Al Ain Amblers first XV won by 40 points for the second week in a row as they continued their impressive start to the Sport360° UAE Conference season.
All the more impressive was the fact Amblers’ huge 44-3 win came against the team just a place below them in the table in second, Jebel Ali Dragons seconds, who themselves had been unbeaten until this landslide victory.
There were two tries for Vito Rupeni and one each for Kiniviliame Natuna and Jason Pelsner in the rout of the Dragons.
Al Ain are the owners of a pretty impressive record this season after just three games. In those three games, they have conceded just six points and scored a massive 176, more than double than any other side in the league.
Sharjah Wanderers and Dubai Sharks both got their second wins of the season to move up the rankings.
Wanderers won away at Dubai Hurricanes, where they went over the whitewash three times.
Josh Appleby, Duncan Greenwood and Duke Machaaka crossed for their tries, while Shane Fowley had a decent night with the boot too, with his two conversions and two penalties contributing to the eight-point win.
Sharks’ 12-3 win against Xodus Wasps was dominated by the forwards, with Dubai controlling the game at the breakdown and set piece, leaving Wasps buzzing around for scraps.
The only try of the game was scored by Matt Tyrell, with Dan Crumplin converting and adding a penalty, while Danny Thomas got Wasps’ only points with a penalty.
The most points of the day were scored at bottom side Al Ain Amblers II who despite scoring 29 points, still cannot buy themselves a win.
They went down 34-29 to Abu Dhabi Saracens in a real barnstormer of a game.
Meanwhile, in the other game last night, Arabian Knights beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins 27-17.
Elsewhere, Heartbeat Tigers kept their fingers on the pulse with a thrilling 27-22 win over Dubai Exiles seconds on Thursday.
Tigers roared in with five tries, for Simon Bryan, Shane Thornton, Mat Bates, Nathan Morehu and Tyron Cook, while Exiles replied through Julian Stanley, Jason Guscott and Nick Paine touchdowns.
Abu Dhabi Saracens brought Dubai Hurricanes back down to earth with a bump and got their Premiership campaign up and running in the process.
Sarries’ scrum and forwards were dominant and, aided by a flawless kicking display from Dougie Steele and a sterling defensive effort in the closing minutes, Ali Thompson’s troops marched to victory. In a mirror image of the opening day, Canes trailed 13-5 at the break, with Sarries’ winger Barney Goatley crossing for their only try.
Steele showed his mettle to convert the try and add two penalties before the interval, with Canes’ solitary effort coming from a try for No8 Greg Thomas.
Canes were far better after the break but failed to take their chances and even though they scored another try through Powell, who converted and potted a penalty, Steele stepped up to slot two more of his own as the men from the capital held on for a vital win.
Sarries head coach Thompson said: “I heard someone say after the game ‘well that was an upset’, but it wasn’t, we fully deserved our win.
He added: “It was a forward battle, our scrum dominated and all the players were absolutely exhausted coming off the pitch.”
Thompson admitted Sarries’ backs were against the wall for the last few minutes as Canes, for the second week running, fought back in the second 40 minutes.
Dejected Canes’ coach Ross Mills said: “They were very good and we were very poor. They came with a game plan and executed it well and totally deserved the win.”
Mills believes the standard of the league has definitely improved on last season, and said: “The standard this year has gone up a lot.
“The Dragons had a close win and the Exiles didn’t have it all their own way on Thursday either.”
He concluded: “We’re just disappointed we didn’t play well and the players are frustrated they haven’t performed.”
Contrasting emotions abounded last night, the latest chapter of the perennial rivalry between Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins being decided by the last kick of an absorbing and fiercely-contested Sport360° UAE Premiership clash.
Last season’s treble-winning Dragons roared to a 19-17 home victory thanks to the trusty boot of fly-half Andrew Russell, the over-eager Quins defence criminally coming in from the side to concede the deciding penalty right in front of the sticks with just seconds to see out.
This was the latest chapter in UAE rugby’s defining saga, the two clubs regularly locking horns for Premiership, Gulf Top Six and Dubai Sevens honours.
Change at the top for Dragons, with player-coaches Murray Strang and Sean Crombie taking the reins from the departed Ross Mills, has not elicited any drop in results or performances. Two wins from two setting the perfect platform for yet another final appearance.
“It was heartbreaking then elating all in the last 60 seconds,” said Strang, a loud and inspiring presence on the touchline while Crombie excelled on the pitch. “I had three minutes thinking about how we had let it slip away.
“I was really proud of the performance in the second half after being 10-5 down at the break. It was only ever going to be a tight finish, and I didn’t think we were showing the right heart at that time.
“I am aware of negative team talks, and I had to give the guys a kick to get the win. I thought we had done that, until they scored a try the only time they had been in our 22 during the second half.
“To have the composure and nous to get us into position for the penalty, to drive us in the middle and force three points… I am absolutely delighted.”
For opponents Quins, heartbreak is now coming with painful regularity. As with last Friday’s 17-16 defeat to Dubai Hurricanes, victory was in their hands.
They now have it all to do in their final three fixtures if they are to make the Premiership showpiece, beginning next Friday with the derby against Abu Dhabi Saracens.
“It was a massive improvement from last week,” player-coach Jeremy Manning said. “We showed we can play, and what we are capable of.
“It is two weeks in a row that we have missed the win with the last play of the game.
“These three games are absolutely massive now. We have to win them all to even challenge for the second spot.
“We couldn’t hold our discipline, that was a trait we had last year. Hopefully, we’ll have that out of our system by next Friday.”
A rollercoaster first half began with Crombie on point to drive over in the corner. The visitors remained undaunted, Manning exorcising memories of his last-gasp missed penalty against Canes with a successful attempt before his lightning break teed up exciting young winger Matt Hawley to crash over.
Dragons began with a bang after the break. A rapid foray was temporarily, and illegally, halted by Quins only for Crombie to hand flanker Niall Statham a walk over against a stretched defence.
Two penalties from the hosts gave them daylight with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Their Zayed Sports City-based opponents had rarely threatened at that point. This wasn’t to last, substitute scrum-half Ed Lewsey breaking from a 10-metre scrum and giving the perfect crash ball for giant centre Iziq Foa’i to burst through.
Quins are a much younger side than last season. They also miss the leadership of captain Billy Graham and metronomic kicker Luke Stevenson.
Three minutes remained on the clock for the new class to hold on. Too long to retain their composure.