After a tumultuous couple of campaigns, reaching the West Asia Premiership play-offs is no less than what Jebel Ali Dragons deserve, according to captain Ross Samson.
They did it the hard way too, taking the season down to their final game, but they snagged fourth spot and with it a play-off berth after a 29-12 victory against Abu Dhabi Saracens on Thursday night.
The bonus point triumph means Henry Paul’s side finish fourth, ahead of ousted West Asia and UAE champions Dubai Exiles, and will now play West Asia Premiership champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins for a spot in the West Asia Cup final on March 31.
And, following victories home and away against last season’s fallen giants, Samson says their shot at both Cup and UAE Premiership glory is richly deserved.
“We like to make things difficult for ourselves don’t we?,” joked Dragons’ Scottish skipper after Thursday’s win.
“That’s the nature of play offs – do whatever you can to make the top four. It wasn’t the smoothest of seasons but we have come a hell of a long way since last season. We have pushed the top three teams close on multiple occasions and beat Exiles twice so we are deserved fourth.”
There is plenty if logic to Samson’s words. Dragons beat Jacques Benade’s Exiles 42-30 at home in October and 27-10 at The Sevens last month.
And even though they lost five games against seven defeats (Exiles won six and lost six), Dragons did indeed push the three sides above them close.
Dragons lost by a total margin of just 10 to Doha over two games and in arguably the most memorable match of the campaign led Quins for much of their November 3 encounter before losing 31-30 in a game that lasted 100 minutes.
There is plenty of unfinished business for Samson and Co. They travel to Abu Dhabi to play Quins next Friday having gone down 47-7 to Mike McFarlane’s men just three weeks ago.