There was an extremely competitive yet friendly atmosphere at the HSBC Rugby Festival Dubai 2018.
Now in its ninth year, the tournament, held over the weekend of January 26-27, celebrates the excitement, diversity and enjoyment that rugby offers by bringing together over 270 teams from 20 clubs throughout the GCC region.
That’s around 3,000 of the finest young players performing across one spectacular weekend.
As in previous years, the festival was jointly organised on behalf of HSBC by Dubai Hurricanes and Dubai Exiles, with in excess of 600 games being played across the two days.
Aside from getting the opportunity to play at a the fantastic Sevens Stadium, a number of the teams got the chance to strut their stuff into front of former England and British & Irish Lions international Lewis Moody.
A member of England’s 2003 World Cup winning side, he was clearly impressed by the exceptional standard of rugby and the camaraderie among the young players.
“They never gave up, never backed down and fought to the end,” he said. Moody was just one among approximately 8,000 spectators who were enthralled by roughly 10,000 minutes of high-quality rugby.
Peter Clapp, joint event director from Canes, said: “Over the two-day festival there were 110 well-earned trophies presented, underlining the organising body’s commitment to doing everything possible to ensure all of the young players left with the festival etched in their minds forever, ready to return next year for another enjoyable weekend of rugby.
“Each and every one of the youngsters played hard and played fair. Easy to start, tricky to stop and impossible to forget.”
Role of honour
U6: Winners Tigers, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U7: Winners Dubai Exiles, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U8: Winners Tigers, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U9: Winners Dubai Exiles, runners-up Tigers
U10: Winners Dubai Hurricanes, runners-up Dubai Exiles
U11: Winners Abu Dhabi Harlequins, runners-up Arabian Knights
U12: Winners Tigers, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U13: Winners Dubai Hurricanes, runners-up Dubai Exiles
U14: Winners Dubai Exiles, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U16: Winners Abu Dhabi Harlequins, runners-up Dubai Exiles
U19: Winners Dubai Hurricanes, runners-up Dubai Hurricanes
U12 girls: Winners Arabian Knights, runners-up Dubai Exiles
U15 girls: Winners Arabian Knights, runners-up Dubai Exiles
U19 girls: Winners Dubai Exiles, runners-up Al Ain
Over 60 budding golfers took part in RAK Rugby’s inaugural golf tournament at Tower Links Golf Club last weekend.
Open to both organisations and individuals, the social team day – which involved an 18-hole tournament and BBQ – celebrated RAK Rugby’s recent success.
Rugby is a sport that has been played in Ras Al Khaimah since 1969 and continues to grow in popularity, with the club recently announcing it would be set up under royal decree with the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Humaid Al Qasimi.
RAK Rugby has plans to develop Emirati rugby locally in Ras Al Khaimah alongside the UAE Rugby Federation and is keen to also be a focal community club for all residence of RAK.
Chloe Hilton, Sales Manager at Pacific, said, “Promoting community and social initiatives across the beautiful emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is incredibly important to us.
“We were very proud to sponsor the first annual RAK Rugby Golf Tournament and wish RAK Rugby the best of luck for the rest of the season”.
Kristian Stinson is anticipating the most exciting West Asia title battle in years following Dubai Exiles’ “statement” victory over Jebel Ali Dragons.
Exiles have fought their way back into contention for West Asia Premiership honours in the early weeks of 2018 following successive wins over Abu Dhabi Saracens, Dubai Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes.
What had been missing, however, was a victory over one of the three early-season pacesetters – Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Bahrain and Dragons.
The reverse fixture against Dragons at The Sevens in October saw Henry Paul’s men run out 22-18 winners in the game of the season so far. Exiles also suffered narrow defeats to Quins and Bahrain – downed 18-15 by Bahrain at home and 29-25 at Zayed Sports City in November.
But a bonus point 35-15 win over Dragons in their backyard on Friday will certainly make people sit up and take notice of Jacques Benade’s 2015/16 Asia and UAE champions.
And prop Stinson insists it was mission complete for Exiles.
“It’s definitely a statement win,” said the Northern Irishman. “We went out with a mission and we executed it perfectly. We wanted to dominate them, bully them up front and try and break them early, which we did.
“It sends a message. I don’t know who to or what the message is, but it’s just a case of putting our heads down, focusing and having that belief we can see games through.”
Despite earning a losing bonus point each time as they lost to the early top three by less than seven points in the first half of the season – Exiles lost all three matches by a combined margin of 11 points – Stinson insists the squad didn’t feel they played that well in those defeats.
“For us, it’s really a tale of two seasons,” he said, claiming the 19-12 victory over Dragons in the final of the Gulf Men’s League competition at December’s Dubai Sevens was the turning point.
“In the early games we only were losing by a few points, but we weren’t actually playing that well, weren’t playing as a team, very individual performances.
“But since the Sevens we’ve been galvanised by that and you’re starting to see real team performances and a team coming together in training.
“A few months ago we were a bunch of individuals with a few key partnerships missing and now we’re starting to see those partnerships forming, a bond and an idea of a team, that’s the key.”
Victory saw Exiles storm to the top of the Premiership table on 33 points, three ahead of Quins, who were on a bye week, and four ahead of Dragons.
Bahrain’s 66-0 win at home against Sarries saw them cut the gap to Dragons in third to two points, meaning the top four are separated by just six points, with Bahrain, Quins and Dragons all having played eight games to Exiles’ nine.
Next up for Exiles is a daunting trip to Bahrain in two weeks’ time, while they still have to face Quins at home, and Stinson insists he and his teammates won’t get carried away with Friday’s triumph.
He added: “Don’t get me wrong, Bahrain away is a really difficult fixture and we have to step it up again to get close to them. Louie (Tonkin, Bahrain coach) and his boys at home is a daunting prospect, then we finish with Quins and Sarries, so it’s not an easy run-in.
“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the hard way. Last night was good, it gives us self-belief and it’s great for team spirit and morale. It really is all to play for, the most exciting competition for years as come the final week I reckon four teams could still be in with a chance to win it.”