On Sunday evening, with the temperature dropping in the picturesque backdrop of the mountainous city of Angren in Uzbekistan, as the weekend-long Asia Rugby U20 Sevens tournament reached its climax, both the Women’s and Men’s teams from the UAE turned up the heat, and turned on the afterburners, to overwhelm their respective opponents in the finals and storm off with the most valuable silverware on offer, and also, of course, the crucial, much-vaunted tag of champions.
Having had a mixed and fairly tough day at the office in the pool round, winning three and losing two matches, and merely eking out a 7-point victory over India therein, the UAE Women raised their game significantly in the final, shutting out and outscoring the Indian team 31 – 0. Not to be outdone, the UAE Men — who, in contrast, proved ruthlessly dominant on both days – also shut out their opponents, hosts Uzbekistan, and cruised to a thumping 34 – 0 victory in the final.
The road to glory for the U20 Women was by no means paved with any beds of roses or any such easy-on-the-eyes or noses nonsense. All teams showed up, but none of them prepared to go down without a hard-nosed, down-and-dirty fight to the finish. In the battle vernacular: dog fights, shocks, upsets and rebounds abounded.
The UAE Women kicked off their tournament with a relatively comfortable 25 – 10 victory over Uzbekistan and followed it up with a hard-fought 12 – 5 win over a speedy, dangerous-looking India. But then, they suffered a shock 12 – 19 defeat at the hands of Malaysia, and then another, narrower 21 – 19 one, against Thailand.
Earlier, Malaysia also got off to a solid start, defeating Thailand somewhat comfortably, posting 19 while conceding 7 points; but they were then meted out a sound 29 – 10 drubbing by India; and yet, they bounced back to stun UAE, the eventual champions, only to then themselves suffer a shock defeat at the hands of Uzbekistan by a solitary conversion, 12 – 10.
Aside from dominating Malaysia, India also secured a hard-fought 19 – 12 victory over Thailand, and a convincing and impressive 28 – 5 win over Kazakhstan on day 2 to make their way to the final.
Thailand also had an impressive outing. They got off to a great start in the opening match of the tournament, shutting out Uzbekistan and notching up 17 points, before going down to India and Malaysia by fairly narrow margins.
The Thai Women ended the tournament on a high note, avenging a stinging loss in the pool round and then some, securing the biggest margin of victory in the Women’s tournament, defeating Malaysia by a whopping 43 to zilch.
The U20 Men’s competition, and the UAE Men’s team’s path to glory, was a much less dogged and much more one-way traffic affair. UAE won all five of the matches they played, scored 163 points, at an average of almost 33 per match, and conceded only 10 points – effecting shutouts in 3 of the 5 matches, i.e., zero points conceded in those three, and let in only 2 tries in the remaining two matches; a commendable, dominant and rather remarkable performance.
The other Men’s Sevens teams in the region clearly have quite some catching up to do. The signs, though, that they are at it, and may do so rapidly, are evident. Hosts Uzbekistan, for example, deemed overwhelming underdogs before the event, making their way to such a key final for the first time, along with the flashes of rugby brilliance displayed by Malaysia, India, Chinese Taipei and just about all teams…
The promise showcased in the Women’s teams’ relentless competitiveness over the weekend reflects clear indications of the individual as well as collective rugby talent in both the women’s and men’s game, being uncovered on the continent in spades, beginning to rise up the pathways being envisioned and charted for them.
The top try scorer in the Women’s competition was the electrifying Emily Eglen from UAE who scorched the grass on her way to touching down for eleven tries, and the top Men’s scorer was UAE’s Tom Battiston who, to the delight of the crowd and his teammates, side-stepped, hoodwinked, burst and crashed over for Seven tries.
🏆🏅🇦🇪 UAE 🥈🇮🇳 India 🥉🇹🇭 Thailand
🏆🥇🇦🇪 UAE 🥈🇺🇿Uzbekistan 🥉🇲🇾Malaysia,