Two losses and a win for UAE in Morocco

Matt Jones 24/10/2016
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Apollo Perelini believes there is still plenty of work for him and the UAE Rugby Federation to accomplish in order to attract more Emiratis to rugby after they finished third at the Arab Rugby Sevens tournament in Morocco.

The second staging of the event, organised by World Rugby, Asia Rugby and the Arab Rugby Federation (ARF), saw the host nation crowned winners following a 29-14 win in the final against Tunisia.

The UAE lost to Morocco 35-0 in the semi-final but finished with a bronze medal thanks to a superior points record over the remaining teams.

Perelini’s all-Emirati charges had also lost 46-0 in the group stages to the hosts before advancing to the last four with a 45-0 thrashing of Algeria.

“Despite finishing third, there were lots of lessons learnt, but more importantly it’s an indication to myself and UAE RF board members at the tournament that there will need to be a bigger push for development and interest for the game in Emiratis,” said Perelini.

“We don’t have a big player pool of local players and therefore it can be a struggle to compete against other Arab countries that have registered rugby players into the thousands.

“I am not moaning, but I need to find ways to get more interest for the game of rugby into our local Emirati communities.”

In general, however, Perelini is encouraged by the establishment of the ARF and the second staging of the tournament.

He added: “The Arab 7’s is a new concept and only in its second year of running. The tournament will continue to grow as more and more Arab nations find its appeal of competing in its own tournament catered for their culture as well as the game’s culture.”

UAE captain Waleed Salem said the players felt as if many gains had been made.

“The bronze medal was a goal for us before the start of the competition because we were aware that the other teams are stronger than us technically and physically and it is difficult to win the trophy in the presence of Morocco and Tunisia,” said Salem.

“We were keen to be on the podium, and more importantly, we have succeeded in achieving the first bronze medal in the Arab championship for the UAE.  We are an aspiring group and are gaining experience by playing in such tournaments.”

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UAE side victorious in Middle East Touch Championship 2016

Sport360 staff 22/10/2016
The victorious UAE-based Playin' Up men's winning team.

But it was local team Playin’ Up who secured their place in the tournament’s history books, as they clinched the Men’s title of Middle East Touch Champions 2016 for the third year in a row.

The team, under the captaincy of Nathan Movehu, played five games in a thrilling day of action, before securing their place in the final where they went on to beat Goodfellas by 4-1.

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Other winners on the day included:

– WOMEN’S – London Galaxy (Marnie Wells player of the tournament)

– MIXED – Thunderbolts (Dylan Hennessey player of the tournament)

– VETS – ME Fit Pro (Greg Cambell player of the tournament)

– MEN’S – Playin’ Up (Nathan Morehu player of the tournament)

For the first time this year, the tournament – held at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club – opened itself up to not only social players, but elite and youth players as well.

World-renowned Australian international, Dylan Hennessey, alongside New Zealand International, Peter Walters, upped the ante and helped the tournament reach a new, higher level of play by taking part in their respective teams, the Thunderbolts and Galaxy Worldwide.

With a new Centre of Excellence for Touch in Dubai and a boost in grassroots’ programmes in Abu Dhabi over the past year, it was fitting that the tournament incorporated a youth competition as well.

John Larkins, the tournament founder, said: “This year’s tournament has been outstanding – the level of competition has been fantastic, proving there’s huge appetite for the game in the Middle East and really justifying our focus on grassroots programmes. By focusing on junior and youth development in schools, we can get more and more pupils interested in the game.

“I’m astounded each year by the support this tournament receives, not only from the players and referees, but the families and friends as well who come along to soak up the atmosphere and see what touch is all about. Having the support of Dylan and Peter this year was the icing on the cake. I know their passion for the game rubbed off on everyone here and I’m confident they’ll come again to help me take the sport to the next level in the UAE.”

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Canes shock Exiles in West Asia Championship

Matt Jones 22/10/2016
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Action from Exiles vs Hurricanes.

Canes stormed to their first win of the season as second-row Daniel Perry – who recently gave up the captaincy – struck late on against opponents who were down to 13 men, with flankers Tomas Sackmann (red card) and Mike Mills (yellow card) watching on.

“They wanted it more than us, that is bottom line,” said Benade, whose side can expect to lose key ground when Abu Dhabi Harlequins resume playing. “I thought it was maybe the worst performance I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Meanwhile, Steve Hamilton kicked all four penalties against Bahrain as Abu Dhabi Saracens ground out a tight opening win.

The fly-half was lethal with the boot as boss Winston Cowie proclaimed his relief about getting off the mark.

He said: “Our season was on the line and we were desperate for a win. That urgency showed in how the boys played.”

Doha supremo Aaron Palmer hoped a hard-fought 23-16 triumph against Jebel Ali Dragons would give their season ignition.

A two-game winning streak for Henry Paul’s men was ended as scrum-half Luke Ward, winger Johnny McMullan and flanker Elliott Jonstone crashed over in Qatar.

“We had to really grind that out,” Palmer said.

“We knew Dragons would come at us. It is all to play for in the next few games and it is only starting for us.”

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