Dubai Exiles launch West Asia Premiership defence with win, but in costly fashion
DUBAI // Dubai Exiles launched their West Asia Premiership title defence with a fitful win over Doha, but were left sweating on the outcome of DuRandt Gerber’s trip to hospital on Friday night.
The South African fly-half, who played such a key role in Exiles’ double win last season, was replaced before the end after suffering what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.
Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach, was awaiting the medical report, but said he feared Gerber had possibly dislocated his right shoulder.
Typically, Gerber had been at the centre of most of what was good about the Exiles till then, providing a breakaway try and 16 points in total. That said, the home team were some way short of last season’s best.
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“I am so frustrated,” Benade said. “We had a brilliant week, everything was positive, but it was just turnover after turnover after turnover.
“They are good players, but they need to take ownership. Doha threatened in the first half, but I think if we could have kept the ball we could have scored more tries. In my view this was a bonus point missed.”
The corresponding fixture last year had been a classic, showcasing the best Gulf rugby has to offer.
This was the polar opposite.
Doha might be forgiven. They have lost a raft of players since then. Among others, they could have done with Jamie Clarke, last season’s captain, who was sat on the sideline supporting his erstwhile teammates.
He has since relocated to Dubai, and is now affiliated to Jebel Ali Dragons.
In the absence of him and others, Doha’s new-look squad have had little time to get to know each other so far.
To exacerbate their problem, one of their new recruits, a South African back-rower, did not make it through passport control on the trip from Qatar.
“We have had one good week together and I think we are two or three weeks behind where we want to be in terms of preparation,” Aaron Palmer, Doha’s coach, said.
“It will be difficult for us and Bahrain because we have eight away games.
“For Exiles versus Dubai Hurricanes, for example, it is still a home game for those clubs. That is why we want to make coming to Doha difficult for other teams.”
The Exiles started their competitive season a month ago. They looked rusty in the curtain-raising Champions League tournament, and they have much polishing still to do on this evidence.
In the first half, they dropped four successive kick-off receipts, and shelled most chances they had with ball in hand.
As such they were grateful their second try, after Gerber’s first half break, was a pushover from a five-metre scrum, which Ed Armitage, the scrumhalf, dotted down.
“We are not clicking at the moment, and that’s not the way we want to play rugby,” Benade said.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins made easy work of Dubai Hurricanes to add an opening-day Premiership win to the Champions League trophy.
The side who finished runners up to Exiles twice last year, eased to a four-try bonus-point win at The Sevens.
The 35-13 win did not exclusively bring good news, though. Luke Stevenson, Harlequins’ influential fly-half, limped off early with a leg injury.
Bahrain made a serious statement of intent as they opened their season with a thrashing of Jebel Ali Dragons.
Their 51-10 victory brought an end to the honeymoon period for Dragons coach for Henry Paul, who was overseeing his first game in charge.
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Published: September 23, 2016 04:00 AM