x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Dubai College finally crack the winning code

After several semi-final exits, the team won the Gulf Under 18 title at The Sevens with a 26-0 victory over British School Al Khubairat from Abu Dhabi.

Dubai College, in dark blue, and BSAK battle it out in the Gulf Under 18 final at The Sevens.
Dubai College, in dark blue, and BSAK battle it out in the Gulf Under 18 final at The Sevens.

Dubai College (DC) ended a sequence of gut-wrenching semi-final exits by winning the Gulf Under 18 title at The Sevens on Saturday in the most emphatic fashion.

And ominously for the rest of the teams in the GCC, the core of the side who thrashed the British School Al Khubairat (BSAK) 26-0 will return to defend their title next year.

"We will only lose three players [Chris Burke, Tom Summers and James Capon] from the starting team," Andy Jones, the director of sport at DC, said.

"Ali Alami, Mark Thomson and Nikhil Kanade will also leave so we retain 50 per cent of the squad for next year. But they will be replaced by some very exciting players."

Next year's replacements will be desperate to sample the exhilaration experienced on Saturday by their older peers who played out the final in front of a throbbing crowd of 40,000 on the same pitch England routed France to win the Dubai Sevens. "It was an amazing experience," Jones said. "You either grow in stature or you shrink and we got stronger while BSAK got weaker."

Ed Lewsey, the director of rugby at BSAK, experienced the Dubai Sevens for the first time at the weekend.

"I was blown away by the day," Lewsey, the brother of England World Cup winner Josh, said. "We are licking our wounds a bit but the lads will have learnt so much from playing in such an electric atmosphere."

Relieved after a narrow 12-5 win over the BDO Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the last four - a result which ended a run of three successive semi-final defeats - DC came flying out of the traps in the final and scored two tries in as many minutes, including one from their jet-heeled winger Capon.

"We have Mike Gibb who is rapid," Lewsey said. "But their lad [Capon] checked him and went in and out and scored. They then scored another and it was always going to be tough from there. We made mistakes in the first half and DC defended very well."

Leading 12-0 at the break, Jones felt the writing was on the wall for the opposition at half time.

"We started so well," Jones said. "The result reflects how organised we were, how well prepared we were and that all came together on Pitch One.

"We've been neck and neck with BSAK for a while but we won a recent event at BSAK and we had really targeted the Dubai Sevens."

Jones felt the semi-final win was crucial to the success, particularly after the team was been beaten by English College at the same stage last year.

"We had a wobble in the semi final but we talked them through it," Jones said. "We started very sluggishly in the semi but in sevens, the momentum can switch so quickly."

Lewsey was delighted with the way his side kept their head in the semi against a spiky Jumeirah College side who had one player yellow carded. But he had no complaints about the result in the final.

"We did well to get to the final but we came up against a better team," Lewsey, who replaced Lyn Jones, the former Ospreys coach, at the school in the summer, said.

He drew positives from the smart kick offs of Fraser Knox, who will join Charlie Fulbrook at half back in the 15s team, while Tom Morgan will relish the tight exchanges of the 15-man code after playing with plenty of physicality at the weekend.

kaffleck@thenational.ae