Sharjah Wanderers strolled to a comfortable 34-7 win to open the defence of their UAE Conference crown in fine style against Dubai Sharks.
The hosts put five tries on the board to begin the season with a bonus point win against Sharks, who finished eighth overall last season.
The champions scored 34 unanswered points in victory, Sharks scoring the pick of the tries with a late James Mulhair effort earning them scant consolation.
Sharks defended stoutly throughout and although they rarely looked like scoring themselves, it was through their errors that allowed Sharjah to take a grip of the game.
Former Arabian Knights man Fabricio D’Amico crossed for the opening try from a lineout after eight minutes following a brilliant counter-attack.
A promising Sharks attack broke down with a knock-on with numbers out wide and they were made to pay minutes later when scrambling scrum-half Dave Ermerins scooted over from a ruck for Sharjah’s second try after D’Amico had gone close.
Sharks weathered the storm but they were dealt a hammer blow on the brink of half-time by former player Alex Lewis. The Welsh flanker, making his debut for Sharjah, profited after a defender spilled the ball and he was on hand for a simple score.
Full-back Shane Fowley, an accomplished football and Gaelic football player, stretched Sharjah’s lead when he reached for the line following a good run to bring up their bonus point try before centre Paddy Barcoe sliced through Sharks for a fifth try.
With the scoreline threatening to become embarrassing for the diligent visitors, they finally got on the board with a deserved score right at the death.
It was a brilliant try too, starting in the shadow of their own posts. Winger Jonny Corcoran showed great pace to escape up the Sharjah sideline and, with a defender closing in, he offloaded to Mulhair who went over to give the Sharks supporters something to smile about.
Despite starting their defence strongly, Irishman Fowley isn’t looking beyond qualifying for the Conference Top 6.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better the first game of the season on home turf,” he said.
“We weren’t worried about bonus points, we’re just worried about the Top 6. I know as champions, all the other teams are going to be looking to beat us, but it was just good to start with a win.
“The main thing was getting back into it. We’ve been doing a lot in pre-season so to get the first win is good. Sharks are a good team, every time we play them it’s always a huge battle.”
Despite the margin and manner of defeat, Sharks coach Adrian Cartwright took lots of positives from the season opener.
“Structurally we were pretty good and defensively we were in the right place, and the communication is there, so there’s a lot of positives,” he said.
“The bottom line was we missed tackles in crucial areas, that’s where they scored and we lost the game.
“I don’t think they created a try, it was more our errors that gave them the opportunities to score and they did that well, so credit to them. But not a disastrous performance by any stretch of the imagination and we can certainly build on that.”
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