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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Dubai Exiles last-gasp try ruled out as Jebel Ali Dragons win tight affair

Henry Paul says Dragons have much to improve on if they are to challenge for trophies this season

Dubai Exiles had a last-play try chalked off against Jebel Ali Dragons because of a knock on. Marc Why for The National
Dubai Exiles had a last-play try chalked off against Jebel Ali Dragons because of a knock on. Marc Why for The National

Henry Paul, the Jebel Ali Dragons coach, says his side have much to improve on if they are to challenge for trophies this season.

He was, though, delighted to finally finish on the right end of a narrow win, after they beat fellow West Asia Premiership contenders Dubai Exiles 22-18 on Friday.

Since Paul took the helm of the Jebel Ali side at the start of last season, they have been edged in several close finishes, including the opening game of the new season against Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

It seemed the same had happened when Exiles went over for a last-play score at The Sevens, only for the try to be chalked off for a knock on.

Paul said “it wasn’t the complete performance,” but that spirits will be buoyed by the result.

“Those games were last year, and even this season against Harlequins, if we are putting ourselves in the position to win a game, hopefully we will finally learn from it and put it away,” Paul said.

“We escaped a couple of times, and when we did get the ball in their green zone – their 22 – we scored a couple of really good tries through the backs.

“We had a really good scrum, which was surprising against their pack. It was nice to hold on in one of those close games and get over the line.

“We showed a lot of spirit and heart. Being on the end of one of those types of wins will do a lot for the confidence of the boys.”

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Defeat dented Exiles’ fine start to the campaign, after they had thrashed Dubai Sports City Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes in their first two appearances.

Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach, was not downcast by the performance, however.

“There are four teams who are going to be very competitive, so that on their day anyone can beat anyone,” Benade said.

“I think that is good for Gulf rugby. There are things we need to improve on, but we are very positive we can do well this season. Dragons will feel that way, and I’m sure Bahrain and Harlequins will feel the same.”

Benade said that Hurricanes should not be discounted, either, given the immediate impact their new signings made on Thursday night.

Hurricanes beat Eagles 28-12. The most notable feature of the night’s play was a remarkable try by Gerard Faitotoa.

The new prop, who has arrived from New Zealand for the season, beat five tacklers to run in a 40 metre score, to set the seal on the win for Hurricanes.

“He knows he can get fitter, and that is his target for while he is over here,” Mike Wernham, the Hurricanes coach, said.

“Working out in the heat will obviously help shift a little bit. It terms of the physical performance, I didn’t know what was coming.

“You could be the most perfect trainer in the world, but once you go into that competitive environment, you could go shy, on debut, under the lights, with a little bit of a crowd.

“They did really well,” Wernham said of Faitotoa and fellow new recruit from New Zealand Sam Tufuga.

Bahrain underlined their own credentials with a 54-12 win over Abu Dhabi Saracens.