Dubai Exiles aim to clinch West Asia Championship at first attempt

Dubai Exiles (in black) and Muscat tussle for ball during the West Asia Championship, first round match yesterday at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National (to go with Paul story for sports)

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The West Asia Championship match between the Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Harlequins is a potential title decider.

The Exiles are undefeated and victory on Friday at Zayed Sports City will all but seal the fate of the championship.

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A defeat to Harlequins, though, would not be terminal and they will get a second chance to secure the title again against Dubai Hurricanes in two weeks.

As for Harlequins, it is win or bust after their unbeaten run was ended by city rivals Saracens.

Quins can take some positives from recent meetings with the Exiles ahead of tonight’s match, as they areundefeated to them this season. They edged the UAE Premiership match in October 22-19 and subsequently ended the Exiles’ campaign in the Dubai Rugby Sevens in the semi-finals.

“We really can’t wait to play them. It will be two good teams going head to head, looking to play quick, running rugby,” Harlequins coach Mike McFarlane said. “It’s another game for us. We set ourselves high standards no matter the game, no matter the opposition and we always look to play positive rugby with an end goal of getting a win.”

Exiles coach Jacques Benade says his team has made huge progress since the October defeat to Quins.

“We did lose to Quins in the Premiership but I do think from there till now we came on as a team we were growing in every match,” he said. “There is a good honest rivalry between the two teams. We were leading 19-15 in the Premiership but they won in the last few minutes.

“It’s good to see that this competition has come down to the two top teams in the country.

“Every game we play a bit different. We have to be at our best if we want to win this game. A lot of credit should go to the players, they have worked hard to get the team into this position and hopefully we can round it off with a win.”

Benade said expects a tight and physical game.

“This game can be decided on a penalty,” he said. “We need to go there and take all the opportunities as the teams are very even. And if we win, we take the West Asia Championship.

“If we lose we still have a chance when we meet the Hurricanes in two weeks, but it is a must-win game for them. That puts a lot of pressure on them.”

McFarlane, however, does not share that view.

“I’m very surprised to see Exiles have classed this as a dead set final and have written off Hurricanes in their final game,” he said. “There’s enough quality in this league for anyone to turn up and cause a perceived upset.”

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