Lankan scores a double for UAE at Dubai Sevens

Saturday, 3 December 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

UAE made a dream debut at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament with Sri Lankan-born Emad Reyal scoring two tries in their 55-12 defeat against Samoa in their opening Pool A match at The Sevens stadium off Dubai-Al Ain Road on Friday.

On a historic day for the nation which is celebrating its 40th National Day, the UAE national team confounded cynics by preventing the former IRB World Sevens Series champions from blanking them in their maiden appearance at the competition.

Samoa as expected scored nine tries with Tom Iosefo, Faalmemiga Selesele and Paul Perez scoring two apiece. Their try by Iosefo should have been disallowed as the ball slipped out of his hands before he touched down.

But the former Arabian Gulf team overcame nerves after Samoa got off to a quick start to surge ahead 19-0 to pull one back with a brilliant individual effort from Reyal.

Dubai Exiles scrum half Reyal drafted into the side for the Goa Sevens a fortnight ago, stunned the mighty Samoans with a spectacular break from the halfway mark to score UAE’s first try in the fifth minute and put the finishing touches after the hooter had sounded with Emirati Cyrus Homayoun having a hand in the second.

“It’s just awesome and it’s nice to represent the UAE. It’s like my home country, so I’m proud to be a part of that,” said an elated Reyal who is in his first season with Dubai Exiles having previously represented Lanka Lions in the social segment of the Dubai Sevens for the past three years.

“I just wanted to win the game for the UAE and make the country proud – that’s it. This was my ambition from a very small age. I told my dad that I wanted to play for the UAE someday, so I’ve achieved that and I’m happy about it.”

The 20-year-old from Sri Lanka’s central district of Kandy showed a good change of pace and a clean pair of heels after hitting a gap on the right flank and racing across before scoring with an extravagant swan dive in the corner for an unconverted try.

Samoa racked up a 31-5 lead at the interval and it appeared to be one-way traffic after the turn around with Steve Smith did succeed in stopping one try-scoring effort.

But having precious little possession, UAE had their hands full in stopping the powerful Samoans who were threatening to run riot.

With just over a minute left UAE coach Wayne Marsters gave Homayoun and Stefan Imbert a run perhaps more in the hope of stemming the tide. However, the first ever Emirati to play in the Dubai Sevens not only made an impact in defence. He made a break on the left even as the hooter sounded, retrieved the ball after being brought down and forced the back peddling Samoans to concede a penalty near the goal line.

The ball was swung wide with skipper Tim Fletcher sending out a long pass for Reyal to canter across for his second try which was converted by Murray Strang.

“We are very excited and proud to perform the way we did. We could not have asked anything better against Samoa,” said Homayoun.

“It was nervous, yes. We played well and were very excited to hear the crowds cheering us on and that helped us a little bit more too,” he said talking about his experience.

Asked how he felt tackling the mighty Samoans, he said: “It was hard as I thought it would be. He offload it and unfortunately scored a try. I said to myself this guy’s not going to come through me.”

On Reyal’s double he said: “He is a superstar. One long range and second with support. We worked hard to get that. That was one of our goals coming into this tournament, score in every game.”

On the impact made by Emirati substitute Homayoun, Marsters said: “Stefan (Imbert) and Cyrus both featured in that last try. They went on and made a difference, Cyrus particularly. He was not just going on to fill in time at the end of the match. He went on and contributed. I was really pleased with the confidence he showed.”

Asked whether he expected Reyal to emerge as their key player, Marsters said:  “He had a slow start in Goa and scored a hat-trick of tries against India. As the matches went on he grew in confidence. We kind of knew that if he took another step up like he did in Goa, that he could match against the big boys here. We kind of knew that he could surprise a few people.”

“We have to be realistic in what our goals are this weekend. We talked about scoring points and I thought we did that and did that well,” said Marsters.

He was pleased with the team effort as UAE battled back to score the second try with a last-gasp effort.

“Two tries by Emad great individual try. I was pleased for him but the second was more a team try and I was probably more happy with that. It was testimony as far as support play and fighting right to the very end and scoring points,” he said.

However, Marsters admitted UAE came up short in defence.

“Defensively we were 10 or 15 pints a better team than we were this morning. But the first one is always going to be bit of a shock to us. No matter how much you prepare to play against teams of that calibre, still always a bit of a surprise. If we can defensively improve and still be scoring tries, it would be ideal,” he said. (Source:

Pool A

Fiji 40     Argentina 7

Samoa 55     UAE 12

Fiji 43     UAE 0

Samoa 28     Argentina 28

Pool B

New Zealand 40     United States 0

South Africa 17     Portugal 5

Pool C

France 27     Kenya 5

England 43     Zimbabwe 0

Pool D

Wales 14     Scotland 7

Australia 40     Canada 7

Wales 15     Canada 12

Australia 24     Scotland 12