x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dragons handle Hurricanes

The Jebel Ali Dragons breathed life into a new rivalry on Friday night, defeating a Dubai Hurricanes team that was missing a few parts in the Gulf Top Six match at the Centre of Excellence.

The Dubai Hurricanes, in the yellow-sleeved shirts, could not match the depth of the Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday night.
The Dubai Hurricanes, in the yellow-sleeved shirts, could not match the depth of the Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday night.

DUBAI // Jebel Ali Dragons signaled a shift in the power-base of domestic rugby by comprehensively outplaying the Gulf Top Six defending champions, Dubai Hurricanes, at the Centre of Excellence Friday night.

The club's robust summer recruitment drive is already starting to bear fruit, with all of their points being supplied by newcomers.

Michael Botha, a powerful wing, ran in two tries.

Euan Kelly kicked eight points from the tee, and Rory Binder, who - like Kelly - is a new arrival from Bahrain, capped an outstanding display at centre with a try.

The Dragons now have such enviable resources in the backs, Shane Thornton, their player-coach who has been a potent try-scorer from the wing in recent seasons, could not find space for himself in the squad.

"We have now built up a very, very strong culture at the Dragons, with a lot of really good new players arriving," Thornton said.

"It is making my job really hard, and I never seem to be able to pick a consistent team at the moment because somebody else keeps putting their hand up and demands a place.

"Every year is different and the Hurricanes are missing a few players from last season, but we have definitely recruited very well."

The Hurricanes won all the silverware there was worth winning last season, but injuries, unavailability and suspensions mean they are currently a shadow of their former selves.

One constant from their trophy-laden recent past, their captain, Chris Gregory, is still setting the standards for his colleagues to reach, though. He touched down the only Hurricanes try from scrum-half.

The depth of Dragons' talent, particularly in the backline, was shown by the fact they had two current UAE international backs in the starting line-up of their second XV yesterday.

Sean Hurley played 80 minutes at scrum-half for the second-string, before covering bench duties and playing 25 minutes of the first XV game.

Cyrus Homayoun, who was one of the first Emirati players to play for the UAE, played on the wing in the Dragons second XV's comfortable win over the Hurricanes second team.

The budding Emirati player laid on a pass for a player from the other end of the experience scale, the 36-year-old full-back, Asa Firth, to score under the posts.

It was a good day for UAE nationals.

In the UAE Conference, Mohammed Hassan Rahma played a leading hand as the Abu Dhabi Saracens notched their maiden victory, by beating the Dubai Frogs.

Rahma, who became the first Emirati to play at international level when he represented the Arabian Gulf in a sevens competition in Singapore, has been beset by knee problems in recent years.

However, he celebrated his return with six conversions, three penalties and a try in the thrashing of the Frogs.

 

pradley@thenational.ae