x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jebel Ali Dragons clinch yet another title in abridged version

The new UAE Premiership champions were dominant in the final over the Dubai Exiles.

The Jebel Ali Dragons have always done well in sevens rugby. Mike Young / The National
The Jebel Ali Dragons have always done well in sevens rugby. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // With their first XVs trophy for ages freshly settled on the mantelpiece, Jebel Ali Dragons returned to the format they have owned for years as they won their home sevens tonight.

The new UAE Premiership champions are so good at the abridged format they took the lead in the final even when they were down to six players, with Andy Russell in the sin bin at the time.

On this evidence it will take a big effort from any of their Arabian Gulf rivals to stop them adding another Dubai Rugby Sevens title to their collection in two weeks.

"I had to put some acid on them at the start of the day and tell them to forget about the [UAE Premiership success]" said Shane Thornton, the Dragons player-coach about the UAE Premiership success.

"After a great time for the club in XVs it's good to get back into sevens, and the good thing for us is none of these players will be going off to play for UAE this year."

While the Dragons triumph was predictable, the identity of their final opponents perhaps was less so.

The Dubai Exiles provided the clearest evidence yet that the revolution under their new South African coach Jan Venter is finding traction.

They put on an uplifting display in finishing runners-up.

Thornton deems the defeated Exiles "genuine contenders" for the Dubai Sevens.

Self-belief was visibly bleeding through the resurgent side by the time of tonight's final.

"We have some senior players who have tried to take the lead in improving the ethos of the club," said John Fawls, the Exiles and UAE national team playmaker.

"We started to see that transfer to the pitch today. It was great to beat a quality team like Abu Dhabi [Harlequins] in the semi-final," he added, "and then to push Dragons close in the final, too."

pradley@thenational.ae

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