x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Reyal proves he is no dummy with try at Dubai Sevens

The Sri Lankan's sleight of hand lead to brilliant score, but the group proved too tough for the national team as they lose all three matches.

Imad Reyal scored a wonder try for the UAE against Fiji and is proud to be wearing the shirt of his adopted homeland.
Imad Reyal scored a wonder try for the UAE against Fiji and is proud to be wearing the shirt of his adopted homeland.

DUBAI // Having been pitched into the group of, if not death, then at least of severe punishment, the pickings were predictably lean for the amateur players of the UAE national team yesterday.

That said, one of their number did achieve a moment of glory that should endure for the rest of his life, in the opening match against Samoa.

Imad Reyal scored the first UAE try on their Dubai Rugby Sevens debut after throwing a dummy that was so exquisite it should have been hung in the Uffizi.

Matt Dawson, Benji Marshall, Quade Cooper - none of them could have bettered this. Even allowing for a little National Day induced myopia, there will have been no finer try scored anywhere at The Sevens this weekend.

"Benji Marshall and Quade Cooper are my heroes, and I have seen a few of the Fijians do it, too, so I thought I would try it," Reyal said of his moment of mastery.

"I've been trying it out in training and was hoping I'd get the chance to do it in a game. I didn't know it was going to work, but luckily it did."

Reyal comes from the same Sri Lankan hill town, Kandy, as cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan. If the champion off-spinner had have performed such a dexterous sleight of hand as the UAE rugby player managed yesterday, it would already have passed the 100,000 views mark on YouTube.

Reyal gave a nod to his homeland when he celebrated, by marking out the letters S and L with his hands, and had to stop to pose for photos with Sri Lankan supporters immediately after the game.

However, he said he was proud to be wearing the white shirt of his adopted homeland.

"It was amazing," the 20-year-old IT specialist said. "I've been so excited to have the chance to play in the Sevens and represent the UAE, which is my home now."

He also scored the side's second try, and his virtuoso display went to prove what a keen eye Wayne Marsters, the UAE coach, has when it comes to talent-spotting. Reyal had only been playing social rugby for the Lanka Lions until this season before joining the mainstream with Dubai Exiles at the start of the domestic campaign.

Marsters saw him score a try on his first day in his new job as the UAE rugby manager, and as good as had his shirt measurements drawn up straight away.

"We had a values session [on Thursday], when each of the players stood up in the group and said what they wanted from the tournament and what they wanted to do for the team," Marsters said.

"Imad stood up and said, 'I'm going to show you The Step'. It was a light-hearted moment and, when he actually pulled it off, I was really pleased for him and it gave the team a real lift."

The UAE followed defeat to Samoa, who won the world series two years ago, with a hefty loss to Fiji and were thrashed in their evening match against Argentina.

The manner of the Argentina defeat, with the 70-point barrier breached in a bruising encounter, could have damaged both limbs and morale. However, Tim Fletcher, the captain, reported that both remain in good order ahead of their Bowl campaign, which starts against Scotland at 10.24am.

"We came into it with realistic expectations, and the good news is we are injury free," Fletcher, who scored a try of his own against Argentina, said.

"Everyone is a good head space, but we were surprised by Argentina. Their intensity just blew us off the pitch."

pradley@thenational.ae