Apollo Perelini saw the UAE’s fine effort on the opening leg of the 2019 Asia Rugby Sevens Series in South Korea undone somewhat as they had to settle for last place in China at the weekend.
But the national team coach claimed finishing eighth of eight teams in China was far from an undoing of their strong performances in Incheon two weeks previously. On the inaugural leg of this year’s series, the UAE had pushed opponents all the way, losing four of their five games but only trailing them across the weekend by a total margin of 12 points – conceding 100 but also scoring 88.
They won one and lost four once again in Huizhou, but whereas their maiden win came in the 7th/8th final against Chinese Taipei two weeks earlier, they suffered a 26-5 defeat to the Philippines in the same match in China.
But Perelini was proud of the efforts from his charges – the only team of the eight competing on the series who train and play part-time.
“There was progress made by those who played in Korea,” insisted the New Zealander.
“That’s why we are training four times. I have seen the stakes upped by all the other teams as they head back to a full-time set-up. The Philippines and Chinese Taipei head back into camp where they are training every day as they don’t work, and so are the full-time teams.
“We are they only non-full-time training side in the competition.
“It’s always tough work when players come home and go straight back into full-time jobs. We’ve only been able to train two times a week due to availability of players because of their work commitments.”
The biggest margin of defeat suffered in Korea was a 29-7 loss to superpower Japan in the pool phase. Defeats to China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines were by a total margin of just 16 points before they thrashed Taipei 31-5 in the final.
In Huizhou, however, a 21-17 group stage win over the Filipinos was the one bright spot as they suffered 22-7 and 36-0 defeats to Hong Kong and the hosts respectively. They were edged out 24-19 by Taipei in the Plate semi-final. Jebel Ali Dragons full-back Matt Richards described how the UAE were 19-0 ahead with five minutes to go before fitness and fatigue kicked in and allowed their opponents to score 24 points in five minutes and win on the buzzer.
The UAE now prepare for the third and final installment of the 2019 series, which concludes in Colombo, Sri Lanka, over the weekend of September 28-29.
UAE results (Asia Rugby Sevens Series Leg 2 – Huizhou, China)
Hong Kong 22 UAE 7
Philippines 17 UAE 21
China 36 UAE 0
UAE 19 Chinese Taipei 24
UAE 5 Philippines 26
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