Asia title goes. However it’s a different story in the UAE Premiership where Quins leapfrog Dragons in to second place and qualify for the season ending finale against Dubai Exiles.

    With that contest still over a month away, the newly formed West Asia Cup and Trophy now take centre stage. The ‘big 4’ in West Asia contest the cup while the bottom three go in to the trophy. This week sees the final of the UAE Premiership Cup take place up in Abu Dhabi as they host the Exiles.

    UAE Conference

    uae conference rugby sharjah wanderers

    Just one game was completed in the Conference which finished in a 22-22 draw at Zayed Sports City between Harlequins 2s and Dubai Tigers. Despite having led for much of the game, Tigers will still be pleased to come away from Abu Dhabi with a share of the spoils, which guarantees them a home semi final in the playoffs. The final round of matches will see Exiles, Wanderers and Harlequins battle it out to claim the other spot in the top two.

    UAE Community

    community rugby beaver nomads dubai

    Results went to form at the top of the table with Beaver Nomads and RAK Rugby running up high scores in their victories over Hurricanes 3s and Amblers 2s respectively. Towards the bottom, DSC Eagles 2s finally saw a closely contested game go their way to claim their first ever win in the Community league 32-24 over Saracens 2s. The result sees Eagles jump from dead last up to 8th and with a couple of games still to come, they will be aiming for a mid-table finish.

    Women’s 7s Series

    womens rugby 2018

    So that’s the 7s season over with for 2017/18. As mentioned above, the title winners Dubai Eagles will enjoy their bragging rights over the summer and may even pic up a couple more pieces of Silverware at this years Barrelhouse and Sharjah 10s in April.

    Here are the full results from the final weekend of ladies rugby:

    Cup winners: Dubai Eagles
    Plate Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins
    Bowl Winners: Al Ain Amblers
    Shield Winners: Sharjah Wanderers
    Spoon Winners: Dubai Hurricanes
    Fork Winners: Kuwait Scorpions

    Article by: Huw Harrow

    Rocktape Barrelhouse 10’s Tournament

    For those of you still hungry for more rugby action this season, Barrelhouse Rugby Club (new additions to the Community League next season) are hosting their annual Rocktape Barrelhouse 10’s tournament on the 6th April 2018 at Dubai College, with both social and vets team entries still available.

    Get your team entered before the deadline date (March 24th) and join the Yalla Rugby Select squad pitch side for some mediocre banter and some festival style rugby!!!!

jebel ali dragons team of the week

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Yalla Rugby brings you up to speed with another busy weekend of UAE rugby

Jump right in…

Team of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 1s

The Dragons have bounced back from heartbreak at the Dubai 7s with an impressive run of form either side of the winter break. They could easily have claimed the team of the week title last week for ending Bahrain’s unbeaten record so we couldn’t possibly overlook them this time as they repeated the trick away at Abu Dhabi Harlequins 1s, taking over top spot in both the UAE and West Asia Premiership standings in the process. This was not only Quins’ first XVs defeat of the season but their first at home since 2014, so whilst it would be premature to write off the reigning champions at this stage of the campaign, psychologically this represents a huge confidence boost for the Dragons and indeed the rest of the division’s chasing pack.

dubai hurricanes uae premiership rugby team

UAE Premiership

Unsurprisingly it was a close run thing at Zayed Sport City with Dragons holding off a Harlequins comeback to edge a 20-17 win. They had found themselves 20-3 up at one stage in the contest before a fightback from the home side salvaged what could be an important losing bonus point. The week’s other contests were more clear cut, Dubai Hurricanes 1s also coming away from the capital with a victory, 31-5 over Abu Dhabi Saracens 1s while Exiles 1s cruised to a 76-3 win at home to DSC Eagles 1s, the second time the newcomers have shipped over 70 points in as many weeks. Both Saracens and Eagles will look forward to facing each other in the next round of fixtures, with the corresponding fixture at Sport City being the only occasion either has picked up a point so far this season.

al ain amblers vs arabian knights conference rugby

UAE Conference

Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ strength in depth has been lauded throughout the season so it came as something of a surprise to many to see their 2s forced to forfeit their fixture at Dubai Exiles 2s this weekend. Even a club with the resources of Harlequins are not immune to a front-row injury crisis, and they start this phase of qualification on the back foot despite having topped the pre-Christmas standings. The walkover bonus point win for Exiles puts them top of the standings ahead of Dubai Tigers who edged out Dubai Hurricanes 2s 15-13 in the top half’s other scheduled fixture. With these two sides having qualified in fourth and fifth, you felt this was a game both needed to win if they harbour ambitions of making the knockout stages. Tigers were forced to dig deep by a much improved Canes outfit, finding themselves 0-13 in arrears before completing a comeback courtesy of three second half tries.

Tigers exploits in the top half of the table mean there will be a new name on the Plate Trophy this year. The opening round of fixtures saw comfortable wins for both Jebel Ali Dragons 2s and Al Ain Amblers over Arabian Knights and Dubai Sharks respectively. The Knights were able to gain some consolation by notching up a four-try bonus point but the formbook very much suggests it will be the Dragons and Amblers battling it out for silverware after this phase of competition.

UAE Community

For various reasons, all UAE Community rugby fixtures were forfeited this week, seeing Saracens, Knights and Sharks all handing over 20 points and each being penalised a bonus point.

Article by: Huw Harrow

dubai exiles gulf mens league champions 2017

Exiles Comeback Stuns Dragons In Dubai 7s Final In Gulf Mens League final 2017

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Dubai Exiles produced a display full of character to snatch a comeback victory over Jebel Ali Dragons and claim the Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai 7s. Having fallen 12-0 down to a Dragons outfit buoyed by a semi-final win over Abu Dhabi Harlequins and backed by a vocal contingent of supporters and their very own mascot Chinese dragon, the occasion could have easily run away from Exiles early on. It took a show of guts, belief and a discipline that eluded their opponents to overhaul the deficit and claim a 19-12 triumph.

The game arguably hinged on a two minute spell at the end of the first half where a period of sustained Exiles pressure saw Jebel Ali concede two yellow cards in immediate succession, allowing Exiles to go in at half time level at 12-12. Dragons defended heroically to only concede the one try while down to five men, but the physical toll that took on them was to be telling in the closing stages of a tense second period.

It was Terry Jacobs who finally broke the deadlock, scampering under the posts with less than a minute remaining on the clock after a series of rumbustious Exiles charges had been rebuffed by desperate Dragons defence. Just as valuable was the intervention made a minute earlier by DuRandt Gerber whose scramble defence stopped what had looked a certain Dragons score in the right hand corner.

The result will be a bitter pill to swallow for a Dragons side who have now fallen at the final hurdle two years in succession. They had made all the early running with flying winger Niko Valavola to the fore in setting up the opening score. It was Valavola again whose powerful tackle produced the turnover which eventually led to Nick McCashin ghosting through the middle to open up what then looked an ominous 12-0 lead, before Exiles hauled themselves back in to contention with Tomas Sackmann’s brace just before the interval.

Exiles’ triumph ends Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ stranglehold on the domestic game in the UAE. Last year’s holders were edged out 21-19 by the Dragons at the semi final stage after having also fallen to the Exiles in Thursday’s pool matches. Exiles themselves progressed to the final courtesy of a 24-14 win over Dubai Hurricanes.

Gulf Mens League Final:

Dubai Exiles: Kris Hughes, Jaen Botes, Justin Welsh, Matt Mills, DuRandt Gerber, Kyle van Rooyan, Danny Waddy, Tomas Sackmann, Thinus Steyn, Carel Thomas, Jeremaia Kilicanasau, Terry Jacobs

Jebel Ali Dragons: Scott Hayes, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Hamilton, Ian Overton, Ethan Matthews, Nicholas McCashin, Kris Greene, Ross Samson, James Love, Matthew Richards, Niko Valavola, Sakiusa Naisau

Match Report: Huw Harrow

UAE rugby roundup week 5

All of this weekend’s UAE Rugby action and we name Yalla Rugby’s team of the week

Jump right in…

Team of the Week – Jebel Ali Dragons 1s

Jebel Ali Dragons team of the weekHenry Paul’s men get the nod this week after a comprehensive 68-0 dismantling of Dubai Sports City Eagles on Thursday night. When these two sides met in pre-season the Dragons came away with a 59-5 win over a disjointed Eagles outfit making their first ever outing as a club. Make no mistake that the Eagles are by now a very different outfit, brimming with confidence following much improved results in recent weeks, so the margin of victory here against the league newcomers should not be taken lightly and their first ever outing was cut short by 20 minutes. After a disappointing season last time around, the Dragons have announced themselves as genuine contenders this year and sit second in both UAE and West Asia Premiership league tables by the narrowest of margins from Dubai Exiles.


Abu Dhabi HarlequinsAside from Thursday night’s action at Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi Harlequins maintained their unbeaten start to the season but were made to work hard by visitors Dubai Hurricanes, eventually grinding out a 25-17 victory. Dubai Exiles were in West Asia Premiership action suffering a narrow 15-18 loss to Bahrain at the Sevens.

Community League

Ras al Khaimah rugbyJebel Ali Dragons steal the headlines again here with their 3s running out victors over Dubai Hurricanes 3s by the quite remarkable score line of 57-55. That maintains an unbeaten start to the campaign for Dragons 3s and they find themselves neck and neck at the top of the standings with Beaver Nomads who also enjoyed a high scoring win 81-10 over the Shaheen. Elsewhere RAK continued a promising start to the season with a 34-0 shutout of Arabian Knights 2s indicative of a side that is becoming increasingly well drilled and undoubtedly building in the right direction. There was no upset in the all Abu Dhabi Harlequins clash at Zayed Sports City with Quins 3s holding off a brave challenge from their newly established 4s 32-15. The competitive nature of this fixture really underlining the strength in depth of the capital city club this year.

Women’s Cross Border Rugby

dubai eagles women's rugby winners

After winning the first round of the Women’s Cross Border Series a couple of weeks ago, the Eagles ladies managed to make it 2 from 2 as they hosted the 2nd round at Dubai Sports City. There was a great atmosphere down at Rugby Park, seeing plenty of scores and some hefty tackles. A notable mention needs to go to the RAK ladies on their first ever outing, playing some of their games with only 5 players and still picking wins.

Article by: Huw Harrow

jebel ali dragons dubai eagles rugby

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Dubai Eagles Suffered A Heavy Loss In Their First Ever Outing To The Dragons

It was business as usual last night at Jebel Ali, as the Dragons put on a display showing the expected standard needed in Premiership rugby in a pre-season friendly against new boys – Dubai Eagles.

There was a good turnout for what was a very hot and sweaty evening at the Jebel Ali Centre of excellence. The Eagles were finally able to get their claws into some decent rugby after what seems like a whirlwind of a summer campaign, with plenty of players signed up for the new outfit, helped by a boost of players from the recently folded Wasps and the relocation of the Dubai Sharks, from what was a very convenient location for local Dubai rugby players.

The Dragons gave the Eagles quite a toasty welcome to a Premiership standard of rugby, as they put 59-5 past them with some slick play and good line breaks. Henry Paul’s side looked very sharp and will be looking to make amends for last seasons Premiership final loss this season.

The Eagles certainly showed what they had to offer though, with some strong defence, attacking plays and should feel pretty happy to get their first match under their wings. Scrum half, Josh Ives, will certainly be happy as he darted over the line in the corner to score the first ever try for the Eagles.

Click to watch the match highlights below:

Head coach, Pat Benson praised his side, saying;

“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys. They put themselves out there and wanted to play what I feel is a very established Dragons side for a first rugby match for the Dubai Eagles.”

The Eagles struggled with organisation, but showed good glimpses, against a Dragons team that have played together for quite a long time. Replacements were limited with a few players missing due to injury or still on summer breaks and that showed on some of the tired bodies on the pitch, but they all put in a very good 80 minute shift.

The hosts were very accommodating and supportive, getting all players some rugby action which helped out the Eagles in the later minutes with regards to equaling out the standard as much as they could.

Benson added, “Looking forward, I can only see us getting better and the glimpses and patches that did come together, I think it’s showing that the Eagles are actually looking to play some decent rugby”. “I thought the Dragons hospitality and support given to us was absolutely outstanding and we look forward to playing them again in the season.”

Sharks Show Strength And Resilience After A Troubled Summer

The build up match before the main event last night saw the Dragons 2nd XV take on the Sharks 1st XV side. Pre season games are often a bit hit and miss, but today, certainly for the Dubai Sharks, given how the last 3 months have gone for them, was an indicator of how they have progressed and more importantly, how all the new players have integrated into the new look side.

Dubai Sharks Danny Griffiths

Club Chairman, Mike Quinn was impressed, saying;

“Although the Dragons won, the Sharks have taken a huge amount from the game in our understanding of progress and what we now need to work on.”

There was some strong defence and very competitive rugby played by both sides, which made for very good viewing, and hopefully a taste of what we’re in for in the UAE Conference this year.

Overall, the result may not have gone the way of the Sharks, but they appear to have learned a lot about themselves and seem to have brushed aside the upheaval of their club during the summer break. Final score 34-17 to the Dragons.

uae rugby grand finals 2016 17

Inaugural UAE Rugby Grand Finals Day to be played On Friday April 7th

UAE Rugby will host their inaugural Grand Finals Day on Friday, April 7th, at Dubai Sports City’s Rugby Park in Dubai.

In a first for the Federation, the UAERF Grand Finals are the culmination of UAE Rugby’s Community, Conference and Premiership league fixtures played over the 2016/2017 rugby season.

“We are extremely pleased to bring the inaugural UAE Rugby Grand Finals Day to our rugby-loving community. Each year we are thrilled with the level of rugby we witness across our domestic league, and the finals have always drawn enthusiastic supporters. We are confident that bringing all three leagues together into one day will enhance the excitement and raise the profile of the league’s top-ranked teams.” said Qais Al Dhalai, UAE Rugby Secretary General.

Finals games kick off at 1pm with Abu Dhabi Harlequins competing against Jebel Ali Dragons in the third-tier Community League, followed at 3pm with two deciding games from the second-tier Conference League; Bottom 5 between Heartbeat Tigers and Dubai Sharks and Top 6 between Al Ain Amblers and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. At 5pm, the Federation’s elite Premiership League will play-out between Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Jebel Ali Dragons.

Alongside this rugby-fest will be mouth-watering food and beverage options as well as fantastic giveaways and prizes. Entry to join in the Finals Day fun, and watch quality domestic rugby, is free.

Why not re-live all of the 2016/17 UAE Rugby season by viewing our Match Day Photo Gallery.

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