UAE achieve dream of Asian Sevens Series promotion after Cup triumph in Singapore
Matt Jones 5/08/2018
The UAE romped their way to success at to the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy, convincingly coming home with the trophy and the knowledge that they will play Asian Sevens Series rugby later this year.
The standard of opposition wasn’t the most scintillating in Singapore, but Apollo Perelini’s men beat the two best sides at the tournament apart from themselves – the hosts and Thailand – to reign supreme in the second tier of sevens.
It will now allow them to tangle once again with Asia’s top teams – including Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Sri Lanka – after a three-year hiatus.
By virtue of winning the Cup section in Singapore, the UAE will join the other seven nations in the three-legged series which begins in Hong Kong next month.
The opening leg of the 2018 tournament will be played between September 14-15; the second in Korea from September 29-30 and the third in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from October 13-14.
“Hard work pays off,” said a delighted Jaen Botes after the Dubai Exiles powerhouse helped the UAE defeat the hosts 14-0 in Sunday’s final.
“On to the next chapter and I’m excited to keep working on achieving milestones. It’s been a great few days with great people. I’m proud to represent the UAE.”
The UAE regularly tussled with the continent’s finest up until 2015. But they would always receive invites to play in the Series rather than earn the right to feature outright. They narrowly avoided automatic qualification two years ago and have since had to play in the second-tier Trophy.
They had lost previously in the semi-finals to Thailand last year and in the last four of the Development Sevens Series in Al Ain in 2016 to the same opposition.
Niko Volavola (l) was the UAE’s star man in Singapore with nine tries in five games.
But the Thais were swept aside on Sunday in the semis, the UAE setting up a final showdown with Singapore thanks to a convincing 26-0 victory.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ fly-half Luke Stevenson scored two tries and potted two conversions while there was also a ninth try of the weekend for Jebel Ali Dragons danger man Niko Volavola. Kinivilame Natuna also crossed in a convincing win.
It was a tighter affair in the final at Queenstown Stadium, but the UAE sealed a monumental triumph with scores from Stevenson and Natuna again, with the Quins man adding the extras.
It may have been against largely inferior opposition but there were no hiccups for Perelini and his players who conceded just 10 points in five matches all weekend – while scoring an aggregate of 169 themselves.
Volavola’s haul had included hat-tricks in a 48-0 blowout of Nepal in their Pool B opener and another in the 45-5 triumph over Indonesia.
Jordan were also beaten 36-5 on Saturday to set up a showdown with their nemesis, Thailand.
But two years of misery was replaced by victory as the UAE progressed to the final, where they held their nerve to earn promotion to the elite level.