x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Dragons' Paul Hart keen to change minds

Captain aware his Jebel Ali side are considered underdogs but he says they have form to beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins in UAE Premiership Grand Final.

Jebel Ali Dragons, in their dark blue outfits, thrashed Dubai Exiles 56-9 on Friday to clinch a spot in the Grand Final. Pawan Singh / The National
Jebel Ali Dragons, in their dark blue outfits, thrashed Dubai Exiles 56-9 on Friday to clinch a spot in the Grand Final. Pawan Singh / The National

The Jebel Ali Dragons will not mind playing as they did in their season-opening loss to the Abu Dhabi Harlequins in next week's UAE Premiership Grand Final.

Only, they would prefer to replicate their play from the second half of a 22-17 defeat.

The Dragons romped home 56-9 against the Dubai Exiles on Friday to book their place in the final, a fourth successive victory which saw them overtake the Dubai Hurricanes, the defending champions, into second place in the Premiership table.

The Harlequins, as the Dragons captain Paul Hart well knows, will start as favourites, even if they had not beaten the Hurricanes as comprehensively as they did, 27-0.

Hart said: "I think the first game might have a bearing" on how the final goes.

"We intend to start and play the whole game the way we did in the second half. We were useless in the first half but we won the second half quite comfortably and were pushing towards a win. Another five to 10 minutes and we could've won it."

Hart believes the side has got better with each game since that loss. They beat the Hurricanes, then the Dubai Wasps, the Abu Dhabi Saracens and finally the Exiles by progressively bigger margins. The only problem is that the Harlequins have been even more dominant.

"We've gotten better each week and we had our strongest squad playing against the Exiles on Friday," said Hart.

"We're certainly the underdogs in everyone's minds apart from our own but you've got to believe 100 per cent you can win every game you play, otherwise there's no point stepping on to the pitch.

"We believe we can win next week, but we're aware the Quins have had a fantastic season where they've been beating everyone by a large margin."

The victory also ensured a spot for the Dragons in the cross-border Gulf Top Six league, due to start after Christmas, alongside the Harlequins, the Hurricanes and the Exiles.

Hart is confident they can make an impact there, as well, especially as Doha may not be as strong as they have been traditionally.

"They've been very, very competitive over the last couple of years but I understand they've lost some players," Hart said. "They will still be competitive.

"Bahrain are not as competitive as others, but they are also a very tight-knit team. I think we'll be there or thereabouts in that tournament."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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