DUBAI // The weather forecast is fine and clear for Dubai Exiles’ big day Friday. All they have to beware of, as they celebrate a club day which they hope will culminate in a first major title in years, is localised hurricanes.
The city’s oldest rugby institution are hosting a mini and youth festival, a sold-out brunch, and have even hired a band to play at the conclusion of their final club day before they turn 50.
The headline act, however, is the first XV’s 5pm fixture against Dubai Hurricanes, their fellow tenants at The Sevens. Win, and the Exiles are all but guaranteed to claim the West Asia Championship title.
They have a one-point lead at the top of the table, as well as a substantial advantage on points differential, over Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who play Bahrain in the capital.
They are not over the line yet. The side from the capital punctured their confidence with a resounding win when they met two weeks ago.
Exiles will be without Glenn Moore, their captain, against Hurricanes. Jacques Benade, the coach who has overseen their transformation this season, missed training this week as he was in London at the Rosslyn Park Sevens in his role as director of rugby at Dubai College.
“There have been no undue signs of nerves,” Gareth Venter, the Exiles assistant coach, said.
“I look at where we were five years ago when we started rebuilding this whole thing. The possibility of having a brunch and a club day sold out, and the possibility of there being 500 people staying on to watch the game, is excellent.
“The players are revelling in the challenge of playing in front of those numbers.”
Hurricanes could feasibly be party-poopers twice this season. They face Exiles in the finale to the West Asia competition, and they also play Harlequins on the last day of the UAE Premiership season. The same two sides are vying for that trophy, too.
“It is unfortunate we are not in that position ourselves, but in a local derby with no pressure on us, we are going to give it a good go,” Daniel Perry, the Hurricanes captain, said.
“They are far and away the best team in this league and are at the top, like they should be. It is going to be a big day, there should be a big crowd down, and hopefully we can spoil the party.”
Mike McFarlane, the Harlequins coach, says his side might be having to pay for the fact they were denied their fixture against Al Ain Amblers at the start of the season.
Amblers forfeited back then, meaning Harlequins were given a standard 20-0, four-try win, rather than the chance to advance their points differential significantly.
“Unfortunately 20-0 did us no favours, which is a shame,” McFarlane said.
“We have a job to do and it will be difficult as I was impressed with Bahrain when I saw them against Saracens.
“They have a strong back row and a good No 10, and that is the basis for any good side. It should be a really good contest.”
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• AD Harlequins v Bahrain
• D Exiles v D Hurricanes
• JA Dragons v AD Saracens
• Muscat v Doha
Dubai Exiles win the title if:
They beat Hurricanes. If they get a four-try bonus point, they cannot be caught on points.
If they win without scoring four tries, and Abu Dhabi Harlequins get a bonus point in beating Bahrain, the two sides will finish level on points, but Exiles are still almost certain to be champions. Their points differential is 162 points better than the side from the capital.
The same would be the case if both they and Harlequins drew their matches. Even if Exiles missed out on a bonus point and Harlequins secured one, the Dubai side would be champions.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins win the title if: They beat Bahrain and Dubai Exiles fail to beat Hurricanes.
Doha win the title if: They beat Muscat and get a four-try bonus point, while Harlequins lose and Exiles lose without securing a bonus point for finishing within seven points of Hurricanes.
They beat Muscat and get a four-try bonus point, Exiles lose without a losing bonus point, and Harlequins draw with Bahrain.
Team P W D L P
1 Dubai Exiles 7 6 0 1 29
2 AD Harlequins 7 6 0 1 28
3 Doha 7 5 0 2 25
4 AD Saracens 7 4 0 3 20
5 Bahrain 7 4 0 3 19
6 D Hurricanes 7 4 0 3 19
7 JA Dragons 7 3 0 4 15
8 AA Amblers 8 1 0 7 11
9 Muscat 7 0 0 7 0