Dubai Exiles had just secured a win at the third attempt against fierce rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins that put them on the cusp of winning the UAE Premiership title, but celebrations were rather muted.
A raucous yet brief cheer was let out following the final whistle that confirmed a 19-9 triumph last Friday night. The players know there is still one more obstacle in their path.
“It’s a huge win but the job’s not done yet though,” admitted scrum-half Ed Armitage ahead of this weekend’s final round of Premiership fixtures, with Exiles welcoming the unpredictable Al Ain Amblers to The Sevens.
“Immediately after the final whistle there was a huge celebration but straight away we said ‘it’s not done’, this week’s the big one and it won’t be easy.”
Amblers stand between Exiles and the double on the Premiership’s final weekend, with the club desperate to add a title they last claimed in 2006 to the West Asia Championship grasped two weeks ago.
Victory last week opened up a four-point gap at the top of the Premiership table to Quins in second, but Al Ain provide a stern test.
Armitage added: “Al Ain are an unknown quantity. They scored 34 points against Quins the week before last so they’re not to be taken lightly. We just have to go and finish this thing off for good.”
Andrew Rouvi’s side have had a rude awakening this season after roaring to the 2014-15 UAE Conference title.
They have won just once in 17 Premiership and West Asia Championship fixtures but have played some thrilling attacking rugby since the turn of the year, scoring more than 30 points in five of their last six games.
One of those was a 60-36 defeat to Exiles in the WAC in February and Rouvi insists his side will try to spoil the title party this weekend.
“We are amped for this game. It’s the last game of the season and we plan to play it as a final. We have nothing to lose,” admitted the New Zealander.
“However, we have a lot of respect for Exiles and know how strong they will be. We enjoyed our last encounter with them and we want to build on that performance.”
Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, Quins have a similarly tricky fixture at home to Dubai Hurricanes.
Mike McFarlane’s men triumphed by a slender 37-34 margin the last time the sides met at Zayed Sports City in February, thanks to Luke Stevenson’s late penalty.
Quins still have a small chance of lifting the title and McFarlane insists his side will be giving their all.
“We can’t wait for the game and I know the boys who missed out last week are keen to finish the season with a bang,” said McFarlane.
“The players that played last week are frustrated so it will be nice to finish the season together with a strong performance.
“We are disappointed with how things have resulted in the final standings of the leagues but our professional and positive attitude will shine through both on and off the field.”
Having been forced to pull out of their penultimate game with Abu Dhabi Saracens last week, Canes are also keen to end the season on a high.
“It’s never an easy place to go and Quins still have a shot at the title so they will come out firing, but for us it’s about going there and enjoying ourselves and having a crack at taking a big scalp on the road,” said Canes skipper Daniel Perry.
“We are determined to finish on a high.”
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