Dubai Exiles reach UAE Premiership Cup final after Jebel Ali Dragons forfeit
Exiles advanced straight to the final following a second successive forfeit with Dragons opting out of fixture this weekend
The future of the UAE Premiership Cup, a new competition being piloted this season, is already in question after Dubai Exiles advanced straight to the final following a second successive forfeit.
Jebel Ali Dragons indicated they would not be able to fulfil the fixture this coming Friday, against the side that beat them in the West Asia Premiership at the weekend.
Dragons had been given a bye to this stage, officially the semi-finals, on account of finishing in the top two in the UAE Premiership last season. However, they opted out of playing the fixture at the start of this week.
They had explored the possibility of using last weekend’s Premiership game against Exiles as a “double-header”, meaning the points would count towards the league, while the winners would advance in the cup. The idea did not eventuate.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who also had a bye to the last-four stage, having won the Premiership last season, will play Dubai Hurricanes in a double-header on Friday, February 16. Hurricanes previously beat Abu Dhabi Saracens in the only fixture played so far in the competition.
“It is unfortunate, but we had a plan at the start of the season, and this wasn’t part of it," Stuart Quinn, the Dragons chairman, said. "We wish the best of luck to those sides who are competing in it.”
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Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach, said he understood the reasoning behind Dragons’ withdrawal. He cited their position challenging for the Premiership title, as well as the fact several players who are teaching professionals might be away this weekend, given it is the start of half-term.
That said, Exiles are frustrated another fixture had been forfeited against them. It is their second cancellation against them in the new cup competition, after they were due to open against Dubai Sports City Eagles.
They have also missed out on playing a Premiership match against Saracens, as well as two fixtures in the second-tier UAE Conference.
Benade said it is difficult to justify players paying significant subscription fees if matches are being cancelled on them with such frequency.
“Dragons have had some very hard games with Bahrain, Harlequins and us, and I’m sure they took the decision to give the boys some rest,” Benade said.
“They are still in a good position, they could win the West Asia, and maybe that is what they are focusing on.
“Our frustration is coming from the fact there were four weeks after the [Dubai Rugby] Sevens when you could have played some rugby, but suddenly all our games were cancelled.
“It is very frustrating as a coach. How do you keep the boys positive? You can only get them to travel up to train at The Sevens twice a week so many times, only to tell them there is no rugby at the weekend.”
Updated: February 6, 2018 09:33 PM