Jebel Ali Dragons picked up from where they left off at the Dubai Rugby Sevens and got their West Asia Championship campaign off to the perfect start with a huge 54-24 victory against Al Ain Amblers.
Both teams had suffered horrendous starts to the UAE Premiership but each found redemption during the sevens season.
Dragons made the semi-finals of the Gulf Men’s League competition, beaten by eventual winners Abu Dhabi Harlequins, while Amblers were beaten in the final by Quins.
It was Dragons, however, that roared as the two met back in the 15s arena, their UAE internationals coming to the fore to breathe a bit of imagination and excitement back into their season. UAE players Ian Overton and Niall Statham crossed for two tries apiece for Dragons at Dubai Sports City.
“It was a very mixed game in the first half as Al Ain were electric on the counter attack and punished our mistakes, but the second half was a different story,” said Statham, who was UAE sevens captain during their Asia Sevens Series last year.
“Our set-piece was fantastic and, personally, I was really happy to be back, it’s been a real challenge switching from sevens to 15s but I managed to pick up two tries and the man-of-the-match award so it was a perfect start to the competition for us.”
For Amblers coach Andrew Rouvi, it was again a case of his side capitulating in the second half and being decimated by injuries.
“It was a typical game of two halves,” said the New Zealander, whose side were only 25-19 down at the interval. We were in the game until about the 65th minute until they made some strategic changes and their backs were a bit more organised, then we fell away and their fitness was better and they opened things up a bit.
Defeat did at least come with a silver lining as Rouvi saw his side pick up a second straight bonus point for scoring four tries, Patrick Camaivuna touching down for a brace and Niko Volavola and Emosi Ratuvanacua also scoring.
Ratuvanacua did also pick up another yellow card for Amblers, who were also decimated by injuries.
“We were short on numbers and called up eight players from the second team and had to cancel their game,” added Rouvi.
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