x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Winning habit eludes the UAE as they go into rebuilding mode in Division 2

With a new look squad, including five emerging Emirati players, the UAE will hope to restructure and get into the winning habit in more forgiving climes when they drop a level in the revamped competition next season.

UAE’s Charlie Sargent tries to avoid a tackle by Singapore team members during the one-off Division 1 Test at The Sevens. The Singapore-born winger was making his debut. Sarah Dea / The National
UAE’s Charlie Sargent tries to avoid a tackle by Singapore team members during the one-off Division 1 Test at The Sevens. The Singapore-born winger was making his debut. Sarah Dea / The National

UAE 13 Singapore 30

UAE: Tries: Bester, Pommerel; Pens: Sargent

Singapore: Tries: McCabe 3, Carne, Cons: Amran 2; Pens: Amran, Lakin

Man of the match: Luke McCabe (Singapore)

DUBAI // Roelof Kotze, the UAE performance manager, says the national team are desperate to rediscover a way to win, having fallen to a second successive relegation last night.

After demotion from the top flight of Asian rugby 12 months ago, the UAE slipped straight through the next tier having lost to Singapore at The Sevens.

The national team have not won a competitive match at XVs level in just under two years.

Very few members of the side who beat Kazakhstan to stave off relegation on May 12, 2012 are still around representing the national team. Kotze was overseeing his first Test, having been appointed earlier this year, while the majority of his squad are novices at this level, too.

It showed, as a Singapore side boasting a large nucleus of indigenous players were comfortable winners by four tries to two.

“Winning is a habit and we haven’t had that habit for a few years,” Kotze said.

“You need to learn how to win. These guys [Singapore] have come here with confidence.

“They have gone through the divisions. When you win, you win; you win and their psyche is different.

“You are going to have a shock every now and then, but you need to be able to know what to do to be able to win.

“I don’t think we have got that in our squad right now, but that is all going to come in time.”

The UAE were in the alien position of holding a lead after 28 minutes of the first half.

Jono Bester went over for the first try in the right-hand corner after a brilliant offload by Charlie Sargent, the outstanding debutant wing from Dubai Exiles.

Bester’s centre partner, Neil Pommerel, broke the line to score the second to give the home side a 10-7 advantage.

However, Singapore’s superior fitness and skill level told as they were convincing winners by the end.

With a new look squad, including five emerging Emirati players plus a variety of other debutants besides, the UAE will hope to rebuild in more forgiving climes when they drop a level in the revamped competition next season.

“We drop down into Division 2 and we can start a winning culture from there,” said Adam Telford, the UAE captain.

“Although it was gutting to lose, I think by dropping down a division we can rebuild and restructure.

“There are a lot of changes happening and we will have to take a step back to go forward again.

“The Singaporean players were as good as the expats. You couldn’t really tell the difference.

“The Emiratis who played for us today played their hearts out and I thought played very well. I think Singapore is what UAE should be aiming for in future.”

Given the large expatriate populations of both countries it was no surprise to see each team was awash with imported talent.

Ironically, the opposing captains – Telford and Singapore’s Peter McFeely – are good friends from their native Northern Ireland.

McFeely was happy to get one over on his mate, as it meant his side retained a status that was hard earned when they were promoted last season.

“It is a bit of a cliche but we knew today was make or break,” McFeely said.

“We put in a lot of hard work last year to win Division Two and we didn’t want to get knocked back a peg just because [Asian union] have decided to restructure things.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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