x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Greg Thompson is back with a bang for the Dubai Hurricanes

Hurricanes beat the Dubai Wasps as the Irish engineer makes his comeback after smashing his cheekbone playing for the UAE.

The Dubai Wasps, in black and yellow, lost to the Dubai Hurricanes, but players from both teams are likely to be involved with the national team.
The Dubai Wasps, in black and yellow, lost to the Dubai Hurricanes, but players from both teams are likely to be involved with the national team.

DUBAI // Courage reveals itself in different ways, but Greg Thompson, the Dubai Hurricanes lock, presented the most graphic example of it in the opening moments of his side's win over Dubai Wasps yesterday.

The Irish engineer was playing his first game since smashing his left cheekbone while on international duty in his debut tournament for the UAE two months ago.

He might have been excused for being a little tentative. As a result of the subsequent surgery, he has had three metal plates inserted in his cheek, and he had to get clearance from his doctor on Thursday before he was allowed to play.

Then take into account his comeback match was against a Dubai Wasps side who have a hard-earned reputation for being the most uncompromisingly physical in UAE rugby.

And his first tackling duty in the game just happened to be against Trevor Leota, the former Samoa international, whose rugby toughness earned renown on the global stage, long before he decided to wind down his career in Dubai.

It usually takes a combined effort for teams to take the human wrecking ball to ground. Despite his long layoff, Thompson managed it with no extra assistance.

"It felt brilliant to be back out there," said Thompson, 30. "The doctor told me I could play again, and unfortunately one of the other lads had to pull out of the game, so [James Ham, the Hurricanes coach] gave me a run.

"It was funny that the first tackle of the game was on Trevor. Luckily, he didn't have the sharpened up elbows.

"They are a very good team, given that they have only been around for two years. They have a strong scrum and are well capable of disrupting the play."

Thompson's fine form did not go unnoticed by the powers that be in UAE rugby. "See you tomorrow morning," Duncan Hall, who knows a thing or two about tough forward play having played 15 Tests in the second row for Australia, said to him as he left the field.

Hall, the new UAE performance manager who watched the game from the sidelines, has a training session planned for the leading UAE-eligible players this morning.

Thompson, and his partner in the Hurricanes second-row, Simon Osbourne, are likely to feature strongly when it comes to working out the best options for the national team for the Asian Five Nations at the end of this season.

Hall had much to ponder during yesterday's game, and not just from the title-chasing Hurricanes. Dave Matasio, the Wasps flanker, revealed a strong running game in his second-half cameo in the three tries to one defeat to the defending champions.

In the other UAE Premiership game of the day, Murray Strang, who has yet to play for the full UAE team but is the fly-half elect, was back on song in Abu Dhabi Harlequins' rout of Al Ain Amblers.

Strang scored a try of his own, and converted nine of the 12 that the Quins ran in against the struggling Garden City club.

Alex McDowell touched down three times, while another UAE international in waiting, Patrick Hegarty, and Kyle Knox, the schoolboy flanker, scored two tries each as Abu Dhabi continued their pursuit of a second trophy of the campaign.

pradley@thenational.ae