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