You could forgive the UAE’s players for coming home from South Korea under a melancholic cloud following four defeats from five games on their return to the elite of Asia sevens rugby.
But having competed confidently with the continent’s best and emerged with a combined points deficit of only -12, the players are confident that coach Apollo Perelini’s belief in a top four finish is not fanciful.
The UAE lost their opening four games in Incheon on Saturday and Sunday, but a defeat by 22 points to Asia behemoths Japan was their worst, while they ended on a high by thrashing Chinese Taipei 31-5 to claim seventh place.
They conceded 100 points but also scored 88, and that fills the players with spirit heading into the second of three legs on the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Series in China in two week’s time.
“We’re heading back home with our heads high, we’ll fix these little errors and come back stronger on the next one,” insists livewire full-back/wing Jerry Kilicanasau, of Dubai Hurricanes.
“There were some close defeats. Just minor errors we need to work on to be better on the next one. The good thing is the boys know the other teams now so we’re expecting to do better in the next tournament.”
The view was shared by Justin Walsh, Kilicanasau’s former team-mate at Dubai Exiles, who said a few defeats could easily have been wins.
“The mood is generally pretty good as we pushed all the teams we played and showed that we are there to compete. We’re annoyed not to get more wins really,” he said.
After a 29-7 defeat to giants Japan, the UAE were beaten 24-14 by Japan before slender defeats to Sri Lanka (21-17) in their final pool game, while they were edged out 21-19 in the first knockout round by the Philippines.
They bounced back against Taipei and Walsh is already looking ahead to the Huizhou leg over September 14-15.
“We know what we need to try and do for the next few tournaments and keep working hard,” added Walsh.
“We could have beaten Sri Lanka and could have beaten China if it had clicked properly. We were disappointed with the losses because they could have been wins.”
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