x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Distraught Dragons blow their chance over Hurricanes

A penalty awarded from the final play of a fluctuating UAE Premiership play-off and a smart finish by Tometski pips the Dragons at the post.

JEBEL ALI // A penalty awarded from the final play of a fluctuating UAE Premiership play-off provided an ice-cool James Tometski with the chance to snatch a dramatic victory for Dubai Hurricanes over their local rivals Dubai Dragons last night.

It seemed as though Premiership form was going to prevail as the Dragons, winners of all of their six matches in the mini-league, regained the lead in the final minute through the second of their full-back Tim Fletcher's well-taken tries.

That smart finish from a sweeping Dragons move transformed a four-point deficit into a 28-27 advantage, putting enormous pressure on their fly-half Andy Russell to extend the lead from the conversion.

Agonisingly for the Dragons, the kick drifted wide in what had for the entire match been a troublesome wind, leaving the home team vulnerable to a late riposte from their opponents.

So it proved as the Dragons failed to gather the ball cleanly from the restart and then, while down to 14 men following the late yellow-carding of Sandy Burley, committed a disastrous scrummaging offence which provided Tometski's decisive moment.

The last-gasp triumph sets up the jubilant Hurricanes for a trophy-winning treble as they now go forward to play Doha in the West Asia play-off in three weeks' time and also face Bahrain in what could be a Gulf Top Six-clinching fixture.

"We will be going all out to make it a three-timer," said Steve Holohan, their emotionally drained coach. He praised the Hurricanes players for the work they have put in all season, initially under their previous coach, Brian Allen, to create this platform for amassing silverware.

"The boys never give up and kept going to the end. I'm so proud of them," he said.

Holohan's unbridled joy at the end contrasted sharply with the inconsolable Dragons camp. Bruce Birtwistle, who shares the coaching with centre Shane Thornton, said: "The boys are gutted. They knew that all they had to do was kill the ball in that last play to take the glory but, sadly, they were unable to do it."

The Dragons paid for not making the most of the big advantage the strong breeze gave them in the first half; a 13-7 lead was not enough.

The wind was heavily in favour of Russell, the Dragons fly-half, in landing two first-half penalties and it dissuaded Tometski, the Hurricanes full-back, from attempting a penalty goal from inside the opposing 22-metre line after he had missed an earlier one from a similar position.

Harry Woods, the Crusaders centre, was first to cross after a clever lay off from Garret Noonan a couple of metres from the line. Tometski landed the easy conversion to put his side in front.

Five minutes later, Fletcher, the Dragons' full-back, profited when the ball squirted out kindly from a ruck 10 metres out and he was left with an unopposed run towards the post. Russell's conversion was a formality.

The lead changed hands four more times before the end with Fletcher and Woods both adding to their first-half tries and Russell raising his personal haul to 18 points with the try of the match following an interception of a kick-through and a 55-metre race to the line.

wjohnson@thenational.ae