It might be a tournament held in the comfort of their own backyard, but the Dubai Sevens has been more of a house of horrors for the British School Al Khubairat in recent memory.
The Abu Dhabi-based school have endured disappointment after bitter disappointment in Dubai of late – but they laid to rest some ghosts with a commanding 22-5 defeat of resident Sevens kings Dubai College in the Gulf U19 Boys final on Saturday.
Dubai schools have held something of a monopoly on their home tournament in the last seven years. DC won four titles in a row from 2011-14 – whitewashing BSAK in the 2011 final 26-0 – while Dubai English Speaking College were reigning champions (Al Ain Amblers beat DC in 2015’s final.
They exited at the semi-final stage in each of the next four years – falling to Abu Dhabi Harlequins, DC, Dubai English Speaking College and Al Ain – but the demons were well and truly exorcised on the grandest stage yesterday, with the final held as always on Pitch 1 in front of crowds of thousands.
It was a convincing win in the end, by four tries to one, with all four tries scored by separate players. And that shared responsibility is what head coach Ali Thompson feels was the bedrock of a long-awaited success.
“I think that’s been the difference,” said BSAK assistant head Thompson.
“We have 12 players who can each make an impact. It’s great to get the win which is something we haven’t been able to do over the years.”
James Wilson, one of the youngest players on the team, opened the scoring in thrilling fashion with a lung-busting length of the field try, Callum Anderson converting.
They were 12-0 up in no time with a slick move finished off by Morgan Ashton. They endured a bit if a nervy wobble after the break when Jacques Benade’s men briefly mounted a comeback with an unconverted try.
They could have wilted and allowed past memories of failure cloud their thoughts – particularly defeat to DESC in last year’s final – but instead they moved through the gears. Tobi Sofidiya cut through a tired DC defence to socred their third and they put the icing on the cake at the death with Luke Gammell sealing a precious triumph.
Rather than be weighed down by past defeats, Thompson claimed defeat has only strengthened BSAK’s resolve.
“I think it’s seven years since we last won it and losing in the final last year was hard on the boys, but every cloud has a silver lining,” said the Scotsman.
“The starting squad, every single member played in that final last year, so they’ve had that disappointment.
“You can win or lose that game in the tunnel, with the big pitch to play on. The boys were relaxed and knew what to expect. That stood us in great stead.
“They were in the changing rooms 30 minutes before the final singing songs and quite relaxed, and they just went out there. They’ve been outstanding all weekend.
“It’s been a six month journey, they started in June, and they’ve reaped the rewards. To have nine boys returning is a huge bonus. We brought in two young Year 11s and James Wilson off the bench, and you saw the impact.”
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