The UAE’s preparations for the Asia Rugby Championships next month took another positive step forward with a 36-24 victory over the Conference Barbarians at the Sevens Stadium last night.
Four emphatic tries in the last 20 minutes sealed the win for Apollo Perelini’s side and they will go into their final warm-up game confident against a strong Premiership XV next Friday before departing for Malaysia.
Handling errors and some general unfamiliarity playing together restricted this from being an exciting and fluent contest, but there were periods of thrilling rugby in a game that produced 10 tries.
The Barbarians’ tactics were effective in the opening quarter, and it didn’t take them long to get the scoreboard ticking, with two quick tries that saw them open up a 12-0 lead.
Niko Volavola was at the centre, intercepting a loose ball to dance in from 22 metres for the first try and then feeding off some neat passing from James Elliott and Kyle Bennie to touch down for the second after 20 minutes.
But back came UAE, and after a huge defensive effort from the Barbarians, Luke Stevenson spread the ball wide to Scott Hayes who sprinted in unopposed from 30 metres.
After the restart, UAE set the contest alight with some threatening carries, then Ed Lewsey found some space after a multi-phase move to burrow over in the corner. Stevenson converted to level.
But that was the nearest UAE came to the Barbarians’ line for the rest of the quarter.
It was all the Barbarians way, and another intercept saw the elusive Volavola accelerate in to complete his hat-trick.
Three minutes later, they came rumbling through the middle again and Mike Jasko drove over for a converted try to make it 24-12.
However, UAE produced a swift response in the final quarter as the Barbarians appeared to wilt with Daniel Perry touching down under the posts. Stevenson nailed the conversion to cut the deficit to five.
With nine minutes to go, Sean Carey made the break of the game to open up the Barbarians defence with Daniel Bell paving the way to send Walid Al Balooshi over.
UAE put the squeeze on the Barbarians again, with a well-worked line-out culminating in Josh Ives crossing the line for the ninth try.
Just minutes later, UAE went further in front as a quick Barbarians line-out spilled loose and Rikus Swart skipped in under the posts to complete the scoring.
Conference Barbarians coach Robbie Cameron said: “What impressed me about the UAE is that they won the game in the last 10-15 minutes when a lot of teams might not have. They wanted it.
“That last period is crucial in any game, no matter the score. They pushed hard and they have an exceptionally good coach in Apollo too to guide them forward.”