x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Play-offs will serve better in Arabian Gulf rugby

With teams capabling of beating anybody on their day, a play-offs system will help retain enthusiasm till the end, feels the Dubai Exiles coach.

DUBAI // With the Arabian Gulf Prosperity Premiership sewn up by Bahrain two weeks ago, it is no wonder the Dubai Exiles coach, Wayne Marsters, is having trouble fielding a side for today's Doha match. The antidote to the end of the season slump for mid-table teams, according to the former Arabian Gulf coach, is to introduce a play-off system similar to the ones operated in Australia and New Zealand. Foreign travel to away games is expensive for clubs while paper work to obtain visas prohibitive and yesterday it looked as if the dead match between fifth-place Exiles and fourth-place Doha was likely to be cancelled. "It is hard to keep people interested," said Marsters. "The title race had come down to two teams just after Christmas and even though we came right at the right time in the season, it was all for nothing because by then the league was already tied up. "The thing is that the top four teams are all capable of beating each other and towards the end of the season it would be great to have the added interest that play-offs would hold."

Second-placed Abu Dhabi Harlequins demonstrated Marsters' point beautifully last week toppling the then undefeated Bahrain 29-7. "It's a shame there isn't more to keep teams interested," he said. "We had play-offs two years ago and the final went into double extra time and we still had to consult the rule book to decide the winner on try countback." An imminent change to the Gulf rugby structure will see the union re-constituted, and Marsters is hopeful this will prompt changes. "You never know," he said. "It's all going to be different next season and perhaps it could be an opportunity to introduce a play-off system." stregoning@thenational.ae