After suffering a maiden defeat of the season in a heartbreaking 22-18 loss to Jebel Ali Dragons last week, Dubai Exiles face another massive challenge as they welcome another title contender in Bahrain to The Sevens tomorrow.
After two walloping wins over Dubai Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes to start the season, Jacques Benade’s men were brought back down to earth in an epic encounter against Dragons – one in which a late try for scrum-half Carel Thomas was initially awarded and then ruled out by the touch judge following a knock-on.
It burst Exiles’ early season bubble, but Benade remained positive after the game and insisted the performance of his team showed they can once again challenge for silverware in this season after a lackluster 2016/17.
“It wasn’t nice to lose last week but we’re very positive with what we’re doing. Dragons are a good side and I think they’ll be hard to beat. It was a good game,” said the South African.
“We knew we’d find out about ourselves and it would be our first test after two big scores. We defended well but gave them too much ball.
“Hopefully we’ll take a lot out of the game and believe we can compete back at this level. We’ll take more from this loss than the first two wins, definitely. It’s an eye-opener.
“We played well in parts and stuck together and I saw plenty of belief. They are a good side and so are Bahrain and they will be another big test this week. Abu Dhabi Harlequins will be competitive again too so to have four teams fighting makes for brilliant rugby.”
Bahrain thrashed Abu Dhabi Saracens 54-12 last week, having drawn 15-15 with quintuple-winning Quins in their opening fixture, and coach Louie Tonkin is wary of the wounded beast.
“We know it’s going to be a much bigger challenge than what we’ve faced so far,” said the Welshman.
“I saw footage against Dragons and they were really unlucky to lose last weekend so they’ll be highly motivated. They’ve made some big signings and strengthened their pack so they’ll be on their game.
“We did some good things last weekend and we’re looking to continue on those improvements. We have to get our set-piece right and give our backs good possession.
“We owe them one as we feel we should have got a result last season. We feel if we can get parity up front we can get a result.”
After several physical encounters with Sarries in recent seasons, Tonkin predicted another big test awaits and he insists his side are ready to “go to war”.
“If we can compete in the scrum, lineout, maul, breakdown I feel we have the players that can get us a victory,” he said.
“We have two weeks off after this so we’ll go hell for leather to try and get the win. It’s going to be a physical battle and we’re going to go there ready for war.”
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