x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Winger Steve Smith parachutes in for the Dubai Hurricanes

The former British paratrooper had been close to missing out on his side's encounter with Dubai Exiles when a morning jaunt in his other favourite pursuit, skydiving, overran.

Dubai Hurricanes’ Steve Smith, left, runs down a  Dubai Dragons opponent at The Sevens.
Dubai Hurricanes’ Steve Smith, left, runs down a Dubai Dragons opponent at The Sevens.

DUBAI // In a city where scheduled appointment times are often merely a basis for negotiation rather than set in stone, it is nice to know some people still do all they can to avoid being late.

Steve Smith, the Dubai Hurricanes winger, was never in danger of missing the kick-off for Friday's top-of-the-table meeting with the Dragons in the UAE Premiership.

In fact, he was so early, he even had time to support his club's second XV in their corresponding fixture against the Dragons reserves, which preceded the 5pm seniors match at The Sevens.

However, he does not always enjoy such a leisurely build up to matches. Seven days earlier, he had been close to missing out on his side's encounter with Dubai Exiles when a morning jaunt in his other favourite pursuit, skydiving, overran.

Not keen to incur a late fine, he was forced to take emergency measures. So he parachuted in for the game.

"The game kicked off at 5pm and I landed from a tandem at 4.30pm," Smith, a former paratrooper in the British Army, said of his pre-game race to make the Hurricanes' meeting with the Exiles last week.

"I told the pilot he had to help me out here, so I jumped back on the plane and landed on the pitch and was out playing with the guys within two minutes."

His dramatic entry obviously had a galvanising effect, as he was one of the stand-out players on the winning side, according to his coach.

"While everyone else wanted to ask how, where, why, etc, all Steve wanted to know was what tactics we were going to use," Brian Allen, the Hurricanes coach, said. "And he played a great game, too."

Smith, who works for the UAE government, made his debut as an international rugby player for the Arabian Gulf in the Asian Five Nations at the end of last season.

He has played serious rugby for only four years, yet, now aged 35, he is still targeting a place in the inaugural UAE representative side at the end of this campaign.

"I came out [to Dubai] and started playing football, but in my first four games I got three yellow cards and one red, because it was a different style," he said.

"I decided I wasn't going to play anymore, so I started playing rugby. Luckily enough I was selected for the Arabian Gulf last year.

"I did convince myself I was going to retire, but because I still enjoy doing all the fitness, and the release of all the aggression, I decided I would give it another year."

Smith might consider making a lucky skydive ahead of every game in future. Without it, his Hurricanes side stumbled to a second loss of the season on Friday, as they lost in a tense finish against the Dragons.

The Dragons extended their unbeaten run at the top of the UAE Premiership with a 22-20 victory, which was set up by a fine solo score from Tim Fletcher, their fullback.

pradley@thenational.ae