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UAE easily through to Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy semi-finals, where tough Thailand test awaits

Three huge wins see UAE score 129 points, including an eight try haul for exciting Jebel Ali Dragons’ all-purpose back Niko Volavola

Matt Jones 2018/08/04

Thailand once again stand between the UAE and success in the sevens arena with Apollo Perelini and Co facing their nemesis in the semi-finals of the Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy on Sunday.

The UAE blitzed the competition in Pool B on Saturday, conceding just 10 points and scoring 129 in three massive wins over Nepal, Indonesia and Jordan in Singapore.

That included an eight try haul, made up of two hat-tricks, for exciting Jebel Ali Dragons’ all-purpose Fijian back Niko Volavola.

Perelini’s charges started with a flourish – Nepal blown away 48-0 at the Queenstown Stadium, with Dragons livewire Volavola helping himself to his first treble.

In addition to Volavola’s scores, the UAE ran in five more tries, with Kinivilame Natuna, Luke Stevenson, Jaen Botes, Sean Carey and Walid Al Balooshi going over in a one-sided affair.

Perelini’s players didn’t have to exert themselves much in their other two outings either, beating Indonesia 45-5 in their second game and Jordan 36-5 in their final game of the day.

Volavola ran in another hat-trick against Indonesia, with Natuna adding a brace, while Tuivione and Andrew Powell grabbed one score each.

He then added two more in the Jordan triumph, as did Emosi Ratuvanacua, with Stevenson and Powell also crossing.

“We’re pretty happy with how today went,” said captain Stevenson.

“The quality of teams we were playing weren’t really the best to be honest but it’s the first time the boys have played a game together so we can take positives from that. There’s a few things we need to work on which we’ve spoken about this evening in order to improve upon tomorrow.”

The real test awaits on Sunday, with Thailand the scourge of the UAE in recent tournaments.

They have fallen to them in each of the last two campaigns, and at the same stage too. At last year’s inaugural Trophy tournament, they suffered a narrow 19-17 defeat, while in the 2016 Asia Rugby Development Sevens Series, they were downed 22-10 at the last four stage.

A coveted place in the top tier Asia Sevens Series tournament awaits the champion in Singapore and Stevenson says he and his teammates are aware of the step up in class that awaits them on Sunday, though they are ready.

“We’ve got Thailand in the semi-final who look strong and they’ve been training for about a year,” added the Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half.

“They look fast and fit so it’ll be a pretty good test for us, but we’re confident. A few of the boys have stood up and it’s nice for us western boys playing with these Fijians instead of running around after them.

“We’re enjoying it and playing the rugby we like. Hopefully we can build on it on Sunday. If we win we’ll play the winner of Singapore and Kazakhstan. Hopefully there’s something good to come. We’ll get up and hopefully we can put in a shift and come back with the cup.”

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Apollo Perelini Asia Rugby Sevens Trophy Luke Stevenson