x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Just enough action to perform

If there has ever been a higher standard domestic rugby match played on these shores than Friday's UAE Premiership grand final between Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins, then it must have been quite a spectacle.

Jebel Ali Dragons celebrates wnning the UAE Premiership grand final against Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Satish Kumar / The National
Jebel Ali Dragons celebrates wnning the UAE Premiership grand final against Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Satish Kumar / The National

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when the presence of Newton Faulkner and the Stereophonics on a Friday night bill in Dubai would have prompted a sudden availability crisis in UAE rugby.

Especially with this being early November, the middle of rugby's non-event season. Which used to bleed the type of mindset of: It doesn't matter if I skip this fixture, someone will cover and I'll be back in the side next week.

These days, it would be folly to think that way. Drop out with any thing less than serious injury, and you might not be invited back.

UAE rugby has suddenly become fervently intense, with a set of inter-club rivalries driving up the quality.

If there has ever been a higher standard domestic rugby match played on these shores than Friday's UAE Premiership grand final between Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins, then it must have been quite a spectacle.

It seems unfeasible. There has never been such talent washing round the game here.

Take the defeated Quins side as an example. When Jeremy Manning, freshly-arrived at the start of this season from the ranks of the professional game, went off injured, he was replaced by Murray Strang, the national team' starting No 10. That should be illegal in amateur rugby.

And yet they were still well beaten by a Dragons side who had a few aces up their sleeves themselves.

Sean Crombie was playing regularly on the World Sevens Series for Scotland until relatively recently. No wonder they wanted to keep him his recent arrival in Dubai off the radar.

And now they are the team to be shot at, as XVs gives way to sevens.

The Dragons have been peerless in recent years in the abridged format, but they have all manner of sides hoping to thwart their bid for a cleansweep of domestic trophies.

"The plan now is to go on for the triple [crown]," said Paul Hart, the Dragons captain.

"It has been the goal from the start but we haven't wanted to talk too much about that because it is one step at a time.

"Now we have won this we are pretty confident, with the return of our sevens players from UAE sevens duty it will make us twice as strong."

pradley@thenational.ae

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