Canes beat serial Sevens winners Abu Dhabi Harlequins 24-14 in Saturday’s Gulf Men’s League final to end a barren run at the tournament stretching back 11 years.
So long ago was their last triumph, the venue for Saturday’s final – their home ground of The Sevens Stadium – hadn’t even been built yet.
That 2007 victory – their first Dubai Sevens title – had come the final year the tournament was held at the old home of rivals and city neighbours Exiles’ Al Awir ground.
Tries from ex-Jebel Ali Dragons centre Saik Naisau, Joe Riley, Lewis Anderson and Boris Finck – plus two Finck conversions – proved enough to send Canes to victory against Mike McFarlane’s Quins on Pitch 1, inside the main stadium.
And Finck revealed that negative press – or in Canes’ case, no press at all – played a small part in their triumph.
“There was an article written heading into the Sevens about every other team bar us,” said Canes’ French fly-half Finck.
“We were completely written off and that worked in our favour because no-one expected us to come out firing the way we did.
“I’m still buzzing from the win. Reflecting on it, everyone’s ecstatic. It was an amazing shift put in by the boys all weekend. I believe that our defence won us the tournament, which was class throughout. We put away some big teams.”
Canes surged through their Pool A schedule with three straight wins – including against West Asia Premiership leaders Bahrain and rivals Exiles, the reigning champions. They swept aside Abu Dhabi Saracens in the quarter-finals before a pair of nervy last-four showdowns.
Quins edged Bahrain 12-10 while Canes overcame last year’s finalists Dragons 21-19.
Canes have been steadily building under the tutelage of Mike Wernham and ex-Wales sevens international Matthew Pewtner. The former Dragons man came on board as backs coach a year ago with a keen eye on developing the club into a sevens force.
Canes have spent the few years stuck in obscurity since reaching the UAE Premiership final four years ago and being soundly beaten by Quins. Since then, they’ve bizarrely found themselves sandwiched in between the top and bottom teams in both the UAE and West Asia Premierships – too good to be relegated but not good enough to battle Quins, Exiles, Dragons and Exiles for major honours.
But there has been something stirring this season, with reigning West Asia champions Dragons toppled as Canes sit third in the league, behind Quins and Bahrain.
“The progress we’ve made as a team throughout the season has been class,” added Finck, who heaped praise on coaching duo Wernham and Pewtner.
“The systems in place, the coaching set-up, a lot more professional. Everyone’s buying into it. Did I think we could win the tournament beforehand? Yeah. As soon as the team sheet came out you could tell the skill and pedigree of players we had, it was unreal.
“I know Mike and Matt had a hard time cutting it down to 12 because of the class we had. I still can’t get over it.”
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