Close title race 'what the UAE needs' says Jacques Benade as Dubai Exiles sit top of West Asia Premiership
A 35-15 win at Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday the first match of a potentially seminal run which sees Exiles travel to Bahrain next, then host Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Jacques Benade, the Dubai Exiles coach, says his side never lost belief they could be part of the West Asia Premiership title chase, despite losing three times early in the campaign.
The Exiles moved to the top of the table after a 35-15 win at Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday. It was the first match of a potentially seminal run which sees them travel to Bahrain next, then host Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
Clawing their way back to the summit has been an achievement, seeing as they lost to Dragons, Harlequins and Bahrain in successive matches in October and November.
History shows that sides who claim the top honours seldom lose that many times across the course of the season. Harlequins, for example, tasted defeat just once in winning five titles last season.
“We had to be positive,” Benade said of the turnaround in fortunes. “I think it came down to needing to be a bit more patient as a team.
“Against Dragons, every time we were in their 22, we came away with points. That was one of the things we couldn’t do back in November. It was a day when everything worked for us.
“You could feel from the warm up that the intensity was there, the passion was there, and they played great rugby.
“There was no way this year that a team was going to go undefeated all season. It is just too tight.
“I think that is what the UAE needs, what we all need, to have tight matches like that every week. It makes it a much more enjoyable and interesting season as well.”
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Gio Fourie, Tomas Sackmann, Danny Waddy and Jaen Botes scored tries for the away side, and Benade said he was not expecting to win so convincingly.
“Whenever we play against the Dragons, everyone lifts their level, everyone shows more motivation,” Benade said.
“The two clubs want to be the best in Dubai. We knew we came close to beating them in November, and we were up for it.
“We were in a positive mood, but we didn’t expect, looking at the scoreboard, it would be that easy. We just started brilliantly.”
Bahrain maintained their own trophy ambitions with a 66-0 thrashing of Abu Dhabi Saracens on Friday, while Dubai Hurricanes beat Dubai Sports City Eagles 36-23.
Eagles had harboured hopes of a second league win since their formation last summer, when they trailed by just a point at half time.
Although they fell away in the second phase, Conor Coakley, the Eagles captain, says there is reason for optimism in the way they performed.
“I think there was a win there for us, but we are going to grow from this,” Coakley said.
“The guys will remember this feeling, this is what we will build on. Now we know we are able to compete at a good level, and we are able to get more than one scrappy win.
“Teams should be fearing coming down to Sports City to play against us.”
Updated: February 3, 2018 04:10 PM