UAE Captain, Matt Mills, returned to the Exiles Premiership squad after injury
After a less than auspicious start to the 2022-23 UAE Premiership rugby season the Dubai Exiles managed to gather enough wins and points to give themselves a home semi-final on Pitch 7 at The Sevens Stadium against the Jebel ali Dragons.
Dubai Exiles captain, Pieter Killian, leads the team onto Pitch 7
Exiles Director of Rugby Jacques Benade
The regular season had seen the Dragons and Exiles each get one win against each other. The Dragons winning by 29 points to 27 at Jebel Ali Shooting Club in October and the Exiles balancing up the ‘W’ column with a 66 – 7 win in at The Sevens in January. With a place in the UAE Premiership Final to play for, and given the topsy-turvy nature of the 2022-23 season nobody was really sure which way the result of this game might go.
Full back Conor Kennedy split the Dragons’ back line…
…for teenager Alfie Wilson to score the opening try
From the kick off the Exiles looked to immediately get into their familiar rhythm. Number 10, Handre Snetler, kicked off for young Exiles‘ wing Tadhg Nash to regather and set Exiles on their familiar path. The Exiles were looking good for 5 or 6 phases before a careless entry at a ruck awarded a penalty, and possession, to the visiting Dragons.
A decent touch finder from the Dragons‘ 10 rewarded the visitors with a lineout just outside the Exiles‘ 22. It was only the large paw of Irishman John Donnan that snuffed out a good attacking opportunity for the visitors in blue.
Handre Snetler nailed a great conversion from out wide
Shane Weweje takes a high shot
When the first score of the game arrived, almost 15 minutes had been spent with both sides probing for weaknesses and feeling each other out. The Exiles had had the lions’ share of possession and territory but had failed to turn it into points.
A scrum to the Exiles midway between their own 22 and 10 soon turned into a penalty advantage to the men-on-black from referee Simon Dodd. Carel Thomas picked up from the base and quickly sent Kenyan centre, Brad Owako, on the charge over the gain line. A couple of pick and goes before Fijian, Epeli Davetawalu, saw nothing in front of him and took off down the middle of the pitch.
When Epeli‘s run was halted he offloaded to scrum half Carel Thomas with the Dragons‘ defence in full scramble mode. More hard carries down the middle from Jaen Botes and Epeli Davetawalu, and the overlap had been created. Handre Snetler drew the last defender for Conor Kennedy and teenage wing, Alfie Wilson to be in space.
The Dragons scrambling full back, Matt Richards, was taken out of the equation by Conor Kennedy for Alfie Wilson went over to open the Exiles‘ try count. Converted by Handre Snetler. 7 – 0 Exiles.
Epeli Davetawalu on one of many charges
Moeneeb Galant watches on
Teenager, Tadgh Nash, had a great game
The Jebel Ali Dragons were very much making their presence felt. The game was physical and intense. However, with a quarter of the game gone, a Dragons infringement at a ruck handed Handre Snetler an easy shot at 3 points which he duly accepted. 10 – 0 to the Exiles.
Brad Owako was clearly enjoying himself in the middle of the park. The hard running Kenyan centre was causing all sorts of problems in the heart of the Dragons defence. If he’d had his headphones on he’d have been listening to Pinball Wizard by The Who.
In the January encounter. between the two sides at The Sevens Stadium the Dragons had simply given away too many penalties. With 30 minutes on the clock, this match was showing signs of going the same way.
A penalty to the Exiles had given the men-in-black an attacking lineout 7 metres from the Dragons‘ try line. Hooker, Dave Gairn, delivered the ball to Jaen Botes, the maul was formed, and the big South African Number 8, thumped his way over the try line for his first of three tries. 15 – 0 to the Exiles. Half Time.
Pieter Killian enjoying the physicality
Hooker, Dave Gairn, protects the ball
After a long lag off with injury, UAE captain, Matt Mills, had made his way onto the field for his first run out since October 2022. Even though the Exiles looked like they were good value for the half time lead, the next score would be crucial. It came after 10 minutes of the second half.
The Exiles were moving the ball across the backline and then changing the attack points with hard carrying and direct runs from the forwards. An outrageous dummy from Exiles‘ prop and captain Pieter Killian had got the home team to within 5 metres of the Dragons‘ try line. Exiles wing, Alfie Wilson, was stood all alone in acres of space, but the Exiles forwards continued to try and crash over.
Handre Snetler spotted another penalty advantage awarded by Simon Dodd and by the time the Dragons had reacted it was too late. The Exiles Number 10 had slipped two tacklers, pirouetted through another two, and managed to stretch across the line. Converted by Handre Snetler. 22 – 0 to the Exiles.
Young Alfie Wilson almost got a second try
With 22 unanswered points on the board the Exiles had their tails up. John Donnan and Matt Mills were looking to cause as much damage as possible with hard and direct carries into a tiring Dragons‘ defence. The game was still physical and combative. The Jebel Ali Dragons were doing very well to make the Exiles have to fight for every inch of ground that they gained.
Pressure from the men-in-black, and penalties from a tiring Dragons defence gave the Exiles consistent presence in the Dragons‘ 22. When a speculative kick through intended for UAE Under 19 international and Exiles wing, Tadgh Nash, was safely grounded by the Dragons, their restart didn’t go the prerequisite 5 metres and the Exiles had an attacking scrum under the Dragons‘ posts.
The Exiles scrum had been dominant all game, and it was no surprise to any of the gathered support, for both sides, when the Exiles pack drove forward for Jaen Botes to pick up and score. Converted by Handre Snetler. 29 – 0 to the Exiles.
With 15 minutes of the game remaining the Dragons were still finding the energy to ‘dog it out’. When the flood gates could have opened the visitors to The Sevens Stadium stuck fast at their task.
Referee Simon Dodd has a chat
In sight of the final whistle, another youngster, replacement Kiwi wing Kahurangi Emberson almost danced his way over the line. John Donnan had stolen another Dragons‘ lineout, the ball was moved across the back line. The Dragons knocked the ball on at the breakdown and the Exiles once again had a scrum close to the try line.
In a replay of the previous score, the dominant Exiles kept the Dragons‘ back row in the contest and gifted space for Jaen Botes to get his third try of the game. Converted by Handre Snetler. 36 – 0 to the Exiles. Final Score.
Jaen Botes scores his third try
Big THANK YOU to all the ball-boys who helped on the day!
|Cornel Steyn||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|
|Jaen Botes||Number Eight||3||0||0||0|
|Fourie Du Preez||Scrum-half||0||0||0||0|
Jebel Ali Dragons
DUBAI EXILES RFC vs JEBEL ALI DRAGONS
UAE Premiership Semi-Final (11th March 2023) – The Sevens