x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Harlequins are back to work already

Barely a week after lifting the Gulf Top Six title, the UAE Premiership is on their radar.

The Abu Dhabi Harlequins players will return to action against Toa Dubai on Friday.
The Abu Dhabi Harlequins players will return to action against Toa Dubai on Friday.

Staff at Barasti in Dubai may still be clearing up after the Abu Dhabi Harlequins' impromptu Gulf Top Six title celebration there last Friday, but the players themselves have barely had a chance to dwell on their success before starting over again on Friday.

There was a time, not so long ago, when a club got the whole summer to gloat about being the top team in the region.

Because of the way the season is structured now, bragging rights lasted a mere seven days, before the start of the UAE Premiership on Friday.

The cross-border champions will face a new challenge this afternoon, when they welcome Toa Dubai to Zayed Sports City.

"It feels strange starting again now," said Chris Davies, the Harlequins director of rugby who has earned a major XVs trophy at the first attempt after taker over last summer.

"It feels like we have two seasons in one. We thought before the season began we would be in the top two at least, and the way the guys responded after losing three early matches was great."

Toa had high expectations for the new campaign during pre-season, but have been flying under the radar for most of the time since.

"The boys are fired up and looking forward to it," said John Mamea-Wilson, the Toa coach, who acknowledged that his side struggled for motivation while playing the first half of the season in the Gulf Conference. "It is a difficult game to start with, but we are playing to win, not to keep the score down."

The Jebel Ali Dragons will have to pick themselves up after having another title snatched from their grasp at the last, when they make the trip across Dubai to face the Exiles on Friday.

"That one got away from us, so we have to look to the next 10 weeks now and work hard to make sure we get some silverware," said Shane Thornton, the Dragons coach.

The domestic season has been separated into two segments to try to end the confusion of previous years, as well as limiting the number of voided matches towards the end of the campaign.

"Last year we did not know from one week to the next whether we were playing in the league, cup or whatever," said Tim Wood, the Dragons chairman.

"Now we do know, but we probably can't review how successful breaking it into sections has been until the end of the season."

pradley@thenational.ae

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