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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Relief for victorious Jebel Ali Dragons as Abu Dhabi Harlequins beaten at home for first time since 2014

For the second week in succession, Dragons have an intercept try to thank for their success as they beat arch-rivals in West Asia Premiership game

Jebel Ali Dragons were the last team to beat Abu Dhbai Harlequins on home soil, in the 2014 season finale. Satish Kumar for The National
Jebel Ali Dragons were the last team to beat Abu Dhbai Harlequins on home soil, in the 2014 season finale. Satish Kumar for The National

The proud undefeated home record of Abu Dhabi Harlequins was finally ended after more than three-and-a-half years, as Jebel Ali Dragons underlined their own West Asia Premiership title credentials with victory at Zayed Sports City.

For the second week in succession, Dragons, who were the last team to beat Harlequins on home soil - in the 2014 season finale - had an intercept try to thank for their success.

Seven days earlier, lock forward Joe Cooper had sealed a valuable win over Bahrain in Jebel Ali with a rare try.

This time around, it was the more regular try-scorer Ryno Fourie, the UAE wing, who touched down what proved to be the decisive score.

His score, plus an ensuing penalty kick from James Love, which built on the first half try by Saki Naisau, stretched the away side’s lead to 20-3.

Typically, the defending West Asia champions were unwilling to give up the last unbeaten record in the Premiership without a fight, and they fought back to 20-17 through tries from Luke Stevenson and Natuva Kinivilliame.

It was ultimately too late, though, as the Dragons sealed a win that took them three points clear at the top of the table.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red, white and green, were unable to win despite putting up a good fight. Satish Kumar for The National
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red, white and green, were unable to win despite putting up a good fight. Satish Kumar for The National

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“For us, this is a big relief to finally get the monkey off our back,” said Dragons captain Ross Samson, whose side have fallen on the wrong side of several close encounters with Harlequins in recent seasons.

“The last few times we have played, we have thrown it away in the last few minutes, so to get the job done [was great].

“I don’t know what it is with these guys [Harlequins], they just keep coming at us, and they could have nicked it at the end.

“It was a relief to get it done, but we haven’t won anything yet. The boys are celebrating like we have, but we have to get on with it. The next job is against Dubai Exiles in two weeks’ time, and that will be a big game.”

The fixture was actually played on a different field to the one Harlequins regularly play their home matches on, and both sides struggled at times to tell the difference between the rugby and football pitch markings.

“I blame the pitch move, and the different coloured lines,” Harlequins coach Mike McFarlane joked.

“It is our fortress, and the record had to go at some point. To be fair, the Dragons deserved one, and one was going to swing their way in the end.

“They are a good bunch of lads. I don’t think the better team won today. That is no disrespect to Dragons, I just think man for man we are a better team, we just didn’t execute our gameplan.”