x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

City slickers left to rue poor starts

The Dubai rugby clubs must be regretting the day the play-off experiment was dispensed with by the Arabian Gulf union.

DUBAI // The Dubai rugby clubs must be regretting the day the play-off experiment was dispensed with by the Arabian Gulf union. The three top club's in the city are all realistically out of contention for the Prosperity Premiership title, with undefeated Bahrain stretching their lead at the top with a 37-15 win over Doha on Friday. Each suffered damaging blips during the first half of the campaign, which has rendered their strong recent form meaningless.

The Dubai Exiles followed up their impressive triumph over the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the defending champions, last weekend with a 22-15 win over the Dubai Dragons at The Sevens on Friday. Jon Beeton touched down his third try in two matches from the wing, while front-rowers Mike Riley and Dave Vittes capped another powerful display from the pack with a try apiece. "I've always been a fan of the play-off system," reflected the Exiles head coach, Wayne Marsters, a New Zealander who formerly coached the Gulf.

"Now the season is over for a lot of the clubs and we are just playing for pride." Their neighbours, Dubai Hurricanes, lost their first six matches in a torrid start to the campaign, yet have recovered their poise to such an extent that they trounced Abu Dhabi 38-10 in the capital at the weekend. The Hurricanes won the title two seasons ago, on the one occasion the play-off format - which is used to decide the Guinness Premiership and the Super 14 competitions - was implemented.

In the second tier Emirates League, Toa Dubai sullied the 100 per cent record of the runaway leaders, Al Ain Amblers, with a 45-26 win at The Sevens. pradley@thenational.ae