Kenyan centre, Brad Owako, emotional after a magnificent performance in the thick of the battle
After an inauspicious start to their 2022-23 UAE Premiership campaign, the Dubai Exiles pulled through to take their third UAE Premiership Rugby title in 4 years. Tries from John Donnan and Anthony Kapp with 16 points off the boot of Handre Snetler and a drop goal from DuRandt Gerber brought the UAE Premiership trophy back to The Sevens Stadium.
Tarek ‘Taz’ Mursal and teenager Fourie Du Preez run onto the pitch
A Dubai Tigers player is ready to kick off
Lined up before kick off for the UAE National Anthem
It was a jittery start from both sides. The Tigers dominated territory for the opening 15 minutes of the game but stout Exiles defence forced a number of turnovers at critical times. From the outset it was clear that the game was going to be extremely direct and physical.
Exiles’ fullback, Conor Kennedy, reliever the pressure
Carel Thomas claims the ball was available
Despite the early Tigers pressure, it was the Dubai Exiles who were the first to register on the scoreboard. A sequence of penalty advantages to the Exiles while on the attack in the Tigers‘ 22 eventually wore out the patience of referee Tony Duminy. A warning to Tigers captain and former Narbonne full-back, Clint Eadie, and a penalty for not rolling away in the tackle. Exiles Number 10 Handre Snetler stepped up and calmly slotted the 3 points. 15 minutes played, 3 – 0 to the Exiles.
From the restart it was once again the Tigers that were dominating territory, but once again the Exiles defence was forcing errors from the team in red. When the errors came, they were inevitably followed by penalties that allowed the Exiles to get back into Tigers‘ territory.
Referee Tony Duminy was again having a chat with the Tigers‘ captain before Handre Snetler stepped up and slotted another 3 points. 6 – 0 to the Exiles.
Handre Snetler had brought his kicking boots and slotted 16 points
The game resumed to its pattern. Tigers applying territory pressure but failing to retain possession in front of what was a very aggressive Exiles defence led by Brad Owako in the centre. However, with the clock on 25 minutes, the Tigers did get to cross the Exiles‘ try line. After shipping the ball outside, the ball found itself in the hands of former Benfica wing, Diogo Pinto Basto, who scored in the corner. Converted 6 – 7 to the Tigers.
The Exiles reply was almost immediate. From the restart it was a series of errors and bad decisions from the team in red. Former Abu Dhabi Harlequin, Dubai Hurricane, and now Dubai Tigers Number 8, Emosi Vecanaua failed to gather the restart and knocked the ball on. The referee waved advantage and the Exiles moved the ball from right to left. Centre Anthony Kapp almost went through, the ruck formed, Carel Thomas moved the ball to Fijian, Epeli Davetawalu, who was wrapped up by an offside Tiger. Penalty to the Exiles, yellow card for the Tigers. Another 3 points for Handre Snetler, 9 – 7 to the Exiles.
Exiles Ladies’, Ruth Murphy, celebrates St Patrick’s Day watching the Premiership Final
Irishman, John Donnan, scores the opening try
The opening try of the UAE Premiership Final followed almost immediately. The Exiles gathered the restart, full-back Conor Kennedy put his laces through the ball and sent it down the field to the Tigers‘ in-goal. A moment of madness from Tigers‘, Charlie Taylor, when the former Australia 7s player who played in the 2018 Commonwealth games, decided to run the ball out from his own line and was promptly trapped by 5 chasing Exiles. Brad Owako put in the big hit, and the Exiles had an attacking scrum on the Tigers‘ 5m line.
With a forward sat on the sidelines after his yellow card, the Tigers scrum was dominated by the Exiles eight. The inevitable penalty was awarded, Carel Thomas went quickly, and looked to have blown the chance to score but a recycled ball to John Donnan saw the big Irish lock thump over the line with the assistance of Exiles‘ Hooker, Dave Gairn. Converted by Handre Snetler, 16 – 7 to the Exiles.
Exiles’ Brad Owako gets to grips with Charlie Taylor
The Exiles would have been looking to take their nine point lead into the second half, but it wasn’t to be. With the clock running down to half time, some usually loose tackling around the breakdown allows Tigers‘ Clint Eadie, to get over the line. 16 – 12 to the Exiles. Half Time.
Exiles prop, Brad Tuff, was substituted early in the second half. The former Hong Kong Scottish prop having to leave the field with an injury. Brad’s replacement, Tarek ‘Taz’ Mursal, a science teacher at Nord Anglia School, introduced himself to the game with a thunderous hit on Tigers‘ prop Duane Aholelei. The former Clermont Auvergne and MLR Rugby Atlanta prop felt the full weight of Taz‘s tackle.
Despite the continued aggressive Exiles‘ defence, it was the Tigers who got the first points of the second half. A penalty out on the left of the park was well taken and the Tigers were back to within 1 point. 16 – 15 to the Exiles.
The Exiles defence was becoming more and more miserly and showing signs of getting the upper hand over the Tigers‘ attack. The men-in-black were working tirelessly to keep the Tigers‘ strike runners in their boxes.
When the next try arrived it was for the Exiles. Matt Mills had pinched the ball from an attempted Tigers kick through. After gaining 20 metres and having the wherewithal to stop and look for support, the ball was moved across the back line. Handre Snetler saw that nobody was home in the Tigers‘ back field and sent a kick through for Exiles Under 19 wing, Alfie Wilson, to chase.
Charlie Taylor was again sweeping for the Tigers but young Alfie Wilson caught him on his try line. When Taylor tried to battle his way forward, Exiles centre, Anthony Kapp wrestled the ball from Taylor‘s grasp and dropped to the ground to score. Converted by Handre Snetler. 23 – 15 to the Exiles.
Exiles’ Anthony Kapp rips the ball from Tigers’ Charlie Taylor to score
The Premiership Final was had entered the last quarter. The Exiles had an eight point lead and were beginning to look good for the title. The Tigers energy had visibly wained, their big forwards were looking fatigued. Another penalty to the Exiles and another three points for Handre Snetler. 26 – 15 to the Exiles.
The Tigers did get another try with a couple of minutes left on the clock to keep things interesting. The Exiles had turned Tigers‘ possession over in their own 22 and were clearly happy bout it! But a wayward pass from the base of the scrum gave the Tigers an attacking opportunity on the Exiles‘ 5m. An opportunity that they grateful accepted to setup a nervous last few minutes of the game. 26 – 22 to the Exiles.
Durand Gerber takes on Clint Eadie
Nail biting time!
The game was restarted, the Exiles went on the attack in the Tigers‘ 22. Another penalty to the Exiles and with the entire Exiles bench creaming to kick the ball into touch and maul the clock away Exiles‘ Durandt Gerber kicked the ball off the park, The lineout was set, the ball gathered by the men-in-black. No maul came, DuRandt Gerber set himself in the pocket and when the ball reached him, he calmly slotted a drop goal and another 3 points. 29 – 22 to the Exiles. Final score.
Alfie Wilson is all smiles
Jaen Botes wins another title
Exiles’ Director of Rugby, Jacques Benade, smiling – it can happen!
|Jaen Botes||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|
|Fourie Du Preez||Scrum-half||0||0||0||0|
|Cornel Steyn||Number Eight||0||0||0||0|
UAE PREMIERSHIP FINAL – DUBAI EXILES VS DUBAI TIGERS
UAE Premiership (18th March 2023) – Al Ain Amblers Rugby Club