x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

In Gulf rugby, Spring is usually the season where teams fall

March has always been the forfeit season in Arabian Gulf rugby ... Sometimes even the biggest clubs have struggled to raise one side by this point of a campaign, let alone two, explains Paul Radley.

The UAE Shaheen, in blue, beat Afghanistan with a last minute score. Afghanistan is a country that has taken quickly to rugby but is also struggling to keep players, like the UAE.
The UAE Shaheen, in blue, beat Afghanistan with a last minute score. Afghanistan is a country that has taken quickly to rugby but is also struggling to keep players, like the UAE.

March has always been the forfeit season in Arabian Gulf rugby. The Afghanistan team who withdrew from the sevens tournament in Dubai are not the only ones to have failed to fulfill their fixture commitments.

It has long been a tradition for under-performing clubs to reach this stage of the campaign and realise they over-reached the previous summer when, emboldened by good attendances at training, they entered two sides into competition.

Sometimes even the biggest clubs have struggled to raise one side by this point of a campaign, let alone two. The Dubai Exiles cut their cloth adroitly this year after their travails of 12 months ago, and the club is reemerging as a force in the game as a result.

But Abu Dhabi Harlequins? It seems startling that arguably the biggest club in the region could forfeit a key fixture on account of the fact they cannot find the requisite amount of front-row forwards.

Their second XV completed a season of triumph by winning their league at the weekend. Their senior colleagues, meanwhile, have won nine games on the bounce in the Gulf Top Six, and 14 out of 15 in all XVs rugby this season.

That single game that got away still sticks in their craw. It meant they lost out on the UAE Premiership title to the Jebel Ali Dragons, the side they were meant to play on Friday - and the same side who they face in next weekend's grand final to decide who is the best side in West Asia.

Conspiracy theorists might be on the lookout for those prop forwards.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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