x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Dubai Hurricanes notch victories

Capital side cruise to victory in Doha and Leslie Fitzgerald is the hero at The Sevens for Dubai club against the Exiles.

The Dubai Hurricanes, in blue and yellow, defeated the Dubai Exiles 26-22 at The Sevens in Dubai thanks to a late try.
The Dubai Hurricanes, in blue and yellow, defeated the Dubai Exiles 26-22 at The Sevens in Dubai thanks to a late try.

The country's two leading rugby teams last night took sizeable steps towards setting up a repeat of the UAE Premiership finale in the final of the cross-border Gulf Top Six competition.

Two tries by Tom Calnan, the UAE full-back, laid the platform for Abu Dhabi Harlequins' 32-5 thrashing of Doha in Qatar.

The handsome success by the travelling side was embellished by scores for Chris Marshall, Nick McBride and Ed Lewsey, plus nine points from the boot of Matt Hutchings.

"We're really chuffed to come here and get a win like that," Chris Davies, the Quins director of rugby, said in a telephone interview. "The lads were really outstanding."

That success extended Abu Dhabi's winning streak to four from as many games at the top of the division, and simultaneously helped Jebel Ali Dragons - their conquerors in the Premiership final at the end of 2012.

The Dragons had beaten Doha in a tight encounter on their home patch a week earlier, and consolidated their hold on second place - and thus the second berth for the March 22 final - with a 45-20 win over Bahrain at the Centre of Excellence yesterday.

Sean Crombie, the former Scotland sevens player who now plays as a hooker for the Dragons, picked up two tries as he returned to the side after missing the previous weekend to get married.

Paul Hart, the captain, and Ian Overton also crossed twice, while Taif Al Delamie and Tom Hatfield scored the other tries in the comprehensive bonus-point victory.

Although the news of the Quins win in Qatar last night will have been well received in Jebel Ali, they still have to face the capital outfit twice before the two finalists are decided in six weeks' time.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Fitzgerald, the former Doha back-rower who now plays for Dubai Hurricanes after relocating to the UAE recently, deprived Dubai Exiles a victory they craved with a last-play try at The Sevens.

The Exiles had been good value for their 22-19 lead at that point, and seemed set for a first win of the Top Six campaign, following tries by Peter Matthews, Wael Harb and the outstanding Michael Sole.

But they were cruelly denied when Fitzgerald went over in injury time for his second score.

"We just kept the pressure on in their 22 and when Exiles had two people sinbinned we looked to be turning things," said Chris Gregory, the Hurricanes captain.

"The story of our season so far is that we have had a great half, then lost concentration for 10 minutes and our heads go down.

"We have to pick the intensity up like we did at the end. We lost by two points in Bahrain last weekend and we could quite easily have had a chance of winning that one.

"A couple of years ago we did: we used to win all those matches like that. We just have to keep our heads, like we managed to here."

pradley@thenational.ae

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