The UAE emphatically sealed a return to the second tier of Asia Rugby after they trounced hosts Thailand 50-12 in Hua Hin.
After a monstrous 82-7 win in their play-off with Guam on Wednesday, Apollo Perelini’s side stormed into a 45-0 half-time lead over the Asia Rugby Championship Division II tournament hosts.
Thailand made a fist of things after the break – outscoring Perelini’s men 12-5 – but the visitors were in cruise control and earned promotion back to Division I, which they had been relegated from after deciding not to participate in the ARC in 2018.
Contests between these two have been close in recent years across various formats of the game, but the UAE are a formidable beast these days as more and more expatriate talents become eligible for residency.
Two of them barrelled over for a brace of tries to put the UAE 26-0 ahead after half an hour. Dubai Exiles lock Stephen Ferguson drove over after three minutes to set the tone.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ Fijian centre Kinivilame Natuna then crashed over after a possible intercept on their own tryline was turned over by the UAE. The former Al Ain Amblers man went over again following good work from Jebel Ali Dragons’ utility back Matt Richards and the Thailand scrum was then totally manhandled as the UAE forced another turnover which led to Ferguson’s second try.
Richards then turned the screw as he finished off excellent work from Matt Mills who trundled through the Thai midfield, Richards was on the shoulder to finish it off.
It was turning into a rout and an unkind bounce off their own lineout allowed Jaen Botes to rumble through for a score out wide to follow up his hat-trick from the Guam game. And there was time for a seventh score on the stroke of half-time, Richards going over for his second.
It was a case of job done in the second half as the UAE took their foot off the gas, although Thailand also deserve credit for digging in.
They hit back nine minutes after the break with a converted score to make it 45-7. The UAE hit right back when Luke Stevenson – who’d put in a masterful display from the tee with five of his side’s first half tries converted, some from out wide – was teed up for an easy score by Daniel Perry.
Thailand scored a second, and the game’s final, try from a lineout. The UAE had the last word, however, hoisting the Division II title aloft to crown their return to the continental stage in style.
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