Exiles added the Premiership to the West Asia Championship title they won last month. Jacques Benade’s side were given a game for 40 minutes against an Al Ain Amblers team that has steadily improved this season, but Exiles’ superior quality shone through in the second half as they romped home to a 13-try triumph.
Victory fittingly capped a campaign which sees Exiles celebrate their 50th anniversary later this year. Much has been made of the signings that followed Jacques Benade to the club last summer, among them talented South African fly-half Durandt Gerber, who was in Italy’s training squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
More than half the squad, however, have been with the club for a number of years or are products of the mini and youth academy. It was perhaps fitting then that two of them – UAE sevens international Charlie Sargent and exciting teenage centre Tom Stapley – each scored a hat-trick last night.
“I was born here and have played for Exiles since I was six so to do the double is great,” said the talented 18-year-old Stapley, a revelation since coming into the first team in January this year.
“A lot of talk this season has been about us having brought players in but half this team has come through the Exiles youth set-up, like myself and Charlie, or been here for many years, like Kristian Stinson. Players have come in too but there’s a lot of us that have been here a long time.”
One new recruit is Northern Irish forward Stephen Ferguson. The 27-year-old has been one of Exiles’ stars this term and he was delighted to claim the double in his first season. “To win two trophies, I couldn’t have asked for any more,” said Ferguson. “It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Amblers head coach Andrew Rouvi again saw signs of progress in his team, who battled back from an early 21-0 deficit to trail just 26-19 at half-time.
“We were amped but I think our lack of fitness killed us,” said Rouvi.
“They were too quick and some decisions were woeful, the yellow card killed us as they scored three or four tries with Niko (Volavola) off the field.”
The win rendered Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ 62-12 thrashing of Dubai Hurricanes inconsequential, but Rouvi feels the right team won the title. “They’re worthy champions,” he said. “The right team won the league. They’ve played really good, consistent rugby, they’re well structured and have a good culture in their team.”
Exiles jumped into a three-try lead at The Sevens but Amblers, who have scored more than 30 points in five of their last seven games, stormed back at the interval.
Stapley, scrum-half Ed Armitage and Gerber threatened to take the game beyond Amblers, but the Garden City side roared back with tries from winger Ayad Al Khoumassi and a brace for fleet-footed full-back Volavola. Exiles were under the kosh and would have been glad to hear the half-time whistle.
Stapley’s second after the restart gave them some breathing room and when Volavola was yellow-carded just before the hour mark, Amblers were in trouble.
Exiles piled on four more scores with Volavola off the field and Stinson put the cherry on top of victory when he was gratefully handed the ball by Gerber after the fly-half had already crossed the line, the prop completing the rout by converting his own try.
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