The UAE rugby team took its first win as an international rugby union beating Kazakhstan 24-10 on Friday in the HSBC Asian Five Nations match in Abu Dhabi.
The crucial win in the desert moves the UAE rugby team one step closer toward the goal of retaining their HSBC A5N Top 5 spot in 2012.
“It feels fantastic,” said UAE coach Bruce Birtwistle. “It is great to get our first win in at home under the UAE banner. I’m extremely proud of the effort of the entire team.”
UAE captain and Lock Mike Cox-Hill and his men were facing a tough challenge in having Asia’s 2010 runners-up Kazakhstan as one of their two home matches—the other being undefeated champions Japan.
Adding to the considerable pressure was the fact that the visitors were stinging from both a home loss to Hong Kong and red cards to two key members of their forward pack last weekend in Almaty.
But an exhausted Kazakhstan was further weakened by the absence of key starting prop Vladimir Chernyk who failed to secure his travel visa. That and the fact that Kazakhstan was playing on a short week, contributed to a perfect sandstorm for the visitors as the Kazakhstan pack struggled against the UAE’s veteran cadre for most of the match.
“Our forwards blazed the way for us tonight, but I thought we were really strong throughout the park,” said Birtwistle.
Having accomplished their initial goal of remaining in the Top 5, a buoyant UAE are already setting their sights higher. The UAE have a bye next weekend before hosting Japan in Dubai in Week 4.
“We won’t back away from it, we will field our strongest team against Japan,” said Birtwistle. “I think we have done enough to stay up with a draw and a win from our opening two matches. Our goal is now an away win in Hong Kong and securing second place in Asia.”
From not existing at this time last season, UAE now top the table of the HSBC Asian Five Nations and Asian rugby with 8 points from two matches. Hong Kong is next with 5 points, followed by Sri Lanka with 3.
(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at: Mustapha.email@example.com)