x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

'Very special day' for French School and others at rugby festival

Abu Dhabi French School defeated the Al Ain Amblers to take the Under 14 title, one of the many winners on the afternoon in the Emirates Airline Middle East Schools International Rugby Festival.

Jess's Findley Ratcliff finds running room during action in the Under 12 category at the Middle East Schools Rugby Union International Festival.
Jess's Findley Ratcliff finds running room during action in the Under 12 category at the Middle East Schools Rugby Union International Festival.

Abu Dhabi French School secured an emotional victory in the first Emirates Airline Middle East Schools International Rugby Festival in Dubai on Saturday.

Pitched against Al Ain Amblers in the final of the Under 14 section of the two-day tournament at The Sevens, the team coached by Bruno Moriou won 10-7 thanks to two tries from Mark Mansour, their No 8, to ensure the teammates who leave the school at the end of summer term will do so on a winning note.

"I am very proud of the team," Moriou said. "The bus on the way home was very happy. We spent the full weekend in a hotel together and that created a great team spirit. It was a very special day as lots of the players will leave the team next year and possibly the country."

The run to the final, where they saw off competition from Universal American School and Dubai Hurricanes, was masterminded by Benoit Moriou, their fly-half from Burgundy who was nominated as one of the players of the tournament.

Defeats to the French school bookended Al Ain's tournament. In between they defeated Universal American School (UAS) and Dubai Hurricanes, twice, while Francois Smith, their No 7, was named as player of the U14 tournament.

Dubai Exiles produced a remarkable turnaround to recover from a heavy pool defeat at the hands of JESS Ranches the previous day to beat the same opposition 21-0 in the final of the U12 section.

"The team went up two levels from the previous day and really turned up," said Andrew Williams, the coach. "We took a real hammering in the pool stage but the boys really wanted to win this one and played with real physicality."

John Yates, the forward, led the turnaround with two tries, a fitting last contribution before he leaves the club to move to Singapore with his family. "He's been a great servant to the club and has been a pleasure to work with," Williams said.

Ali L Sharbani, the wing, scored the other try and was named player of the U12 tournament. "I don't think I've ever seen him play better," Williams said.

In the U18 category, UAS celebrated a famous pool-stage win over Dubai Hurricanes on Saturday. Tries from Lyle Van der Ross, Hassan Jaffar, Brend Brokenhoff - whose twin brother, Bart, excelled at inside centre - and Pedro Barros, combined with conversions from the trusty boot of Jacob Duran, secured a 29-5 win for the team who are in their first full competitive season.

"For a school to beat a club side like the Hurricanes is really good for us," Bradley Edwards, the coach and curriculum leader for social studies, said. "The guys were outstanding."

As expected, UAS found themselves outclassed by the might of Dubai College and the two powerhouse colleges from England, Filton and Truro, who contested the final which Filton won.

"Truro will represent England in the World Youth Championships in Japan in two weeks, so for us to play against a team like that and learn from one of best schools in the world is a great experience," Edwards said. "It was a big learning curve and a real quantum leap for us."

Returning to the venue where they won the Gulf Under 18 sevens title in December, Dubai College (DC) failed to make the final but took some consolation from restricting Truro to a 12-7 victory in their pool game. That was largely down to the scrummaging and loose play of Ali Alami, their Palestinian tight-head prop, who Andy Jones, the director of sport at DC, said enjoyed an "unbelievable" tournament.

"Wherever he goes next, he will have a bright future.

"We pushed Truro all the way and scored a try against them so we were very happy with that," Jones said. "But the things went up another level against Filton."

DC were in the game at 5-3 at half time but conceded 26 unanswered points in the second.

"The gap between us wasn't tangible," Jones said. "They were very physical but their skill level was very good from one to 15. Some of their play was a joy to watch."

Ian Boase, the Truro coach, whose team form the backbone of the academy side of the English Premiership side Exeter Chiefs, felt DC acquitted themselves well.

"There was a fear factor that ourselves and Filton would be too strong for DC but they gave us a very, very good game and they have nothing to be ashamed over the last two days," Boase said.

Jones picked out the Filton fullback, Will Thomas, as the outstanding payer on view.

"He was sensational," Jones said of the back who represented Wales in last month's Hong Kong Sevens. "His balance, agility and pace was outstanding."

Thomas, according to Truro's Boase, "was the difference in the final" and he was named player of the U18 tournament.

"We played well but Filton deserved their victory," Boase said.

A try in each half from Sam Chapman kept Truro in touch but Filton won the match with a late penalty.

Truro will return to south-west England before heading to the Far East for the Sanix U18 championship, a high-class invitation tournament at which they reached the final two years ago.

They will, according to Boase, be enriched by their experience of Dubai.

"It's been absolutely fantastic," Boase said.

"We've been overwhelmed by the hospitality and welcome we have received. The facilities have been immense and to sample where the guys on the sevens circuit play, having only seen it on TV, has been fantastic."

Truro have attempted to repay the hospitality by inviting all the Dubai sides to England for a tournament they will host in August.



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