Winners are grinners – Dubai Exiles‘ young ladies take the Gulf Under 19 Girls title for the 6th time.
It was a welcome return for The Emirates Dubai 7s in December at the end of 2021. The global pandemic had driven a temporary stake through tournament with the cancellation of the 2020 competition. The Dubai 7s returned, and with some bang. Reworked, reinvented and so with much more to enjoy at the world’s premier sevens tournament… Over 80,000 visitors enjoyed 3 days of international, invitational, and Gulf rugby at The Sevens Stadium.
Dubai Exiles Under 19 Girls Emirates Dubai 7s Squad
|1||Nicole Brits||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||2||10|
|2||Annabelle Garner||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Forward||2||10|
|3||Aydia Coetzee||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Forward||0||0|
|4||Lily Christiansen||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Forward||0||0|
|5||Femke Soens||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||2||10|
|6||Lara Botha||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||2||10|
|7||Tara Aksoy||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||3||15|
|8||Jodie Qursha||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Forward||1||5|
|9||Phoenix Emberson||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||0||0|
|10||Megan Theocharis||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||2||10|
|11||Courtney Gorman||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||1||5|
|12||Tatum Muller||Dubai Exiles U19 Girls||Back||1||5|
Tournament Squad and try scorers from knock-out games
The Exiles’ Under 19 Girls had made short thrift of their pool matches. Wins over the Dubai Tigers (50 – 0), Dubai Hurricanes A (22 – 0), Al Ain Amblers (55 – 0), and Dubai English Speaking College (DESC) B (52 – 0) had catapulted them to the top of Pool A with 4 wins from 4, averaging 45 points per game and yet to concede a point.
Abu Dhabi French were the Quarter Final opponents, a 43 – 0 win over Al Maha had given the ‘la visiteuses’ a place in the first round of knock-outs on a fervent Pitch 2. 14 minutes, six tries, and 2 conversions later, the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls had made their way into a semi-final against DESC A with a 34 – 0 win. With the ship in full sail, and yet to concede a score, the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls had set themselves on a collision course with a DESC side that was in no mood to be scuttled.
Pitch 2 remained the choice for Gulf Under 19 Girls’ semi-final. The luscious green banks that surround the playing surface provided ideal viewing amidst a cacophony of noise and excitement. It proved to be the toughest match of the tournament for the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls, two tries apiece as the game clock ticked into the final minute of the match. With extra time looking a distinct possibility, it was Exiles‘ team captain Nicole Brits who put the result beyond reach. 19 – 12, a place in the final booked.
With the Gulf Under 19 Girls Final being played on the showpiece Pitch 1 at The Sevens Stadium and a 4:58pm late afternoon kick off guaranteeing a big crowd for the final, Team Manager, Lindsay Wakefield, walked the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls around the pitch before kick off to help them acclimatise to the impassioned atmosphere. Over 14,000 spectators were on Pitch 1 and clearly having a fantastic time in the Land Rover end singing alone to various Bon Jovi classics.
Speranza 22 (S22) Academy had made themselves the opposition in the final by taking care of the Dubai Hurricanes by 19 points to 5 in their semi-final. The game kicked off to the strains of ‘Living on a Prayer’ over the Sevens‘ PA system, and many hands on pitch 1 were pressed together doing just that.
Tara Aksoy opened the Exiles‘ scoring account. The S22 defence had miscounted the midfield, allowing Femke Soens to throw a long looping pass for Tara to find herself in acres of space wide out on the left for a simple run in. 5 – 0.
Jodie Qursha looks to offload while Megan Theocharis calls for the ball
Tara Aksoy find space on the wing
The Exiles‘ second try was all about pressure. After the Exiles spilled the ball out wide on the right, Speranza 22 had been given the scrum in their own 22. Pressure from the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls was immediate and decisive. S22 were doing their best to shuffle the ball across their back line, but when it reached the last attacker she was hauled down by Tara Aksoy just a couple of meters out from the goal line. With the tackle completed, and no S22 ruckers, it was wide open for Lara Botha to swoop onto the ball and thump it down over the try line. Converted by Femke Soens, 12 – 0 to Exiles.
Next over for the Exiles was Captain Nicole Brits. With S22 Academy looking to build an attack, Jodie Qursha had put in a thumping tackle causing the ball to be spilled, the every busy Tara Aksoy had leapt on to the loose ball and sent Nicole away to the sticks. 17 – 0.
By any stretch the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls had saved their best performance to last. By the time the half-time whistle had blown Annabelle Garner had scored as the clock turned red. Megan Theocharis had caused all of the problems for the S22 defence on the right hand side and as the ball was moved back infield Annabelle powered over the line. Converted by Femke Soens. 24 – 0.
Many of the Exiles’ Under 19 Girls represent the UAE on the International stage.
The second half got underway to the thumping beat of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. From the kick-off S22 Academy looked to attack down the left side, but they again coughed up possession at a ruck only for the Exiles to move the ball from right to left, left to right until Lara Botha cruised through the stretched defence to score under the posts. Converted by Femke Soens. 31 – 0.
The next bit of excitement came with just under 3 minutes left on the clock. Femke Soens had been held up on the try line. With the Exiles awarded a 5m scrum, it was left to scrum-half, Megan Theocharis, to dart over and score the Exiles‘ 6th try of the final. 36 – 0.
Lara Botha supports Jodie Qursha
Tara Aksoy opened the scoring for the Exiles
It was very fitting that the final score of the Emirates Dubai 7s Gulf Under 19 Girls Final went to Femke Soens. Femke had enjoyed a great match in the middle of the park distributing the ball to the benefit of everyone around her. Aydia Coetzee had snuffed an S22 Academy attack into touch and from the ensuing line out, Megan Thoecharis had run the loop, moved the ball on to Femke who in turn threw a dummy scissors before sending the ball to Courtney Gorman,
When Courtney was tackled, a short ‘pop’ off the ground saw the supporting Femke Soens drive her way over the line from 10 meters out. A superb conversion from out wide by Lily Christiansen and the match was almost done. 43 – 0.
Tatum Muller had come onto the field in the closing minutes and was proving to be an absolute menace at any breakdown, whole-heartedly committing herself to any tackle, ruck or turnover opportunity. Tatums‘ hard work allowed Phoenix Emberson to earn the Exiles a penalty out on the left and when the ball was moved back towards the middle of the field she almost managed to squeeze over the line for a try. The referee blew the final whistle and the celebrations began. Dubai Exiles Under 19 Girls – Emirates Dubai 7s Gulf Under 19 Girls Champions 2021.