x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

House pride at stake when the Dragons take on the Hurricanes

Housemates Taif Al Delamie and Chris Gregory are both keen to have bragging rights when their two teams face each other today in the UAE Premiership.

Household pride is at stake for Taif Al Delamie when the Jebel Ali Dragons take on the Dubai Hurricanes.
Household pride is at stake for Taif Al Delamie when the Jebel Ali Dragons take on the Dubai Hurricanes.

The concept of "local" bragging rights will seldom have been more acute than at Jebel Ali today when two housemates play against each other in the UAE Premiership's standout fixture.

Ahead of the 7pm kick off at the Centre of Excellence, Taif Al Delamie will get out of their shared taxi and head for the Jebel Ali Dragons dressing room, while Chris Gregory will meet his Dubai Hurricanes teammates in the away room.

This week's build up to a fixture which could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the Premiership has been rife with subterfuge over the dining table at their villa in Jumeirah.

"There's been a lot of mind games, with each trying to outdo each other on things like numbers at training," said Al Delamie, who scored a try in the Dragons' opening day defeat at the Abu Dhabi Harlequins on Friday.

"If one of us says there has been 50 at training, the other says they have had 60. There's been a lot of talk about who is injured, who isn't injured. I've stopped listening to it now, to be honest."

Al Delamie, the former Arabian Gulf captain, moved in with his ex-Gulf teammate Gregory, the Hurricanes captain, when he relocated to Dubai from Ireland at the start of this year.

His appetite for today's match is greater than normal. He had to walk past the Hurricanes' UAE Premiership winners medals hanging from the banister of his villa's staircase all summer, after they had sealed that title with a final day win at the Dragons.

More practically, a second defeat would almost certainly scotch the Jebel Ali side's chances of ousting the Hurricanes as Premiership champions.

"This game is bigger than usual," Al Delamie said. "It is always a big match when we play the Hurricanes, but this time it is make or break because if we lose we will have no chance of winning the Premiership."

With the slimmed down Premiership season lasting just five matches this term, a defeat could be costly for the Hurricanes' title defence, too.

"We both came back from training [on Wednesday night] and he was being very sly, not saying much," Gregory said.

"We know the Dragons will be very solid in the backs and have the forwards to challenge this year, so we have to come up with a game plan to counter that."

pradley@thenational.ae

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