Exiles joined about 300 other rugby clubs in the Dubai extravaganza. A great new experience for some of our players and a reasonable performance on the field of play. As mentioned before Exiles played at the fourth, so-called Social, level. This was a bit of a misnomer and it turned out to be two levels with Exiles playing in the renamed Competitive Social level. They started off against the Pie and Pint Pilgrims who were a tough bunch of English players who had not consumed many pies or pints recently. They scored immediately but were worn down by a powerful Exiles display, where five different players got tries to make it 34 – 5. Next up were the Solihull Old Boys who were a very decent side. Exiles were not as sharp as in the first game and were always playing catch up. They fought back to 22 – 24 but the conversion just slid past. Then it was on to a South African side, the Rams, who had had the misfortune to lose five of their players on the way. They were also a good team, but the legs went in the second half and Exiles ran away to 35 – 0.
So it was on to the quarter finals with Exiles for the first time facing a Canadian Irregulars side with other international reinforcements. By this time both Dustin and Theo were struggling with injuries and Exiles had a horror start conceding three penalties which led to three tries. On the one occasion Exiles had the ball in the first half we made a passing error. We regrouped in the second half and two of our fast men Liam and Daniel ran away to score. But it was too little too late.
The Canadians were the best team in the tournament and it was a slight consolation that they went on later to comfortably win the final. Exiles had scoring potential, recording 16 tries in the four games with speedsters Liam and Daniel, our oldest and youngest players, getting six and five respectively.
Other Exiles were also on show elsewhere: Ian and former coach Oriol played for a top-class OB team. They drew the final 14 – 14 but the equally strong opposition were given the nod having scored the first try. Sean was also in a strong team, the Assassins, but they went out in the third level semi to the Waterboys (twice winners of the Stockholm Tens) who went on to win yet another title.
Finally, the Ladies. In their wisdom Anna-Lena Swartz and David Mobbs Smith have divided up the Ladies into a 7s and a 15s squad. The result: the 15s were well beaten by the Czechs, thus missing promotion, while the 7s with nominally the stronger Swedish players proved out of their depth at the second Ladies´ level. They lost narrowly to the Kazakstan team, Almaty 5 – 12, then beat another poor club side, the Pirates, 43 – 0. In their pool they then played the Tuks, a student team from Pretoria, and were beaten 25 – 0. They met the same team in the quarter final and with holes everywhere in defense and nothing achieved going forward they went down 41 – 0.
It may be added that the Tuks were well beaten by the Kenyan Lionesses in the semi, who in turn lost the final to the French development side.
It might have been better if Sweden had played in the third or lowest group (won by Tabusoro Angels), or perhaps not played at all. It has been claimed that the girls have paid their own way. It would be good if the Union could confirm this; I would hate to think the Union´s limited resources have been used for this trip.
In general, it is frightening to see the way the 7s standard is developing on both the male and female fronts. Sweden has not advanced in recent years with the result that we are falling further and further behind countries against whom we previously could compete.
At the top HSBC level the standard was incredible. South Africa were devastating, hardly allowing NZ out of their own 22 to win the final 15 – 0. And in the Ladies´ final, heartbreak for Canada who just lost out to NZ at the final whistle.
I have been to the Dubai 7s a few times before, but it just gets better and better. The best festival of rugby in the world for my money.