UAE 7s side finding their level at Dubai Rugby Sevens

Third tier of competition proving better fit for team made up entirely of Emiratis
The UAE 7s team, in green, lost to Cairo during the Rugby Sevens Series at the Rugby Sevens grounds in Dubai on December 4, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National
The UAE 7s team, in green, lost to Cairo during the Rugby Sevens Series at the Rugby Sevens grounds in Dubai on December 4, 2014. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Abdallah “Buddy” Tolba, an affable Egyptian with big hair and a big smile, had an airline to thank on Thursday night as he celebrated Cairo Rugby’s defeat of UAE 7s, the all-Emirati outfit playing at their home event, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Four of Tolba’s Egyptian teammates – including the side’s captain – were unable to make the trip to Dubai this weekend because their visas were not processed in time by a travel agency.

Tolba, however, flew instead with Emirates, the event’s title sponsor. Since the carrier takes care of visas for its customers, he had no issue.

“They weren’t refused a visa, they just didn’t get processed in time to travel,” Tolba said after helping his hometown team to a 12-5 win.

“But this win meant a lot to us. We have had a very rough two years, with the revolution and everything. We could only train once a week, we didn’t have many sponsors and now to play without our captain ... we played as a team and it feels wonderful.”

The UAE 7s are contesting the International Open tournament, the third tier of competition and one step lower than last year, when they lost each match heavily. This was a more spirited performance, but the Emirati disappointment was clear and it worsened later in the evening when they lost 34-5 to Exeter Baa Baa’s.

“We are disappointed,” said Harab Al Azhari, who scored the UAE 7s’ only try in the second defeat. “It’s not where we want to be, we want to achieve much better. We weren’t switched on from kick-off in the second match and it hurt us.”

Despite the two defeats, Al Azhari found positives and is hoping for a better performance when they play their final group match Friday afternoon against Eagles Invitational. The International Open tournament appears to be a better fit for his team, and he is confident they can finish their weekend on a more upbeat note.

“Last year, we jumped up a bit too much,” he said. “We weren’t physically ready, so we came down a level and this is more or less our field now.

“We put up a fight in both games, we just need a few more things to touch up on and we’ll be good. They key thing for us is making sure we are switched on from the start when we play our next match.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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