x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE Premiership title at stake as Dragons prepare for Hurricanes

A few nerves as Jebel Ali side need only a win to clinch league title on final day of season.

Player-coach Shane Thornton, centre, wants Jebel Ali Dragons to focus on playing rugby in their bid to win.
Player-coach Shane Thornton, centre, wants Jebel Ali Dragons to focus on playing rugby in their bid to win.

DUBAI // The Jebel Ali Dragons players could be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja-vu when they play off against Dubai Hurricanes for the UAE Premiership title on home soil this afternoon.

Any sort of win on the final day of the domestic league season would guarantee them the title. They have been there before, however, and it has not always ended well.

Today's season finale is almost an exact replica of the situation that faced them on the last day of the Gulf Top Six campaign at the end of January.

The only difference is they face the defending champion Hurricanes instead of Doha.

Third-placed Abu Dhabi Harlequins, who picked their pocket for the regional title, face the same opposition, Dubai Exiles, needing a bonus point win to stand a chance, just as they did six weeks ago.

The Dragons will welcome back a variety of senior players, who missed last weekend's win over Dubai Wasps as they were attending a stag party.

"There may be a few nerves, but we just have to keep to our gameplan," Shane Thornton, the Dragons player-coach, said.

"When you are trying to close out a win you sometimes forget to just play rugby.

"We haven't done much differently this week to what we usually do, we just want to get back to a more structured game after playing expansively [against Wasps on Friday]."

The Hurricanes hold a slight advantage at the top of the table, so they, too, know any sort of win would guarantee them a second successive Premiership.

Their undefeated run so far in this competition comes in sharp contrast to their woeful Top Six campaign, and Chris Gregory, their captain, says his side are back enjoying the game.

"Everyone is fairly calm, they are more concerned about packing their clothes for Sandance in the evening," Gregory said.

"We know that if we play our game and don't let their pack turn us over, we are capable of getting the win."

Abu Dhabi still have an outside chance of monopolising all the XVs trophies this season.

Their second string went undefeated on their way to clinching the UAE Conference title last weekend, to add to the Top Six won by the senior side earlier this year.

"I can foresee next season being a rebuilding one for us, so it would be nice to get another trophy in the cabinet now," Chris Davies, the Quins director of rugby, said.

pradley@thenational.ae