x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Falcons sharpen claws for battle again

The country's emerging rugby league team, the UAE Falcons, will once again lock horns with Liban Espoir of Lebanon at The Sevens after the first match was abandoned on Friday night.

DUBAI // The country's emerging rugby league team, the UAE Falcons, will bid to get their first victory under their belts this evening when they once again lock horns with Liban Espoir of Lebanon at The Sevens. The battle lines were drawn on Friday night when the first match was abandoned, with a quarter of the match still to play, due to an unseemly mass brawl. The UAE side, who are taking their first tentative steps in the 13-man game, held a 16-6 lead when the game was called off.

Despite a tribunal meeting scheduled for late yesterday, Danny Kazandjian, the coach of the Lebanese side, warned that his side are unlikely to take a backward step tonight. "We need to stick to our aggressive mentality and try to stick to our game-plan," he said. "Hopefully we'll be more accustomed to the draining effects of the heat." The stifling conditions of the height of the Dubai summer are likely to have an even greater effect on the hosts. Unlike their opposition, who draw their players from the Bank of Beirut Rugby League Championship, their team members have no regular competition experience.

As such, the Falcons have borrowed a variety of players from the ranks of the union code. The former Scotland rugby league captain, Wayne McDonald, and the Arabian Gulf winger, Josh Sherrin, who play for Dubai Exiles and Hurricanes respectively, both played in the opening game three nights ago. Dougall Harvison, the Falcons coach, was confident, however, as he said: "We need to focus on defence around the ruck as that's where Lebanon made most of their yards, and being able to get the ball out wide. There were a lot of gaps but we couldn't get it out quick enough.

"We're also going to work on cohesion as we're not really sure where we're going or what we're doing and we need a lot more talk in defence. I'm confident, but our fitness might let us down." pradley@thenational.ae