Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Not all bleak for Saracens as Abu Dhabi club continue comeback in UAE rugby

While English club have been plunged into crisis, Abu Dhabi Saracens secured fifth bonus-point win in as many matches with win over neighbours Harlequins

Abu Dhabi Saracens took their name from the trailblazing London club when they entered domestic rugby back in 2011. Getty Images
Abu Dhabi Saracens took their name from the trailblazing London club when they entered domestic rugby back in 2011. Getty Images

In a week in which Saracens were plunged into a crisis of unprecedented proportions in English professional rugby, the Abu Dhabi club of the same name continued their own comeback in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi Saracens took their name from the trailblazing London club when they entered domestic rugby back in 2011.

Their association was unofficial at that point, but they became a part of Saracens’ Global Network of clubs, which also includes teams in Romania and Kenya, two years later. The two clubs remain closely linked.

The London side, who are the defending English and European champions, were handed a 35-point deduction, and fined more than £5 million (Dh23.5m) on Tuesday for breaching salary cap rules. Both sanctions are suspended pending appeal.

The UAE version have faced problems of their own in recent years, having risen to the very top of West Asian rugby in a remarkably short time after their formation.

They opted to drop down to the second tier last season, and were only deprived a shot at the title back then by a quirk of the format of what was then the UAE Conference.

Now, in the rejigged UAE Division One, they are making serene progress. On Friday, they beat the second-string side of their city neighbours Harlequins 24-12 at Zayed Sports City.

It was their fifth bonus-point win from five matches so far this season, leaving them five points clear of Dubai Hurricanes II at the top of Division One.

“All the things we have put in place over the past two or three years are paying off,” Peter Henderson, the Abu Dhabi Saracens coach, said.

“We have gone back to old-fashioned rugby values, and the boys are playing well.

"We were without eight of our regular players because of work-related issues or injuries, and the boys still did what they did. I’m very proud.”

If a template were needed as to how to plan an elevation to the top-rank of regional rugby, Dubai Tigers continue to provide it.

The division newcomers claimed a second successive win in the West Asia Premiership as they beat Dubai Knight Eagles 27-16 at Dubai Sports City on Friday.

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Dubai Tigers beat Dubai Knight Eagles - in pictures

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Tigers only accepted promotion to the top tier at the start of this season, after years spent consolidating at the top of the Conference.

Henderson says Saracens would be happy to emulate the Tigers, but cautioned against thinking it will happen immediately.

“Last year was our year zero, which was all about consolidating,” Henderson said.

“This season, we are aiming to win the title. We went close to that last year.

"Year three, next season, would be about trying to repeat that, and year four was about entering a second-grade team again – but we are a year ahead of that.

“To go back up to the Premiership, I think we are a good two, maybe three seasons away from that. We are building towards that, but we would want to do it at the right time.”

Dubai Exiles are the only undefeated side in the top division, after they beat Jebel Ali Dragons 34-13 at the Centre of Excellence on Thursday.

Dubai Hurricanes revived their own West Asia Premiership challenge as they beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins 40-22 at The Sevens.

Updated: November 9, 2019 11:31 AM

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