x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Regarding the Harlequins, Jebel Ali Dragons measure up well

The Jebel Ali Dragons say they have no advantage over the top of the table Abu Dhabi Harlequins ahead of their Gulf Top Six meeting at Zayed Sports City, says Paul Radley.

Paul Hart, centre, and the Jebel Ali Dragons have earned the respect of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
Paul Hart, centre, and the Jebel Ali Dragons have earned the respect of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Paul Hart, the Jebel Ali Dragons captain, refutes the idea that his side will have a psychological advantage over the Abu Dhabi Harlequins in their top-of-the-table Gulf Top Six meeting at Zayed Sports City on Friday afternoon.

The last time the two sides met, the Dragons inflicted just the second defeat Quins had suffered in 2012 - and thus snatched the UAE Premiership title from their grasp.

However, the capital side have progressed serenely since, with five consecutive wins in the Top Six. The Dragons, meanwhile, are desperate for points to maintain their title challenge.

"The way I perceive the Abu Dhabi mindset is that they are a team of winners, they had the beating of us last year and at the start of this year, too," Hart said.

"I feel they think we have improved massively and that we peaked at the right time for the final and that we had the measure of them then.

"They still have a winning mindset. I think they will be approaching this game still regarding themselves as favourites as they have been smashing everyone in recent weeks."

The Dragons are without Dan Bell, their first-choice fly-half, for a fixture that could prove crucial to their chances of reaching the grand final at the end of the season.

"With the position we are in, in second in the table, with Doha and other teams breathing down our necks, we need to win all the remaining games to put ourselves into the final," Hart said.

"We need points out of this weekend, so we are not resting anybody - that is for sure. Like all the other teams at this time of year, we have a few key players injured.

"But we have no excuses, we will be putting out the strongest possible team available and we are going to go for it." The Quins will welcome back Renier Els, the UAE captain, into a back row that has been functioning adequately in his absence.

However, his return is offset by the absence of two of the stars of the champions' backline.

Jeremy Manning, the fly-half, is still absent with the knee injury he sustained during the Dubai Rugby Sevens. Murray Strang, the national team fly-half, is also unavailable due to personal commitments.

"We're expecting a tough game as usual and know it is going to be a battle," said Chris Davies, the Harlequins director of rugby.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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