x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Motivated Dragons breath fire and Hurricanes get burnt

Andy Russell scored the final try to punctuate the triumph for Jebel Ali Dragons over Dubai Hurricanes after Imad Reyal, Richie Leyden, Sean Crombie and Dan Bell had earlier crossed for scores in the UAE Rugby Premiership final, reports Paul Radley.

Dan Bell, left, of Jebel Ali Dragons, scores a try during their win over Dubai Hurricanes in UAE Premiership final on Friday night. Charles Crowell for The National
Dan Bell, left, of Jebel Ali Dragons, scores a try during their win over Dubai Hurricanes in UAE Premiership final on Friday night. Charles Crowell for The National

Dragons 37 Hurricanes 8

Jebel Ali Dragons – Tries: Reyal, Leyden, Crombie, Bell, Russell; Cons: Strang 2, Bell; Pens: Bell 2

Dubai Hurricanes – Tries: Coupland; Pens: Powell

Red card – Harry Woods (Hurricanes)

Man of the match – Andy Russell (Dragons)

DUBAI // Four major trophies in 12 months. Zero finals lost in that time. Two wins in a month over Dubai Hurricanes. Champions of West Asia. Dual champions of the UAE. A 29-point victory margin in the final, even though they passed up the chance of 16 more.

Point proven? Jebel Ali Dragons would like to think so.

“I never doubted us, despite the fact our forwards aren’t great and some of our players are over the hill,” said Ross Mills, the coach of the victorious Dragons.

Suffice to say, the comment was loaded. The Dragons were intensely irked by fault-finding in the build-up to the game – and their doubters were not exclusively from the Hurricanes, either.

Mills admitted he used the unkind analysis to motivate his players before the game.

Rather than pinning newspaper clippings to the wall of the dressing room Portakabins at the Centre of Excellence, he put them in letters addressed to the players. That way, they would not miss reading them.

“I printed off two particular articles, put them in envelopes for each individual player and part of our warm-up was just to read those articles,” Mills said.

“Sometimes it helps a player when they see what other clubs think, what their players and head coach think of your players.

“We read them then crumpled them up and put them in the bin. We said, right, 30 minutes till kick-off, we have a job to do, let’s go out and do it. That’s what we did.”

Sean Crombie, the Dragons captain for the night in the absence of Taif Al Delamie, said he was unaffected by his coach’s ploy – but acknowledged it had worked to rile some of his colleagues.

“I got handed that and, to be honest, I threw it back in my bag,” said Crombie, the former Scotland sevens hooker who is four from four in major finals since moving to Dubai, just over a year ago.

“Other guys read it and it is their choice – everyone has their own individual ways of psyching themselves up.

“If that got them angry, then by all means. I hope we have earned a bit more respect by this.

“A lot of us have played to a good enough level to know to ignore it, but in the back of your head it is always ticking.

“In terms of finals, it is probably the best we have played, considering the difficulties leading into it and the way the guys reacted to it.”

The Dragons said before the game they would prefer to let their rugby do the talking. They did. So loudly it echoed.

Sometimes it seems as though the only way the Dragons backline could get any better when they play like this would be if they were made of chocolate.

Al Delamie and Kris Greene were absent, on holiday in Miami, after winning a competition.

So the host club had to make do with Andy Russell and Ross Samson filling the breach instead. Hard times.

Russell scored the final try to punctuate the triumph, after Imad Reyal, Richie Leyden, Crombie and Dan Bell had earlier crossed for scores.

The fact the Hurricanes were down to 14 men by the end after Harry Woods was red-carded for dropping his shoulder onto Reyal, was merely an ugly side issue.

When a variety of players headed from the away dressing room dressed to the nines as they went to catch the end of a wedding reception of a club colleague, they also wore glum faces.

“The better team won and the Dragons wanted it more, right from the very start,” said Guy Potter, the captain of the defeated side.

“Everyone said in the build-up to the match that whoever won in the tight would come away with the victory, and the score line reflects how the forwards battle was won.

“We were standoffish, complacent, and credit to the Dragons, they played very well. When they moved it wide, they did it quickly and with great efficiency.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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