We have reached that time of year when the UAE Conference league splits now to the Plate and Cup competition. The Top 6 and the Bottom 5.
After 7 weeks into the competition the middle of the table looked very tight and each game carried tremendous pressure on the teams to reach their personal targets, although in the end the regular season ended anticlimatically with all last years B5 and T6 places taken up by the same teams.
Most talk will centre on the Al Ain Amblers, whose team languished near last for a few weeks, until their 1st team pulled out of the West Asia Premiership and the team snuck into the Top6 on the last weekend. They may well be favourites to again win the Cup competition.
Sharjah Wanderers had a bit of a wobble in the last weeks but came through with a confidence boosting win over Harlequins in week 9. The Harlequins themselves in week 10 finally ending Jebel Ali Dragons unbeaten run, so the play off competition looks fascinating and very competitive every game.
Dubai Hurricanes were another team who were on the cusp of plate rugby, but pulled out their performance of the season against a fancied Dubai Exiles side, although the ‘Canes’ would argue that after beating Amblers as well just prior to the new year, they are also a side to be reckoned with.
Down in the Bottom 5 and Dubai Sharks and Heartbeat Tigers will be dissapointed to missing out. The Tigers seem perennial plate competition winners and were not for problems with player availability may well compete with the top teams, as they did in their first year in the league.
Dubai Sharks on the other hand are like Southampton Football club in the UK. As soon as they get anywhere near challenging they sell all their best players and head back to mid table again. Dubai Sharks loose momentum when players look to the bigger teams to get noticed, and none can blame them with the current UAE National team set up, but it will be back to the drawing board for Sharks this summer.
Abu Dhabi Saracens have the odd distinction of finishing on minus points, falling foul, as many teams did of administration irregularities.
However, here are the first weekend’s fixtures, with Arabian Knights v Wasps also due to play.