Dubai: Scotsman Murray Strang celebrated a dream 30th birthday by scoring a try for the UAE against his homeland in the quarter-finals of the bowl on the final day of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens yesterday.
However, it was bitter-sweet as the eventual 40-5 loss to Scotland meant the UAE dropped down to the shield semi-finals where they then lost to Kenya 35-5 to crash out of their own competition in their home event debut, with somewhat expected straight defeats.
The bowl quarters and shield semis on day three followed three earlier group stage losses on day two to Samoa 55-12, Fiji 43-0 and Argentina 73-7.
Emad Reyal top-scored for the UAE with 10 points from two historic first and second tries in the Samoa game, while Strang scored nine from two conversions (against Samoa and Argentina) and the try against Scotland.
Meanwhile, Tim Fletcher and Chris Gregory both scored five from a try apiece against Argentina and Kenya, respectively.
Strang said: "It's been a roller-coaster ride. The guys have really dug in well, but results have been tough. It's really been a baptism of fire against all these international players.
"Today was great for me personally to play against my home country Scotland. When I saw the draw on Friday night I was absolutely delighted and just raring to go." Of the try against his own country, Strang added: "I'll celebrate it and I think the Scottish boys will give me that. I'm absolutely delighted with it. Obviously I love getting my name on the score sheet and you never plan to score in any game, but I knew that if [I] got to the white line and scored it would be extra special today given the opposition and it being my birthday. It topped it all off. It's a dream come true."
"Every player has a note of the crowds they've played in front of and the standard they've come up against. This is definitely one of those games where you notice that notch up in standard and excitement. On the pitch you don't register the crowd you're too focused, but when you're warming up and someone's making a break the roar that goes up puts the hairs on the back of your neck on end."
Strang, who faced old adversaries and teammates from his playing days with Glasgow Hawks in the opposing Scottish side said: "Getting my club Abu Dhabi Harlequins to the final of the Gulf Men's League and winning had always been a target, but I haven't managed it. But to pull on a national team jersey and play against world class athletes in front of 40,000 is something else."
"It's been quite well documented that from now on we'll have to qualify for our right to play in the Dubai Sevens."