Dubai Exiles quell Hurricanes as UAE Premiership heads towards thrilling finale

Dave Gairn try ends valiant comeback as sides vie for play-off places

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Jacques Benade said the UAE Premiership is the most competitive it has been for years after seeing his Dubai Exiles side stave off a valiant fightback by Dubai Hurricanes on Friday night.

The Exiles required a late pushover try by hooker Dave Gairn to force a 25-21 win against their fellow tenants at The Sevens, Dubai.

A try from Matt Mills plus excellence off the kicking tee by Tayne Stannard had helped the Exiles exert early control. When they stretched their lead to 20-6 in the second half, they appeared to be cruising.

Hurricanes, though, have been on a marked upturn in form, and they mounted a remarkable comeback, led by their outstanding captain, Ruan Steenkamp.

The No 8, who captained South Africa in age-group rugby in his youth, scored the try which edged Hurricanes into a 21-20 lead.

There was enough time for the Exiles to strike back, though, and Gairn was bundled over to win it for them.

The Exiles are the UAE Premiership holders. They beat Dubai Tigers in the final in Al Ain last season.

The Tigers have been setting the standard this season, and Benade – the Exiles coach – acknowledges they are probably beyond reach in the West Asia table.

However, all five UAE based sides are still in contention for the domestic titles. While the Tigers are as good as assured of first place – and therefore a home semi-final – the remaining sides are each still each able to make the playoffs.

The win over the Hurricanes gave the defending champions a cushion in second place, but Benade reckons any of the UAE sides – with Jebel Ali Dragons, Hurricanes and Abu Dhabi Harlequins competing for the places – could still claim the trophy.

“Canes beat [the league leading Tigers] last week which shows that on their day anyone can beat them,” Benade said. “I think it is the first time in many years that the last three or four games mean a lot for many clubs.

“There is a lot of good rugby being played. We played well in the first half, then as well for the first 15 minutes of the second.

“At 20-6, I thought we had this game, but they are a good side. Ruan is a very good captain. It is good rugby.”

Benade said the comeback against his side was not the only evidence of the threat posed by the Hurricanes.

Henry Paul’s side claimed a 33-21 win over the Tigers a week earlier – the first defeat of the season in the UAE Premiership for the double-chasing outfit.

“If they keep building on this they will be a force at the end of the season,” Benade said.

“Both of us needed this win and the fact we did gives us a bit of a buffer, but we need to get another win out of the next two games against Dragons and Quins.”

Updated: March 02, 2024, 11:31 AM