The Dubai Exiles may not have been able to finish their Gulf Top Six tournament with a win against Bahrain, but the club has never felt better.
A last-second try for the Exiles gave them a 28-24 loss to a team that had previously beaten them by 47 points in a 50-3 trouncing on February 15.
Considering where the Exiles were six months ago when they could have barely put together a sevens side, their turnaround from also-rans to respectable Gulf side on the way up is impressive.
And captain Kristian Stimson believes it is all down to the coaching staff and manager Jan Venter. “Definitely, Jan [and his team] have done a great job; also the chairman has come in and been very hands-on,” Stimson told Sport360°.
“Belief. That’s all it is, one word, belief. With belief comes structure. We start believing in Jan’s schemes and plans, and that comes together; you can see that by the tries we score.
“It’s a real club mentality, like a family, which we’ve missed over the last few years. You can see by our supporters and the amount of people that come down, you can see how people are responding to us. It’s all down to the structure put in place by the top brass.”
The Exiles were always behind against Bahrain but once again showed that they have the stomach to compete at this level with scorers Janco Fourie, Scott Hutton and Barnaby Goss all impressing, particularly the latter who scored two tries and kicked two conversions.
“Losing hurts, no matter how you play,” said Stimson. “But although we lost, I have an immense amount of pride. This same team beat us by 50 points before and now we lost by four.
"We’ll take a lot of heart from this season, a lot of pride and we will use it next season to take it to where we want to be. Next season we want to be on the other side of this kind of scoreline.”
Elsewhere, the Dubai Hurricanes weren’t able to give coach Chris Burch a happy send off in his final game as they went down 24-17 to Doha. Lindsey Fitzgerald, Will Whitehouse and Steve Smith all got on the scoresheet.
“The whole season was a roller-coaster. We had a lot of injuries, but the one positive we can take is that a lot of our reserves are now in the first team. Some new boys like Lindsey have come in and added depth. We have depth, we just had so many injuries,” Burch said.
Injury-plagued Abu Dhabi Harlequins could not raise a side for the game against Jebel Ali Dragons, who were a warded a walkover.
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