UAE claim first Test win in three years to open Asian Championship in style
On the morning of the UAE’s first Test of 2015, against Thailand in Malaysia, one of the national team’s new recruits tweeted a picture of his last-minute homework.
Rather than the playbook of the gameplan the UAE planned to implement in their opening fixture of the Asian Rugby Championship Division 2, it was the lyrics to the national anthem.
The late swotting proved to be time well spent. The expatriate and Emirati players who make up the national team combined to notch a handsome 53-22 win over Thailand – and celebrated with a rendition of Ishy Bilady.
“We are absolutely ecstatic and the boys are in the changing room singing the national anthem,” said Roelof Kotze, the performance manager.
It was a landmark occasion for UAE rugby. It was the first win in three years, just the third in the fledgling side’s history, the first away from home – and the first against anyone other than Kazakhstan.
Perhaps the most pertinent statistic of the day though, was the fact that Hassan Al Noobi’s 57th minute score was the first try by an Emirati player in Test rugby.
“I am very excited, first that we won the the match and second because I scored my first try,” Al Noobi said.
“I got all the support of the guys. I am really proud to score, and proud to be playing for the national team. I am really happy.”
With four conversions to go with his try, Al Noobi, who plays second-tier domestic rugby for Arabian Knights, had a nine point haul.
It says much about the exacting standards of Kotze as coach of the side, though, that he expects more from his full-back.
“He missed a few kicks and a few high balls, but generally he played well,” Kotze said.
“As the team evolves hopefully he will get more comfortable there and he will progress. He is a very good player.”
The national team touched down eight tries in all, after tempering a fast start by the Thai side.
“We had a slow start and we had to really work hard to get into our system,” said Kotze, who reported no major injury concerns, with matches against Malaysia and Chinese Taipei to follow this week.
“We wore them out up front then the backs were able to play a bit. Thailand have some exciting backs, their backline are their national sevens side and they have some quick guys.
“In the first half when they were getting front foot ball, they exposed us. Once we got them under pressure in the forwards, their game had nowhere else to go.”
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Updated: May 10, 2015 04:00 AM