They dropped to second bottom in the West Asia Premiership following their fourth defeat in seven games last week – but Dubai Hurricanes coach Mike Wernham refuses to believe his side are taking on a “vulnerable” Jebel Ali Dragons on Thursday.
It’s been far from smooth sailing for defending champions Dragons in 2018/19 so far. They edged past Dubai Exiles 20-14 on opening night but then lost three games in a row before successive victories over Dubai Eagles and Exiles.
But a 38-20 reversal at title-chasing Abu Dhabi Harlequins a week ago has left them well off the pace in fifth. They are closer to rock bottom Eagles than they are to Bahrain at the top of the Premiership, but Wernham is not being lulled into a false sense of security.
“We’re certainly not going to be facing a vulnerable Dragons,” said the Canes coach.
“They’re going to be extremely confident coming out against us. We know they’ve had a bit of a hard time the last few games, but that Dragons team is far too good to be writing off.
“They have good experience, players coming back from injury and it’s at their place, which is as hard as anywhere to go and get a result. It’ll be a ding dong of a battle.”
On the other side, Canes are in stellar from – in contrast to their struggles of recent years. Wernham’s charges beat Exiles 36-25 for their fourth win in seven games last week to go third in the table, five and nine points adrift of Quins and Bahrain respectively.
Canes come into the game in Jebel Ali seeking to complete a double over Dragons. They inflicted a 27-11 defeat on them in early October at The Sevens.
Wernham added: “They tried to dominate up front last time and fortunately our pack came out on top on that occasion. Our speed, skill and accuracy saw us come out on top last time so we hope that’s the case again.
“Our big focus is delivery from set-piece and not getting too giddy or excited and not moving away from the way we play. It’s important to focus on simple things first then allow our exciting back line to cut a few holes.
“It’s the last game before the (Dubai) Sevens so both teams will look to bow out in style. There’s some personal rivalries too so it should be a great game at Jebel Ali.”
Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn is remaining calm at Dragons’ slide down the standings, but believes the Premiership will be a straight fight between Quins and Bahrain this season.
“We were unlucky against Bahrain and messed up against Canes,” said Quinn.
“Other than that we are happy. Abu Dhabi are incredibly strong this year. Bahrain have strengthened. I would love to not have lost those two games but the club’s in good health.
“We probably have a bit of a hangover from last year in all honesty. The West Asia is a straight shootout between Bahrain and Quins but I would back us to be in the (UAE) Premiership final and win the other two leagues (UAE Conference and Community League).”
Dragons v Canes is the only game to go ahead this weekend. Eagles forfeited their fixture with rampant Quins due to visit Dubai Sports City. Exiles and Bahrain, meanwhile, are in talks as to when their fixture will be moved to after Jacques Benade’s side requested a postponement because of an injury crisis.
It’s a blow to Louie Tonkin’s league-leading Bahrain, sapping their momentum on the final week before the 15s game takes a brief hiatus for the sevens season.
“As it stands we’re looking at an alternate date of December 7 and not a forfeit as we desperately need the home fixture,” said Tonkin.
“It is a real shame that we couldn’t continue to play. Hopefully they’ll come to us on December 7 and then we have big game v Dragons on the 14th as well so it won’t be too bad.
“Boys have played a lot of rugby which is great, so the positives are we can put a really good skills and conditioning block in place for four weeks.”
Week 8 fixtures:
20:00 Jebel Ali Dragons v Dubai Hurricanes
West Asia Premiership table
Team P W L D PF PA BP Pts
1 Bahrain 7 6 1 0 281 112 5 29
2 Harlequins 7 5 2 0 243 167 5 25
3 Hurricanes 7 4 3 0 175 198 4 20
4 Exiles 7 3 4 0 217 203 4 16
5 Dragons 7 3 4 0 158 188 3 15
6 Eagles 7 0 7 0 111 317 2 2
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