x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Thornton profits from gift

The wing collects wayward kick to score for Dragons who clinch a late victory as Hurricanes give away a lead for the third game running.

DUBAI // Shane Thornton was the latest beneficiary of Dubai Hurricanes generosity as he was gifted a late try to help maintain Dubai Dragons' 100 per cent start to the season. It was the third game running that the Hurricanes had given away a lead in the latter stages, but this was the most galling of all.

Chris Gregory's side were badly depleted by injuries and suspensions to key players, yet had battled bravely to hold an advantage over their on-song city rivals late in the game on Friday night. They had a first victory of the campaign within their grasp at 23-21, only for the cultured left-boot of James Tometzki to misfire just at the vital time. Tometzki, the prolific full-back, was also a free-scoring centre-forward in the Dubai Amateur Football League before he suffered a serious knee injury on Rugby World Cup qualification duty for the Arabian Gulf three years ago.

His late error against the Dragons was rugby's equivalent of attempting a back-heel across the face of his own goal while defending a slender lead in injury-time. Isolated, and having taken possession on the edge of his 22, the safety first option would have been to launch the ball down-field. He chose instead to attempt an audacious attack, but his chip only ended in the hands of the Dragons winger, Thornton, who strolled in unopposed under the posts.

Andy Russell, the fly-half, knocked over the straight-forward conversion to take his personal tally in the match to 13 and the score to 28-23. "James has a bit of daring about him, and we are certainly not going to cut him adrift for that," said Chris Doyle, the Hurricanes coach. "He took defeat harder than anyone." Gregory, the Hurricanes captain, added: "The guys really fought for their places. It was an awesome feeling being in the huddle and seeing in guys eyes that they wanted to play rugby."

Victory meant the Dragons now sit a bonus point behind the leaders, Bahrain, at the top of the Arabian Gulf Prosperity Premiership. "We were definitely fortunate at the end, but we made our own luck," reasoned their captain Jayden Wallis. "Eventually the mistake came, but we had been putting the ball down there for that reason." The champions, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, kicked off their league campaign in impressive fashion, as they eased past Dubai Exiles 28-7 at Al Ghazal.

In the Emirates League, Trevor Leota scored a try and a conversion as Toa Dubai thrashed Arabian Potbellies 65-3. pradley@thenational.ae