x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Doha victory will cap renaissance of the Dubai Hurricanes

A poor first half of the season has been long forgotten as the UAE side prepare to face old foes Doha in the West Asia play-off.

The Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow and white, are looking to be crowned the best side in West Asia for the second successive year.
The Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow and white, are looking to be crowned the best side in West Asia for the second successive year.

If Dubai Hurricanes beat Doha on opposition territory today, they will officially be crowned the best club side in West Asia for the second consecutive season.

Which will be quite a feat, considering the way this campaign started. Before the halfway mark, the club had lost their coach to illness, as well as their main playmaker to a long term suspension.

They were only saved from finishing last in the Gulf Top Six by a beleaguered Bahrain side, whose struggles extended beyond the rugby field. To emphasise the malaise, they even had to forfeit one match, because of a dearth of front-row forwards.

The transformation since 2012 arrived has been remarkable, even if they did have their wings clipped slightly on Friday when they lost out 17-13 to the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, their closest rivals in recent years, in the UAE Cup final.

"From what it was like before Christmas, what we have done from then until now, we have won a premiership and we have a chance of winning another trophy," James Ham, the coach, said.

"We can still walk away with two trophies from this season, and not many clubs in the Gulf are able to say that."

Today's play-off between the UAE Premiership champions and Doha, who won all six of their games in the Gulf Premiership and ended with a positive point differential of 316, pits them against an old foe.

The same sides contested the fixture last year, when a late Steve Smith try gave the Hurricanes the title.

It was well received by the Dubai team, as an atmosphere lingered after the Qatar side had lodged an official protest over them also winning the Gulf Top Six title at their expense, following a rash of forfeited fixtures.

The UAE-based side surrender home advantage in this annual fixture, on account of the fact they have less cross-border travel to cope with during the domestic season.

"Maybe Doha think they get the raw end of the deal because they have to [fly abroad] to all their away matches," Chris Gregory, the Hurricanes captain, said.

"It is difficult to raise a strong team to travel away all the time, and we are experiencing it too this weekend at the end of a long, hard season.

"We will be missing a few players due to wear and tear, but it should not be difficult to get the boys up for another cup final."

pradley@thenational.ae

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