Despite being outgunned 67-33 in an opening day 100-point thriller in the West Asia Championship, Al Ain Amblers head coach Andrew Rouvi saw plenty of positives in the defeat to Doha.
Having endured a difficult start to life back in the UAE Premiership with seven defeats from seven this season, the men from the Garden City started to turn a corner towards the end of 2015 with some impressive performances during the sevens campaign.
Improvement was seen yet again on Friday as Amblers led last year’s West Asia Cup finalists 33-31 early in the second half before a red card for Kiniiviliame Natuna saw the visitors score 36 unanswered points to storm to a somewhat flattering opening day victory.
Rouvi believes Amblers can use the result and performance as a marker for the rest of the season.
“There were encouraging signs from us, absolutely,” said the New Zealander.
“We gave them a game. We were in it for the first 55 minutes before the player got the red card, which was obviously the turning point.
“Doha are a good side and took advantage of having the extra man. We think we can get better and for 55 minutes we were pretty happy with what we saw.”
In an open and exciting encounter, both teams traded punches on the score sheet before Natuna threw an actual punch at an opp-onent and got dismissed, quickly going from two-try hero to zero.
Rouvi bemoaned the “silly mistakes” his side continue to make in regards to their discipline, but he is excited by the progress his team are making ahead of the trip to Jebel Ali Dragons next week. “The boys are back in training now and they’re excited,” he said.
“We have Dragons next week and a few players will be returning so we should be getting stronger in the coming weeks.”
Having arrived at the West Asia Championship somewhat unchallenged in their own pre-Christmas tournament, amassing seven straight wins in the Gulf Premiership, Doha head coach Aaron Palmer said the Al Ain test was exactly what was required.
“We needed a good test and got it,” said the Kiwi.
“We were made to work very hard for it but that’s what happens when you play one round before Christmas without really being challenged.
“We won but were tested for 50 minutes by the Al Ain boys throwing it around in sevens mode. They went ahead 33-31 into the second half but we restored some structure to the game and eventually got on top.”
Caine Elisara was the star man for the visitors as he incredibly scored eight of Doha’s 11 tries.
Luke Ward, Sam Spencer and Aaron McLelland also touched down for the Qataris who will be among the favourites for the West Asia Championship.
Devante Steel, Patrick Camaivuna and Vilikesa Varawa scored a try apiece for the hosts, in addition to Natuna’s double, as Amblers at least picked up a try-scoring bonus point.
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