x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dragons will put Toa to test

Learning curve has been sharp for the youthful and inexperienced team, set up to promote the game among Arab nationals.

Adnan Niazi of Toa Dubai on the sidelines of a match against Dubai Dragons last year.
Adnan Niazi of Toa Dubai on the sidelines of a match against Dubai Dragons last year.

Two former Arabian Gulf captains, Paul Austin and Adrian Kerr, will have little chance to reminisce about the glory days today when they line up against their former side, Dubai Dragons.

The duo, along with John Mamea-Wilson, the former Samoa international, were an integral part of the club's golden spell when the Dragons won the Gulf League three seasons running between 2004 and 2006.

Last season, all three were among the founding players in the newly created Toa Dubai side, set up to promote the game among Arab nationals.

Toa thrived in their entry season at Emirates league level, and thus earned a place in the re-constituted top division, the UAE Premiership, at the start of this term.

The step up has not been without its difficulties, however, especially after Trevor Leota and Apollo Perelini, the player-coaches, left to form another new team, Dubai Wasps, in the summer.

The Dragons will provide a stern test of Toa's credentials for playing at the top level of domestic rugby at The Sevens today.

Trent Eastgate's Dragons boast an undefeated record at the top of the UAE Premiership after three matches.

TheToa side, by contrast, have lost both their league matches, which included blowing a 22-0 half-time lead against Al Ain Amblers, the side who beat them to the Emirates League title last season.

The learning curve has been a sharp one for Toa, whose squad is peopled mostly by talented but inexperienced young players, plus the three former Dragons and Rama Chand, the Arabian Gulf winger.

"We wouldn't have it any other way," Mamea-Wilson, Toa's player-coach, said. "If you asked any of our players whether they would prefer to lose by two points or win by 60 every week, they would say the first one.

"They are really learning fast. In terms of quality, this division is not that different, but the games are a lot faster.

"The game against Al Ain was a lesson for us.

"We were intimidated in the second-half, and that can't happen again against a side as good as the Dragons."

Across The Sevens, the Dubai Hurricanes, who are also undefeated, will be without two key players for their meeting with Abu Dhabi Harlequins due to international duty. Chris Gregory, the captain, and Duncan Murray, the influential centre, are an integral part of the Arabian Gulf side who are preparing for next month's Dubai Rugby Sevens by playing at a tournament on Australia's Gold Coast this weekend.

The Dubai Exiles will bid to arrest their recent slump in form when they travel to Muscat.

REVIEW

UAE Premiership
• Dubai Exiles 29-5 Al Ain Amblers
• Dubai Dragons 28-15 AD Harlequins

UAE Conference
• Sharjah Wanderers 76-7 Dubai Frogs
• Dubai Wasps 81-12 Arabian Potbellies
• Dubai Dragons II 53-14 Dubai Exiles II
• AD Harlequins II 7-17 Dubai Hurricanes II
International
• England 16-26 New Zealand
• Ireland 21-23 South Africa
• Wales 16-25 Australia

Performance of the week
Kurtley Beale almost scored one of the game’s greatest tries against Wales on Saturday but still managed to get on the score sheet and inspire Australia to victory at the Millenium Stadium.

PREVIEW

Game of the weekend
Australia will be favourites for rugby league’s Four Nations title tomorrow but we fans all know what happened when these two sides met in the World Cup final in 2008 – the Kiwis pulled off a stunning 34-20 win.

Today’s UAE Premiership
• Dubai Hurricanes v Abu Dhabi Harlequins
• Muscat v Dubai Exiles
• Toa Dubai v Dubai Dragons

Gulf Cup
• Kuwait Scorpions v Doha
• Bahrain v Al Ain Amblers

UAE Conference
• Arabian Potbellies v Abu Dhabi Harlequins II
• Dubai Hurricanes II v Sharjah Wanderers
• Dubai Exiles II v Dubai Wasps
• Dubai Frogs v Dubai Dragons II

Tomorrow’s Internationals
• England v Australia, 6.30pm
• Ireland v Samoa, 6.30pm
• Scotland v New Zealand, 9.15pm
• Wales v South Africa, 6.30pm

Rugby League
Tomorrow’s Four Nations

Four Nations final
• Australia v New Zealand, 1pm

pradley@thenational.ae