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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Andy Powell plays down Dubai Hurricanes West Asia title bid after win over Dubai Exiles

A 36-23 win over the UAE Premiership champions on Friday sends out a message but the club captain insists there is a long way to go

Dubai Exiles and Dubai Hurricanes in action during their West Asia Premiership league match at The Sevens in Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National
Dubai Exiles and Dubai Hurricanes in action during their West Asia Premiership league match at The Sevens in Dubai. Satish Kumar for The National

Andy Powell, the Dubai Hurricanes captain, played down the expectations on his side, despite them adding the scalp of UAE Premiership champions Dubai Exiles on Friday to that of West Asia’s No 1 side Jebel Ali Dragons.

Hurricanes beat their neighbours at The Sevens 36-23. The six tries to three win briefly gave them second place in the West Asia Premiership table. Because of the way the kick off times were staggered on Friday, Hurricanes moved to within striking distance of Bahrain at the top of the table.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins then leapfrogged back above them with a 38-20 win over Dragons in the day’s late kick off.

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Read more:

Bahrain cruise to dominant West Asia Premiership victory over Dubai Sports City Eagles

Squad depth a concern as Dubai Exiles prepare to defend Dubai Rugby Sevens title

Bahrain deliver on 'potential' as Harlequins win puts them top of West Asian Premiership

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Hurricanes face defending West Asia champions Dragons – who they beat at the start of October – next week, before the season breaks to focus on sevens instead.

Win, and it would consolidate their claim to be considered challengers for the title – a status that has eluded them since they were the dominant force in Arabian Gulf rugby at the turn of the decade.

Powell, though, says there is much hard work to be done for his side to be considered among the elite again.

“It is a long way to go in the season,” Powell, the Hurricanes and UAE back, said. “We just take it one game at a time and see what happens. We are third in the table right now and have a big game against Dragons next week.

“Then after Christmas in Dubai, a lot changes, people come and go, they travel with work, and there can be injuries to contend with. We have put ourselves in a good position, but there is still a lot of work left to do.”

Time will also tell as to whether the balance of power has tilted between the fellow tenants at The Sevens.

The Exiles forward pack, which has been the bedrock of their glories in recent seasons, was diminished by the absence of the likes of Kristian Stinson, Gio Fourie, Matt Mills and Jaen Botes.

But Hurricanes were good value for their win, particularly with a backline functioning with such excellence they might be considered contenders for the Gulf Men’s League title at the Sevens in three weeks’ time, too.

“We had a couple of injuries as well, but it is about [which team] turns up on the day,” Powell said. “It is 15 v 15. We are slowly working towards where we want to get to over the past 12 months, and it is starting to come to fruition.

“We are starting to put some performances together, and actually starting to play some consistent rugby, which is producing some scores.”

Mike Wernham, the Hurricanes coach, praised the progress his side are making, but is demanding more.

“My target at the start of the season was to break into the top four,” Wernham said. “We are [third] but I still have a feeling of frustration. We have a squad and coaching staff around us that, when in comes to game day, I feel like we can beat any team.

“There is still that sort of mindset from opposition that feeds our confidence, where they feel we are going to be a little bit of a walkover.

“I know it was not Exiles’ full-strength team and they have a few injuries. But the way we played today, I wish we could go back two weeks and play Bahrain away again, because I genuinely think we can challenge anybody.”

Bahrain continue to set the standard for the rest. They scored 14 tries in a crushing 88-7 win at Dubai Sports City Eagles to maintain their lead at the top of the table.