Dubai Hurricanes secured a return to top billing - and another shot at silverware - when Lindsay Fitzgerald touched down a late try against Abu Dhabi Harlequins on Friday night.
The last-ditch score gave the Hurricanes a 24-17 win at Zayed Sports City to secure their place in an all-Dubai final in the UAE Premiership.
They will play Jebel Ali Dragons, the defending champions, in two weeks after the holders comfortably dispatched Dubai Exiles at the Centre of Excellence.
The results mean the Hurricanes have broken the Dragons-Harlequins duopoly. Last season, the two rivals met in all three major finals on the domestic scene.
Hurricanes are no strangers to showpiece occasions, though. They were Premiership champions two seasons ago, and the year before that won every trophy there was on offer in the region.
“We were all so focused on what we had to do,” said Guy Potter, the Hurricanes captain who scored the opening try in the away win in the capital.
“We just knew we had to leave everything out there, with four of the hardest minutes we could possibly have ahead of us at the end. It came off.”
In Jebel Ali, Taif Al Delamie was able to make his first serious contribution on the field after he was made Dragons captain in the summer.
The Irishman had been sidelined by a knee injury since he assumed the captaincy from Paul Hart, but was pitched into full-back in the absence of Imad Reyal.
They may have been metaphorically sizable boots to fill, but Al Delamie went about it in the best way possible as he scored the opening try in the 29-0 victory.
After his opening effort, Dragons brought their experience to bear on a young Exiles side who were reduced to 14 men after a first-half tip tackle.
Ian Overton, Rory Binder and Sean Crombie scored the tries which secured the bonus-point victory.
“It was my first game back and luckily I played the full 80 minutes so was happy to get some fitness under the belt,” Al Delamie said.
“We were missing a few players, Imad being one of them - but I taught him how to sidestep, anyway.
“We were happy with the bonus-point win. We haven’t played that well but it is coming, and hopefully we can bring it in the final.”
When the two finalists met in the regular season, the Dragons won thanks to a late, 95-metre breakaway try when the Hurricanes seemingly had them beaten.
Despite being denied at the death back then, Potter is confident his side have the beating of the side currently ranked No 1 in West Asia.
“We switched off against them back then and they did what any good Dragons side do, and that is catch you napping,” the Hurricanes captain said.
“But I think we might have their measure now.”
In the other match on the final evening of the regular Premiership season, Abu Dhabi Saracens clinched their place in the Gulf Top Six by beating Xodus Wasps.
The success meant the capital’s youngest club, who are playing just their second season in the top flight, finished fourth and thus beat the Exiles to a place in the elite cross-border competition.
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