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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Dubai Exiles thrive on Facebook Live to stay in West Asia Premiership contention

Victory came against the Hurricanes at the HSBC Dubai Rugby Festival.

Lewis Moody, the former England captain and World Cup winner, handed out trophies to the winning teams at the HSBC Dubai Rugby Festival this weekend
Lewis Moody, the former England captain and World Cup winner, handed out trophies to the winning teams at the HSBC Dubai Rugby Festival this weekend

Dubai Exiles plan to air as many of their first XV matches live on Facebook as possible in future, after their 36-11 win over Dubai Hurricanes on Friday received around 3,500 views.

The broadcast was the pilot attempt at covering a game in real time by Marc Why, a former Exiles player who fills an informal photography and videography role with the club.

Domestic rugby has been showed live on television only twice in the past. The 2010 Gulf Cup final between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Harlequins was broadcast on Bahrain Sports, which included Arabic commentary.

And last season, the UAE Rugby finals day was aired on Dubai Sports. It is hoped televised coverage of that showpiece, end-of-season finale will become a standard feature of every season.

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According to his analytics report, Why’s Facebook broadcast had a potential reach of over 61,000. Despite having no publicity ahead of the event, other than via the players’ internal WhatsApp group, it was viewed as far afield as Australia, UK, the Netherlands, France, Argentina, and Brazil.

“Our trial was successful,” Why said. “There were a few little blips with the signal, but all in all, it worked. We are all expats who are here, but want to enable our families and friends back at home to see what we are doing. This is the only real way we can do it.”

At the culmination of the opening day of the HSBC Dubai Rugby Festival, in which more than 3,500 players were involved, Exiles claimed the win over Hurricanes, the co-hosts of the mini and youth tournament.

The fact they did so with a bonus point means they remain in contention in the West Asia Premiership.

Harlequins leapfrogged back above Jebel Ali Dragons at the top of the table, as they beat Bahrain 27-5 at Zayed Sports City.

Luke Stevenson, the Harlequins captain, was happy with the way his side bounced back from a first loss of the season to the Dragons seven days earlier.

“One of our big things last season was we had a lot of close games and always seemed to nick them by a point,” Stevenson said.

Bahrain, in red and white, had to wait eight years to win a major title. Satish Kumar for the National
Bahrain, in red and white, had to wait eight years to win a major title. Satish Kumar for the National

“We were doing that this season, up until last week – and even then we nearly got it. When the boys get into the game and realise we can play good rugby when we keep the ball, we grow in confidence and get better.”

Louie Tonkin, the Bahrain coach, was frustrated by his side’s profligacy, having gone in at half time 7-0 down, despite dominating territory and possession.

“It is an issue we had last year, too,” Tonkin said. “The tight games, we lost concentration and made errors at crucial times. The error count was crazy. I have never seen that amount of errors before. I think it was a mental implosion.

“The guys give their heart and soul every single week, there is no doubt the desire is there in abundance. We just have to control that and channel it in the right ways.”

Across the capital, Abu Dhabi Saracens’ recent renewed optimism off the field manifested itself in a first win of the season on it, against Dubai Sports City Eagles.