Asian Five Nations: UAE cannot fight off Philippines or relegation

The UAE's stay in the top tier of the Asian Five Nations is over, ended by the Philippines in a campaign that saw the UAE fail to secure a point in the table. 'How do we improve? We have to work harder,' says Duncan Hall, the UAE's performance manager.

By the time Philippines had scored their final try the UAE players already knew it was over.
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Philippines - Tries: Holgate, Hitch, Hagan, Saunders; Cons: Aronson 2

UAE - Try: Els; Pen: Russell

Duncan Hall, the performance manager, says a contingency plan was already in place for the future of UAE rugby even before defeat in Manila condemned the national team to relegation from Asia’s top flight on Saturday.

The national team will play division one rugby next year after exiting the Asian Five Nations without a point from this campaign.

The Philippines, who had been promoted three times in the past four years, secured their survival in the top flight with a four tries to one win at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

“We are trying to put more experienced heads on old shoulders,” said Hall, the former Australian Test player who is in charge of UAE rugby. “We are now in Division 1. There are good and bad bits to that. We just need to reflect on all those things during the early part of the summer.

“We have already started about different plans for next season even before this result.

“Whatever happened, there are already plans in place to support rugby in the UAE.”

The national team’s players must have felt like condemned men, given that most things that could have gone wrong for them did in the Philippines capital this weekend.

They were evicted from their captain’s run training session on the eve of the game as the Rizal Memorial Stadium was commandeered by a mass attended by 5,000 people.

And on match day itself they were stationed in a makeshift changing room when the air-conditioning in the away room failed.

When the ground then suffered a power cut five minutes from full time, it only delayed the inevitable.

The home team had just enough time to post another try before the lights finally went out on the UAE’s three-year stay in the top tier of continental rugby.

“It was a quiet dressing room [at the end] – but it wasn’t really a dressing room, more a corridor that had been closed off because the air-conditioning wasn’t working,” Hall said. “It wasn’t a restful place anyway so the boys had a chat on the field.

"You try your best, that is all you can do. They all tried their best and didn’t mean to drop the ball.

“The guys gave it their all the we defended well but we were just our own worst enemies at time because of turnover ball.

“I was slippery conditions but the Philippines, to their credit, scored three tries and a late one after the lights came back on so they thoroughly deserved their win.”

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