Tunisia edged a bruising encounter 15-7 in Tunis, but the UAE returned to Dubai with plenty of positives in preparation for their Asian Five Nations opener.
UAE rugby team keep their composure amid provocation in Africa
The UAE team will land in Dubai on Saturday with a few bumps, bruises, stitches and plenty of positive following their heated friendly with Tunisia on Friday night.
The national side lost 15-7 to a side ranked 37th in the world – the UAE do not have a ranking as they are still working towards IRB status – but they showed impressive cohesion in defence for a side who fielded 10 debutants, including Emiratis Mohammed Al Sulaiman and Abdulla Al Nuami, and did not concede a try.
"We are pleased with the fact we kept them out," said Alistair Thompson, who added it was a "proud moment" and an "honour" to captain the UAE for the first time. "We haven't had much time to work on defence so to limit them to five penalties was a good effort."
Murray Strang scored the only try of the game in the second half.
The match was Duncan Hall's first in charge since he was appointed performance manager and the display was a marked improvement on the miserable showings in the Four Nations tournament where the UAE conconceded more than 50 points in each of their games against Brazil, Hong Kong and Kenya.
"It was a very good start," Hall, the Australian, said. "The scrum went well and the Tunisians said they were impressed by our back line. We have now given ourselves a bit of a yardstick."
The intensity of the match will stand the team in good stead for the friendly match with the Gulf Barbarians on Friday and the Asian Five Nations Top 5 opener with Hong Kong on April 27 at The Sevens.
"They were a physical side," said Alistair Thompson
"There were a few off the ball incidents that would have been picked up in a competitive game but we knew what to expect."
The robust nature of the match left Brett Williams, the No 8, requiring stitches to an injury around the eye.
He should be fit for the final warm-up match in Sharjah next week while Tim Fletcher should also be reintegrated into the backline. He missed the game after flying to Australia to attend a funeral. The Jebel Ali Dragons full-back will welcome the game plan being used by Hall.
"We plan to attack in the Asian Five Nations if we are to put sides under pressure," Hall said.
Thompson said Hall, who played 15 times for the Wallabies, has made a "big effect".
"We looking to move away from a ruck-based game, staying off our feet with lots of offloading," Thompson said. "It's a fast-paced game and the guys are enjoying it.
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