DUBAI // After a year of telling his Dubai Hurricanes colleagues how it should be done, James Ham showed them what he was talking about with two tries as the champions kept their UAE Premiership title defence alive last night.
The fly-half oversaw last season’s title win from his position as the club’s head coach, after serious injury sidelined him for 18 months.
His two-try haul in the bonus point win over the Dubai Wasps last night, allied to playing a full 80 minutes, was the most significant sign yet that his recuperation is finally complete.
“It is great being back out there alongside the boys – mainly because I don’t get as much stick now as when I was coach,” he said.
“There is still a fair way to go in terms of sharpness and match-fitness, but lasting the full 80 minutes was a good sign.
“We were starting to click by the end and to get a four-try [bonus-point] win against a very good Wasps outfit is a great result.”
Ham’s praise for the vanquished Wasps was fitting. The side who are just starting their second season at this level held a deserved 10-5 half-time lead against a club who have won multiple trophies in recent seasons.
Christian Waite, the Wasps centre, ran in a fine try from long-range, while astute kicking from Jessie Kraft, their fly-half, maintained their advantage.
However, the canny champions brought their greater experience to bear. Ham doubled his tally, following an early try, by barrelling over from close range after the break. Duncan Murray, another player who is making up for lost time after being conspicuous by his absence last term, and Chris Smith scored the other tries to seal what could prove to be a valuable bonus point in the final shake-up.
“It was another positive performance,” said Craig Gibson, who doubles as the Wasps hooker and the club’s chairman. “It’s encouraging that we had a genuine chance of coming away with a win against one of the top sides.
“In the end their better fitness, which you would expect from a club as well established as they are, counted against us.”
Chris Burch, the Hurricanes coach who took over the reins when Ham returned to the playing ranks this summer, said his side will need to be far more precise when they meet the champions elect Abu Dhabi Harlequins in two week’s time.
“There is a lot or room for improvement,” he said. “We didn’t give the backs enough clean ball and I counted four clear try-scoring chances that we bombed.
“The top two inches need to be sharper when we play Abu Dhabi.”
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