The National - News
Asia Rugby Sevens puts national team ‘back on map’
The national sevens team believe they have put the game in the UAE “back on the map” after winning the plate at the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai at the weekend.
UAE fell short of their ultimate goal. The top two sides from the eight-team event at Sports City – Hong Kong and South Korea – qualified for the World Cup Sevens in South Africa next year.
That possibility was out of the home team’s reach more or less seven minutes in to their first game, after China built up an unassailable lead in the tournament opener that ended in a 29-17 defeat.
UAE’s performances from there on, though, were admirable. They beat Sri Lanka, and pushed Japan – Asia’s best-resourced rugby nation – only to fall to a defeat that pushed them into the second-tier plate competition.
The hosts dominated that event, with a 31-14 victory over Malaysia followed by a 29-10 win in the plate final against Sri Lanka.
“We reset our goals going into the second day, and the only thing we would accept would be fifth place,” said Blair Cochrane, the Dubai Hurricanes back whose brace of tries against China started UAE’s resurgence in the tournament.
“But it was overshadowed by a little frustration because we knew we were definitely one of the top four best sides in that tournament.
“I think this is just the beginning. The way we see it is this is the baseline; this is foundation for us to build from. We have just managed to reach the highest finishing place the UAE have had.
“The next steps will be getting to more competitive tournaments to give us more exposure. I think that was the main difference between us and the other teams.”
UAE assistant coach Matthew Pewtner said the national team had acquitted themselves well.
“I firmly believe that if we had performed better in the first half against China, we could have finished in the top two,” Pewtner said, while also echoing Cochrane’s sentiment about laying a foundation. “It certainly feels like we are building something.
“We finished fifth, we won the plate, and that is the best UAE have done in such a tournament. That is an achievement, and a step in the right direction.
“We can say with confidence that we are not far away from the teams who finished above us.”