Briars Women’s Rugby 3rd place at Dubai 7s 2023
Briars Women’s Rugby have placed 3rd at the Dubai 7s 2023, competing against the best clubs in the world as an amateur rugby club. The team of 12 women from Sydney, Australia competed in the Dubai 7s International Open Women’s tournament.
For some players this was their first overseas trip, for others it was their fourth Briars International tour in 2 years. Coached by David Lannan and Team Manager Courtney, this was the best result for Briars Women’s competing internationally.
Read out overall tour report below.
Briars Women’s Rugby – 2023 Dubai 7s Tour Report
The preparation was finally over. After a significantly uplifted training program starting in September, including competing at the Byron Bay 7s tournament and twice weekly training, the team was now ready to play against the best clubs in the world at the 2023 Emirates Dubai 7s.
The last training session had set the team values around the goal they had set: “Winning Dubai the Briars Way: Train Hard, Play Hard”. They broke this down into clear values to work towards together to achieve their goal. These goals included focus at training, on game day and on the pitch with the all important “Next Job” call to lift their heads and get on with the game.
The Briars Women’s Rugby 7s team departed for Dubai in the early hours of the morning on Monday 27 November. A long 14 hour plane ride was ahead of them but everyone was very excited to get over that there was not much rest on the flight.
Team at Sydney International Airport
Arriving in Dubai on Monday afternoon, the desert heat hit the team as they exited the airport for the team bus. The first highlight on the trip to our hotel was seeing the Dubai skyline and the Burj Khalifa rising from the desert, towering over the expansive city of Dubai. It was now a reality that the team were in town and ready for the biggest 7s tournament in the world. A quick shower and we needed to stretch the legs. Where else but Dubai’s Global Village – a vast food and shopping playground with a different section from each area of the world. Grab some Thai noodles, a Mexican taco and finish off with an Iranian dessert if you want. A few hours definitely stretched the legs but the jet lag hit the team early and we were in bed at a reasonable hour on our first night.
Global Village, Dubai
Tuesday was a non-training day after such a long flight and needing time to acclimate. This gave the team opportunity to go and do some sightseeing in Dubai. As a group we headed off to The Palm, which is a man-made island connected to the coastline. Half the team headed up the Palm View lookout after a monorail ride, whereas the rest of the team who had been to Dubai in 2022 found a lunch spot for us on a nearby beach.
Team at Skyview The Palm, Dubai
The afternoon and evening saw the team adventure into the desert on a safari. First stop was some dune buggy driving, heading into the dunes following a guide to have some fun. The safari drivers then loaded everyone into their overpowered Landcruisers for a sand dune bash, seeing how scared the team would get as we slid sideways up and down the sand dunes heading towards our oasis for dinner. Arriving for sunset we tried some sandboarding and camel rides before heading to a dinner with shows of traditional dances. A fun night was had and back to our accommodation for an early start the next day.
Team on Desert Safari
Day 3 in Dubai saw us up early for a long bus ride to Abu Dhabi. With all the World Series and other teams descending on Dubai for the 7s it’s impossible to find a ground to train on. We thought outside the box this year and found a great field in Abu Dhabi which meant we could also see a different part of the UAE.
Arriving two hours later, the temperature was already rising. After not training for a week, we shook out the cobwebs and got ourselves back into some footy thinking. It took a little while to warm into it, with the realisation of being in a different country a long way from family kicking in. Once the team rallied themselves the combinations were flowing well and it was time to get changed and head to our next tourist destination.
Team training in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and also host to the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This is an amazing building which unites the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. It truly is an amazing piece of architecture and we spent quite a bit of time admiring the building, with a small delay caused by the strict dress rules for females visiting.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Lunch was beckoning and a surprise venue was planned for the team. Abu Dhabi is not only the government capital but it also has its fair share of entertainment venues. Yas Island, home to the Formula 1 and Ferrari World also hosts a beach club (https://yasbeach.ae/) on the shores of the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Wednesday also happens to be Ladies Day which gave some very good food and drink specials for the team. Needless to say everyone had a great time and a fun bus ride home with some karaoke.
Yas Beach, Abu Dhabi
The last day before the tournament started with our Captains Run at The Citizen’s School in downtown Dubai. Tourist time was over and we started to really switch on for the next few days ahead. After a slow start at training the day before, the team started strong and continued throughout the whole session. Combinations were strong and the team were getting excited for the tournament ahead. As we started to wrap up our training session a few classes of kids came out to watch us train and the team did some activities to have some fun with the kids and show them the game of Rugby 7s.
Citizen’s School, Dubai
After some free-time over lunch the team had been invited to attend the Aussie 7s Women’s training at The Sevens Stadium, Dubai. This was a great opportunity for the players to see the tournament site and build the excitement of the event itself. We also planned to do our jersey presentation at the Sevens Stadium and with thanks to Scott Bowen in the Aussie 7s team, we actually arranged for the Aussie 7s Women’s team to present each player with their jerseys – an amazing moment for every player to engage with the Aussie team.
Aussie 7s training, The Seven’s Stadium, Dubai
Team (Briars only) (left to right)
Back Row: Ruthie Mose-Aunei, Emily Eden, Annabel Woo, Courtney Miller (Manager), Ameena Kanj, Bianca Bennetts
Front Row: Taylah Watson, Jacinta Tui, Chloe Bromage, Kate Mateffy, Keisha Lotoaniu, Pui San Lai, Olympia Plummer, David Lannan (coach)
We ended the evening with dinner beside the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain as a team, prepared and excited for the tournament ahead.
Tournament Day 1
Our first game wasn’t scheduled until 6:20pm under lights that evening so a slow start to the day was in order to rest and enjoy the hotel facilities. After breakfast and our stretch session, Courtney organised some fun team activities in pairs to see which room would come out victorious. Once lunch was complete we got ourselves ready and into the bus for the games ahead of us.
Briars were scheduled for two games on day 1 of the event. Turning up to such an amazing facility was definitely inspiring to the team. With 8 rugby fields, including the main stadium plus a swimming pool and recovery facilities it was definitely worthy of its reputation as the biggest 7s tournament in the world (https://dubairugby7s.com/). The sun was out with a top of 31c. It was definitely going to test our fitness.
Briars v Cats (https://www.instagram.com/cats7s/)
26 – 10
The first game was against an international invitational team, Cats 7s, based in England and Dubai 7s Cup winners in 2022. Briars knew we had to go out hard in the first game and play our game. A messy start to the game saw Cats score first. This got the fire into Briars and our first try came from Taylah Watson running 90m after a dominant tackle and steal from Ameena Kanj.
The forwards then took action and marched us up the field, pulling a penalty for Pui San Lai to grab the second try. Into the second half, a free kick from a scrum gave opportunity for the team to use their width but dropped the ball over the line. Cats pressured for their second try down the sideline shortly after. Off the kickoff, Briars dominated with a huge run from Emily Eden to get the third try.
Strong defence kept Cats out of the game and off a rhino run from a penalty by Chloe Bromage, Ameena Kanj went in for her first try. Three conversions from Taylah Watson rounded out a dominant game.
Briars vs Savvy Pink Panthers (https://www.instagram.com/savvysevens/)
21 – 17
Our second game was a late night affair with a 9pm kickoff time against another UK inivtational 7s team, Savvy Pink Panthers. Briars started with the kickoff and immediately hada try scoring opportunity from a steal, but too late a pass went awry with a handover to Pink Panthers. Strong defence deep in Pink Panthers 22 caused a knock-on and Briars took advantage of an overlap with a try to Ameena Kanj on the wing. Pink Panthers struck back with a run around the outside stretching the defence and scoring to equal with Briars 7-7. Briars bounced back with a free-kick from the scrum and marched down the field but a few handling errors from both teams filled up the first half until a quick dummy from Taylah Watson on half-time delivered a try and much needed conversion to be up 14-7.
Briars came out strong in the second half with an edge to edge display giving Olympia Plummer a beautiful run down the sideline to score and conversion from Taylah Watson to get Briars ahead 21-7. Pink Panthers came back with most of the possession and Briars defence held them out for quite some time. A couple of opportunities for Briars didn’t eventuate and with an injury dropping us to 6 players Pink Panthers scored but no conversion to 21-12. A poor pass in the final moments was intercepted by Panthers to score but missing the conversion they could only get to 21-17. Briars win after a tough hit out late at night.
Tournament Day 2
Day 2 we had two more pool games to play. Based on those results would place us in the Cup or Plate competition for Finals knockouts on Day 3. Focus was to continue our winning run.
Briars v CNCF (https://www.instagram.com/cncf.7s.rugby/)
24 – 10
The UK invitational teams were everywhere in the tournament this year, with CNCF associated with a cancer charity to raise money. An afternoon game in the heat, the team had a great warmup ready to keep up the winning streak.
Briars kicked off to start the game and withheld pressure from CNCF with strong defence forcing a mistake. This led to a strong scrum, quick hands and a 70m run to Ameena Kanj for a converted try under the posts. Another forced error by CNCF after the kickoff gave Briars a strong scrum and a try to Taylah Watson on the wing. With a grubber kickoff Briars recovered the ball but an unforced error and no advantage gave CNCF a scrum, though an early push from CNCF gave Briars a free-kick. Some great edge to edge passing saw Annabel Woo pass to fellow forward Ruthie Mose-Aunei for a try on the wing to bring up half-time.
From the half-time kick some quick hands and an inside ball from Emily Eden gave Jacinta Tui a 70m run down field to score under the post, with Emily Eden running support and completed with a conversion. CNCF bounced back with two quick penalties for ruck infringements and scored down the wing with Briars on the back foot. CNCF followed up with another try after Briars were down to 6 players due to a yellow card for a high tackle and stretched the defence on the wing to close out the game.
Briars v Five Os (https://www.instagram.com/bpwrfc/)
Our final pool game was at sunset, undefeated so far we were destined for the Cup knockout round but the route would be determined by the result of this game. Five Os are the UK Police Rugby 7s team, so we knew we were up for a physical game.
With the lights shining Briars kicked off and Bianca Bennetts recovered just over the 10m line. Unfortunately a couple of unforced eros and a yellow card early on (accidental hair pull) pushed Briars back to their 22. A quick lineout to Briars saw a signature tackle break and 70m run from Bianca Bennetts to open the scoring. Briars continued the pressure and spreading the ball well until a pass from Kate Mateffy was intercepted and Five Os ran 80m to score against the run of play and tie the game at half-time.
From the second half kick-off some great hands opened space for Pui San Lai to break through in the middle of the field for her own 70m run, with a conversion by Kate Mateffy. Some back and forth in possession dominated the next period of the game but some great work spreading the ball wing to wing three times gave Ameena Kanj space on the wing to run 50m and score, unfortunately missing the conversion hitting the crossbar. After some more back and forth in possession, CNCF capitalised off a scrum free-kick to make some space and some rolling ruck penalties to score down the sideline to finish off the game (starting to see a trend here with final minute tires scored against Briars).
A great result to close out Day 2 and the pool games, topping our group undefeated gives Briars a great run into the knockout rounds on Day 3.
A big change to the Dubai 7s this year was the entertainment was on Day 2 of the event (Saturday) instead of Day 3 like last year. That meant that the big name music acts play and the team was looking forward to see both Becky Hill (https://www.instagram.com/beckyhill/) and Marc Kinchen (https://www.instagram.com/marckinchen/). With early morning games we agreed on leaving straight after Becky Hill, knowing we still won’t get back until very late and a quick turnaround for the next days games.
Tournament Day 3
Cup Quarter Final
Briars v Savvy Black Panthers (https://www.instagram.com/savvysevens/)
26 – 5
An early morning game at 9:40am after a late night, the team were diligent and prepared well for their first knockout game. Playing on Pitch 7 right next to the main stadium, a bigger crowd looking on from the clubhouse was there to watch these games and Briars were ready to put on a show.
Briars started with the kick straight into the ref who was in front of the kicker. A repeat kick off gave Black Panthers the ball and put the pressure on Briars. A few rolling penalties for offside and a kick through forced Briars to ground the ball in the in-goal. A free-kick from a scrum infringement got Briars back in control with some quick hands and a penalty from a ruck Briars were able to spread the ball out to Kate Mateffy for a 50m run to score after palming a few players off on the way, plus converting her own try. Black Panthers bounced back to score down the opposite sideline after a few quick penalties.
Briars switched on from here, straight from the return kickoff, spreading the ball and creating an inside run for Ameena Kanj to run 50m to score under the posts, with Taylah Watson converting to bring up half-time.
Black Panthers recovered from the half-time kick, turning them around with a kick to put Briars back on their line but a steal from Emily Eden got the ball back. Unfortunately a couple of knock-ons form each team slowed down the momentum. A solid scrum and quick hands gave Ameena Kanj another 90m run to score under the posts and Taylah Watson converted. Some back and forth and handling errors continued but off some strong ruck work, Bianca Bennetts found some space and ran 50m to score under the posts, unfortunately the conversion hitting the post and bouncing back.
A great win and through to the semi-final.
Briars v Hammerheads (https://www.instagram.com/hammerhead_sevens/)
7 – 31
The team were excited to be one game away from the final. The two undefeated teams throughout the tournament were now meeting in the semi-final (thats tournament footy for you). Six games in we rested a few who were hurting but we had some fresh legs to put on the field.
Hammerheads, again another invitational Uk team started with depth and width, playing a true 7s game and it showed we were up for a game when they spread our defence early on with a try to Great Britains reserve winger early on. Hammerheads defence was strong, forcing mistakes by Briars and getting the ball back moved our defence out ot the wing for a second try.
Briars bounced back off a penalty with Jacinta tui drawing in players with a strong run and a hand-off to Pui San Lai to run 50m to score. Taylah Watson converted to bring it to 7-10. Briars forced a ruck penalty from the kickoff and were applying pressure but an unlucky pass to no-one on the wing gave Hammerheads a run down the park to score on half-time taking the score out to 7-17.
Briars came out strong in the second half with a brilliant combination by Taylah and Keisha, but a ruck infringement gave the ball back to Hammerheads, then a yellow card for a high tackle to Bianca Bennetts got us down to 6 players for 2 minutes. Hammerheads took advantage of the extra player and some poor defence from Briars to score straight away, moving the score to 24-7. It was geting out of reach of the team and energy had been sapped form the team. Some fresh replacements hoped to bounce us back but some handling errors impacted our possession. From a dominant scrum and Hammerheads defence up, Taylah Watson chased Emily Eden’s deep kick out of our 22 but the kick bounced away and Hammerheads recovered and spread to the wing to seal the game 7-31.
Hammerheads went on to win the tournament against Jordan Legacy Sisters 22-12.
|Pui San Lai
An amazing effort from Briars Women’s Rugby, placing 3rd overall in the biggest Rugby 7s tournament in the world.
All the teams games are available to watch on the Briars Rugby Youtube page https://www.youtube.com/@briarsrugby
The team, although disappointed to lose the last game, put in an amazing effort and dominant display to compete on the international stage against some of the best teams at our level of competition.
A big thankyou must be made to Courtney Miller who stepped in as Team Manager for the tour, organsing everyone and making sure the team didn;t have to worry about anything apart from playing rugby. We also thank Alicia Ludkin, team physio, who ensured we made it through the tournament injury free and players recovery was a key part of making it through to day 3 of the tournament.
The team enjoyed the rest of the tournament, watching the Aussie 7s Women beat NZ in the Final of the SVNS event. A lot of fun was had in the evening and not much sleep before our checkout the next day. Free time and relaxing for everybody for our last day in Dubai before our long flight home.
View from level 148 of the Burj Khalifa on last day in Dubai