x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Imad Reyal’s acquisition will fill Dragons’ void until Al Delamie’s return

Jebel Ali Dragons secure sought after signing of Imad Reyal from their title-rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Imad Reyal, centre, has moved from Abu Dhabi Harlequins to Jebel Ali Dragons, his third team in as many seasons.  Elite Step
Imad Reyal, centre, has moved from Abu Dhabi Harlequins to Jebel Ali Dragons, his third team in as many seasons. Elite Step

DUBAI // Imad Reyal may have proved as elusive in the transfer market as he is on the playing field during this summer’s recruitment drive in domestic rugby union.

However, the Sri Lankan fullback is now expected to start the new season in the blue of Jebel Ali Dragons in Friday’s encounter with his previous club, Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

The UAE national team flier, who is arguably the best finisher in the league, was in high demand during the off-season.

He had intimated, in August, that he would be happy to stay with Harlequins, whom he played for last season, if they could provide him with transport from his home in Dubai.

However, he has since been training with the Premiership champions at Jebel Ali, and follows Murray Strang, the fly-half, as a second significant signing from Quins. The Dragons will become Reyal’s third club in as many seasons after he opted against returning to Dubai Exiles, where he first came to prominence.

“I’ve been to training with the Dragons and I am loving it at the moment,” Reyal said. “They have good players who have been playing together for a few years as well as a couple of new players, too.

“They are looking very sharp.”

Reyal was a prolific try-scorer in matches against the Dragons for Harlequins last season.

However, the capital club had to do without him at one crucial point last season. Reyal dropped out of the Quins squad for the Gulf League competition at the Dubai Sevens at the final hour to play in a social tournament, instead.

In his absence, Harlequins lost out in the final in front of 45,000 people against the side he has now joined.

If he is selected to make his debut against them Friday, he may suffer a frosty reacquaintance with his former teammates.

“If I am in the squad I’ll do my best to play well, but it is going to be hard playing against my old team,” he said.

Reyal’s arrival will go some way to offsetting the absence of Taif Al Delamie from the early exchanges of the new campaign. The Omani winger was one of the key figures as Dragons secured a triple crown of titles last season, and has taken over from Paul Hart as the new first-team captain.

However, the former Arabian Gulf captain was Wednesday waiting on results of an MRI scan for a recent injury to the same knee he had reconstructive surgery on in the past. Despite the uncertainty surrounding his own situation, Al Delamie has high hopes for his first campaign as captain.

He acknowledges he has a tough act to follow after Hart’s success last season, but still feels there is room for improvement.

“We obviously had a great season last season but if you ask any of the players involved, we still underperformed through a lot of the campaign,” Al Delamie said.

“We never felt like we reached our potential last year. Although it was a great season in terms of winning medals and trophies, performance-wise there was a lot to improve on.”

Team profile

Coach Ross Mills

Captain Taif Al Delamie

Key player Sean Crombie. Former Scotland sevens international was unstoppable after joining a week before last season’s Premiership final.

In a nutshell Banished memories of years spent falling at the final hurdle by sweeping the board last season. They have strengthened in the off-season.

Friday fixtures

Saracens v Hurricanes, Zayed Sports City, 7pm

Dragons v Harlequins, Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, 7pm

Wasps v Exiles, The Sevens, 7pm

pradley@thenational.ae