The league-leading Abu Dhabi Harlequins managed some bumps and bruises to defeat the Dubai Hurricanes and earn a bonus point to boot, writes Paul Radley.
Harlequins too much for Hurricanes in Gulf Top Six rugby union match
DUBAI // On a Friday afternoon when the players had to compete for parking at The Sevens with patrons of a huge pet show, Abu Dhabi Harlequins produced plenty of "dog" - to use the sport's colloquial parlance - to maintain their Gulf Top Six winning streak.
By the end of their meeting with the Hurricanes, the league leaders had plenty of finesse to go along with the rugged edge of their forward pack, too
It is a sign of the strength of the capital club that they were able to bring on Imad Reyal, the UAE flier, to embellish their earlier endeavours.
But, for all the late flurry of points, via Reyal twice and Ed Lewsey, the scrum-half, who scored under the posts with the last play, the victory was built on the fight shown by Nick McBride and Billy Graham in the Quins back row.
"Nick has a lot of experience and he was outstanding again today," said Chris Davies, the Quins director of rugby.
"You can see from the body language of our guys that we are not happy with the performance.
"We are managing some bumps and bruises, but we got a win, and a bonus-point win at that."
Both sides have been eroded by injuries of late, and the scratch Hurricanes side had to rely heavily on reserves of spirit to get them through.
At one point in the second half, it seemed like it might be enough.
Lindsay Fitzgerald touched down his seventh try in four games.
Further tries, from Alan Foster and Julian Callanan, also went over as the hosts came within striking distance of the league leaders.
However, the second half introduction of Reyal and Murray Strang for Quins led to the score bloating late in the piece.
"I think we proved [Harlequins] are not bullet-proof by any means," said Chris Burch, the Hurricanes coach. "When we scored two tries quickly I think we were dominating them. I think that shows they can be dominated, but we need to put together a full 80 minutes.
"We play with our heart on our sleeves. We actually do feel like it's a family and that is what gives you the extra 10 per cent you need when you have injuries."
PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR
A variety of players presented their cases on Friday to be selected in the UAE’s Asian Five Nations squad at the end of this season:
James Tometski (Dubai Hurricanes, full-back)
It is not too long ago that Tometski, a Dubai-raised full-back who also excelled at football, represented the future of the game in this country.
One serious injury after another meant his star waned, but he did enough here to suggest there are options to go with Tom Calnan and Imad Reyal – his opposite numbers on Friday – for the UAE No 15 shirt.
Malcolm Greenslade (Abu Dhabi Harlequins, wing)
The Quins left-wing debuted for the UAE in the Cup of Nations in December. His discovery was one of the few bright points of that tournament for the beleaguered side.
The first time he got his hands on the ball on Friday, he waltzed past a variety of tacklers and scored under the posts. His pressure also forced the penalty try.
Imad Reyal (Abu Dhabi Harlequins, full-back)
The last time the flying Sri Lankan played on these pitches it was in the colours of a social sevens team at the Dubai Sevens – without Harlequins permission.
His has had to earn forgiveness for his decision to go awol back then. A couple of thrilling tries as a second-half replacement were a neat sweetener here.
Michael Sole (Dubai Exiles, inside centre)
As yet uncapped, but on current form the Australia-born former Dubai College schoolboy will not have to wait long to rectify that.
Followed an eye-catching display against the Hurricanes last weekend with another strong display and a try against the Dragons - and against the league’s best midfield, too.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE