UAE hold off Kazakhstan in A5N Top 5 battle Hosts bounce back after two consecutive losses

The United Arab Emirates staved a frenzied second-half assault to beat Kazakhstan 46-31 and keep alive their hopes of remaining in the Top 5 of the HSBC Asian Five Nations (A5N) rugby clash at The Sevens on Friday.
After trailing 29-nil at half time, Kazakhstan posted 31 points in the second half to close the gap to 10 points in the final 10 minutes before UAE dashed their hopes of an inspirational comeback.

It was a great comeback by the hosts after the battering they received at the hands of Hong Kong and Japan.

The win by UAE is key to their hopes of staying in the HSBC A5N Top 5 in 2013. Kazakhstan will be ruing a chance to take vital away match points and will now face their second must-win match in two weeks when they host Korea next Saturday in Almaty, before closing out their campaign in Hong Kong on May 26.

UAE performance manager Duncan Hall said: “It’s a relief for the guys definitely. We talked that this was definitely a winnable match and we are very luck we kept our noses in front. Kazakhstan is a proud country. They never let down and they showed that today.”

UAE captain Alistair Thompson said: “Today was a winner take all match in terms of staying up in the Top 5, so there was a lot of pressure on us. The last couple of weeks we have played teams (Hong Kong and Japan) that play expansive and want to play wide, but today it was a completely different game style where guys wanted to take us on up front. We went to sleep for the first 15 minutes of the second half and we ended up needing to score tries and luckily we did that.

“I’m proud of the lads. I think we have done enough to stay up in the Top 5 and if so, we have moulded UAE Rugby for the year ahead. The profile of staying up is vital for continuing to develop the game in the UAE and in the region.”

UAE jumped out to a fiery start in the desert sun as Sevens captain Tim Fletcher crossed over for the first try at the five-minute marker. The tries followed thick and fast as the UAE dominated territory throughout the opening 40.

Flanker Brett Williams, fullback Imad Reyal and scrum-half Pat Hegarty all added tries in the opening half. Flyhalf Murray Strang accounted for nine points in the same half with three conversions and a penalty to send the home side into the changing sheds 29-points to the good.

UAE was poised to be in a controlling position for the final 40, but it was Kazakhstan who struck first in just the second minute through a try to flanker Nikita Trofimov, who finally put the Nomads on the board at 29-5.

Moments later, UAE lock Greg Thompson helped his team regain last ground with a try to extend the lead to 34-5.

Undaunted, Kazakhstan exhibited its famed never-say-die rugby attitude with a second try through Dmitriy Tronin. The conversion by captain and centre Ildar Abdrazhakov narrowed the margin to 12-34.

Less than two minutes later, the Kazakh forward pack had worked the ball back deep into UAE territory, when flanker Nikita Trofimov scored his second try of the match. Abdrazhakov’s conversion brought the score to 34-19, with the Nomads having scored 19 points to UAE’s five in a rampaging second half. With 20 minutes remaining the game seemed to hang in the balance.

Kazakhstan seemed to tilt the match further in their favour as lock Anton Makarenko went over again from close range to bring the visitors within 10 points of an incredible comeback win at 34-24. Makarenko’s try saw Kazakhstan gain its first point of the 2012 HSBC A5N Top 5 as they earned a matching bonus point to that of the UAE for scoring four or more tries in a match.

With 10 minutes remaining, the atmosphere was tense as the UAE faithful pondered the thought of letting a 29-point lead slip through their fingers.

Earlier in the week Hall had lauded his charges saying they “had a lot of heart” and they repaid his faith by scoring a brilliant 50 metre handling try with some great interplay between backs and forwards.

The try was perfectly finished by slippery fullback Imad Reyal who collected a brace for his efforts.

Murray Strang’s boot was again on the mark with the conversion as UAE pulled comfortably back in front at 41-24 with eight minutes remaining on the clock.

Kazakh heads naturally dropped and the UAE again capitalised, this time through captain and No 8 Alistair Thompson giving the UAE a 46-24 lead with five minutes remaining.

As testament to the spirit in the Kazakhstan team, the visitors struck for the final time on the night as reserve scrum-half Evgeniy Romanov scooted over before the final whistle. Abdrazhakov’s conversion brought a thrilling 48-point second half to a close as Kazakhstan bowed out with heads held high at 46-31.

The crucial home win for UAE may have done enough to retain their spot in the HSBC A5N Top 5 in 2013. UAE captured five points for the win on the series table and a sixth (bonus) point for scoring four tries or more. Kazakhstan also earned a bonus point for its scoring spree in the second half. They trail the competition with one point from three matches and now face another must-win match as they host South Korea next weekend in Almaty.

South Korea are the promoted team in this year’s HSBC A5N Top 5 and have shown every indication of sticking in the top flight after a come from behind win against Hong Kong last weekend. Korea currently lie third in the standings on six points and face top-ranked Japan on Saturday in Seoul’s Seongnam Stadium (kick-off at 13.00 local time).

That game will be televised across Asia on ESPN Star Sports as well as into North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and North America on other international broadcasters. All HSBC A5N Top 5 games are also available for live streaming or video on demand at
UAE hold off Kazakhstan in A5N Top 5 battle Hosts bounce back after two consecutive losses UAE hold off Kazakhstan in A5N Top 5 battle Hosts bounce back after two consecutive losses Reviewed by Sopheap Chhin on 4:56:00 AM Rating: 5

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