x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Falcons coach happy with late fight back

The hosts redeem themselves after a terrible start with a late flourish against English amateur rugby league side Saddleworth Rangers.

David Wallis of the UAE Falcons tries to offload the ball to a teammate during Friday's game against the Saddleworth Rangers in Dubai.
David Wallis of the UAE Falcons tries to offload the ball to a teammate during Friday's game against the Saddleworth Rangers in Dubai.

DUBAI // The UAE Falcons took a long time taking flight against English amateur rugby league side Saddleworth Rangers. The visitors had already raced to a 48-0 lead before they scored their first points. The hosts, however, redeemed themselves somewhat with a late flourish to finish the game 20-64 at the Emirates Sevens on Friday night.

Elie Nehme, making his debut, scored the first points for the Falcons after 60 minutes, dragging five Rangers across the line. Dave Bolmer, player-coach Dougall Harvison and Wayne McDonald added to the score with three tries in the final quarter. It was the first defeat for the Falcons this season after two victories over Lebanese team Liban Espoir and the head coach Harvison was not exactly distraught. "We are a team who have come together just recently," said the former Australian National Rugby League player. "They [Rangers] are seasoned campaigners, coming here after finishing fourth in their league. These guys are coming off a 20-week season, so they should be fit.

"We are still developing, still learning. We could have rolled over at the end and it could have been a really big score. But I think, to our credit, we came back and scored three tries in the second-half. So I was happy with that, with the commitment from the guys." The visiting coach Keith Brennan was also impressed with the changes in UAE rugby league over the past year. He had brought his team down last season for the first official league game on UAE soil.

"They have come on leaps and bounds I think," said Brennan. "It just shows that all the training they are doing is actually working and paying off for them. "Technically they are a lot better than last year. It seems they got twice as many young lads as last year. So it is catching on." The Falcons did boast of a good attendance for the game, with nine reserves ready for a go on the sidelines. Brenman was happy to see the growing numbers and said: "There are some Australian lads in there who are bringing the local lads on, which is good to see. It just seems they are a close-knit unit. I was really impressed with them."

Despite the riches in numbers, the Falcons did miss the services of their leading players, Luke Sinclair and Joshua Sherrin. With the team thin in attack, coach Harvison decided to put himself on the frontline. "We were just a little light on our forwards and I wanted just a bit more direction out there," he explained. "I am not saying that I am the only person who could give direction, but just a little bit of a level head that has played at a pretty senior level.

"So I just wanted to go out there and sort of lead by example." arizvi@thenational.ae