x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jebel Ali Dragons fired up to do well against Dubai Hurricanes

Dubai Hurricanes may be out of the hunt for trophies, but they could still have a say in stopping Jebel Ali Dragons.

Alastair Common and his Jebel Ali Dragons teammates had a tough time reining in the Abu Dhabi Harlequins team, in green. Ravindranath K / The National
Alastair Common and his Jebel Ali Dragons teammates had a tough time reining in the Abu Dhabi Harlequins team, in green. Ravindranath K / The National

Given that they have what feels like a rare weekend off from playing against the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the Jebel Ali Dragons might be feeling an odd sensation of relief ahead of their Gulf Top Six fixture this evening.

The Dubai Hurricanes, the visitors to the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, are UAE rugby's version of crop rotation.

Every fourth year the city's most decorated club of recent times have a fallow season when they do not win any trophies, but revive ahead of the challenges to follow next time around.

They are going through that lean season at present, and as such might not present the threat they usually would.

Many has been the time in recent years when the Dragons have harboured serious trophy aspirations, only to have them scotched by their city rivals.

Now, however, the Dubai derby has been replaced by a UAE clasico, between the Dragons and the capital's leading club.

"Whenever we are playing Abu Dhabi it is a totally different feeling," said Alastair Common, the centre who signed for the Dragons from the Harlequins at the start of last season.

"There just seems to be a derby aspect when we play Abu Dhabi now. It is the crunch game every time we play them.

"Friday's game [when Quins won 16-5] was scrappy and I think every one was trying that little bit harder and there was more pressure because it was a top of the table clash."

Hurricanes are out of the running for a place in the season-ending West Asia final.

But they can still have a say in denying the Dragons, who are in competition with Doha for the second place.

"I don't think anybody can take that top spot from them, but if we can't get second that will be a big blow for us," said Common, who insists his side will need their "A game" to beat Hurricanes.

From being comprehensive conquerors of them in the UAE Premiership final in November, the Jebel Ali club have slipped behind the Harlequins again on Friday's evidence.

Paul Hart, the Dragons captain, said the capital club are "certainly the best team out here at the moment," and labelled the manner of his side's capitulation "embarrassing".

"We have to dig deep now, win the next three games and play them again at our place and hopefully be good enough to reach the final," Hart said.

"We were embarrassed, not about the scoreline as we know they are a good team, but embarrassed that we didn't really compete. We need to bounce back."

pradley@thenational.ae

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