Jacques Benade delighted with Dubai Exiles' 'deserved' UAE Premiership title triumph

Matt Jones - Editor 21:07 14/04/2018
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Exiles players celebrate their win over Quins.

They already had a first Dubai Sevens title following an 11-year drought in the bag. But you felt it might still have been considered a disappointing season had Dubai Exiles not claimed a second major trophy in 2017/18.

Head coach Jacques Benade said as much following a titanic tussle with Jebel Ali Dragons in their 31-20 West Asia Cup semi-final at the end of March.

It saw them put a foot in the final, but an inexperienced and patched-up squad decimated by injuries then had to head to Bahrain to win. It was a daunting task, one they manfully committed to and even looked likely to win, until they wilted in the final 10 minutes and Bahrain sauntered to a flattering 47-25 win.

So one final remaining, against their most hated rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins – who have had a stranglehold on UAE rugby in the last two years and more.

But as Exiles capitulated in Bahrain three weeks ago, the UAE Premiership final seemed a step too far for an injury-ravaged Quins – barely recogniseable from last year’s quintuple champions.

It was a deserved win and brought Benade a second double in his third season at the helm.

“I’m delighted with the win,” said the South African.

“The players just played a great game, taking our chances really well. The forwards dominated up front in the contact area and set-pieces and with front foot ball, Du (Gerber, fly-half) controlled the game well at the back.

“It was a massive team effort in defence and I’m just so proud of the boys. A huge squad effort and the players must take all the credit.

“I really think we deserved some silverware in how we grew as a team during the season and I’m just so happy for the club and all the players involved in our senior squad.”

It was some effort from Exiles, who at one point this term looked as if they would run out of gas trying to keep pace with early-season pacesetters Quins, Bahrain and Dragons.

Benade’s boys began 2017/18 like they had a chip on their shoulder. After meekly surrendering their UAE and West Asia Premiership crowns last season, they flew out of the traps, posting 125 points in two seismic wins over Dubai Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes.

But then came three straight defeats to Dragons, Bahrain and Quins, and they began to run out of steam.

They were boosted by collecting the Gulf Men’s League title at the Sevens in December, halting Quin’s bid for a fourth successive crown. Then they won four on the bounce and six of their final seven Premiership games to roar right back into contention.

Chariman Mike Wolff still wishes the squad that took to the field against Quins had been the one to take on Bahrain, but he is content with his lot.

“I’m very happy with that win,” he said. “I confess, I do wish the Gods had allowed us to deploy that team to have played Bahrain. That would have been an unbelievable 80 minutes with that crowd, but two big trophies for the firsts, a plate for the twos, and runners-up in two other finals is a good position to be in at the end of the season.”

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