Liam Caldwell scored a hat-trick of tries as Dubai Tigers completed a perfect season by winning the UAE Conference title.
The defending champions beat Al Ain Amblers 37-21 in the final at The Sevens, Dubai.
No-one could deny the Tigers are worthy champions, having been faultless in winning 14 games in a row across the campaign, and after finishing 12 points clear of Al Ain at the end of the regular league phase.
However, they were pushed to the limit by a highly-talented Amblers side in the final.
The side from the Garden City held a 7-0 lead, after a try by centre Lucian Jansen, until the half-hour mark.
It was then that Tigers made it into the Amblers’ 22 for the first time in the match, and Caldwell crossed to level the scores.
On the stroke of half-time Darren Baxter gave the holders a 12-7 lead. It seemed likely the Al Ain challenge might falter from there, given three of the five replacements on their bench had played in the veterans’ invitation match before the game.
Amblers, who included three Emirati players in their starting XI, as well as a Moroccan and a Syrian, did not know they were beaten, though, and they notched second-half tries from FC Holdt and Gerhard Botha.
But the Tigers were too strong, and they ran out comfortably winners in the end, with two more tries from Caldwell and one for Justin Nieuwodt.
“We always knew finals football is different,” Aaron Persico, the Tigers coach, said. “We have good players in key positions and we knew we had to be composed and stick to our systems.
“Al Ain got to us and made it really difficult for us to play our rugby. We had to grind, and we had the belief the get through.
“The bench made an impact. It was finals football, it was good to watch, and we got the win in the end.”