Despite the feeling of elation after they triumphed over Dubai Exiles last week, Paul Hart claims Jebel Ali Dragons are some way off the standard everyone at the club feels they can reach.
After a win against Abu Dhabi Harlequins was snatched away in the dying embers of their opening West Asia Premiership game against their fierce rivals a month ago – a late converted try saw Dragons defeated 34-33 – Dragons were on the right side of a tense result last week at The Sevens.
A 22-18 win was earned against hosts Dubai Exiles – although they survived a late try being disallowed for the home side. But veteran prop Hart claims a potential “banana skin” awaits in the form of Dubai Eagles tonight.
“The mood in the camp has been excellent this week,” said Hart.
“There’s been a massive turn out at training this week but we have been very honest and harsh with ourselves. We are nowhere near the standard we know we can be and the expectations our coaches have.
“We are taking the game against Eagles very seriously and know it’s a potential banana skin against a new but fast improving team. We are challenging ourselves to be accurate and produce a professional performance.”
As for the Eagles, they were brought back down to earth following their maiden win as a club – beating Abu Dhabi Saracens 17-11 three weeks ago – in a 28-12 defeat to Dubai Hurricanes last week.
But with another game and another week’s training under their belts, fly-half Sean Carey insists every little thing is helping their development.
“The boys were disappointed with the result (last week) which is a good thing,” said Carey.
“We thought it should have been a bit closer but we let it slip, and I think that comes down to concentration and experience. Those sorts of things will come later on in the season.
“But each week those things are getting better and we’ve been at training this week with the right mentality to go and target Dragons who we know are going to be very strong.”
The Premiership campaign takes a brief hiatus after this weekend and Carey insists Eagles will leave it all out on the field tonight.
“It’s really going to test us and we’re really up for it,” he said.
“We have a bit of a break after this so we’re going to give it everything. We’re growing and will put in a bigger performance again.”
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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.”
Sharjah Wanderers will celebrate a mammoth milestone this weekend as the club hosts a festival of rugby to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
When a group of Halcrow and Tarmac engineers living in Sharjah when construction began on Sharjah Port and Sharjah Sewage Works in 1976, little did they know they were laying the foundations for a rugby club that would still exist nearly half a century later.
The engineers played for Dubai Exiles at the time but, concerned with the travelling distance, approached then Sharjah ruler, His Highness Sheikh Sultan, to ask if he would be willing to allocate land for a rugby pitch.
The Sheikh was very obliging and bestowed a plot of land that was flat enough for a pitch but could only be reached by 4×4 vehicles.
With the help of Tarmac providing materials and equipment and everyone pitching in, a small cub house was built and Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club was born.
“I can’t speak for other clubs, but Sharjah has always been a place that created everlasting friendships, from the guys who used to play in the 1980s that still meet up every summer to the more recent players,” said club chairman Shane Breen, who grew up in Sharjah.
“For a lot of people the Wanderers has given them life-time memories, some they wish they could forget, but mostly good ones.
“From a personal perspective, I grew up in Sharjah playing for the Wanderers and am one of many second generation players, which is something we’re very proud of.”
Although Breen revealed the exact birthday of the club changes depending on who you talk to, 1977 is the year it all came together. And a lot of players both old and new will descend on the clubhouse for a special day of celebration tomorrow.
Two rugby matches will be played, including the Sharjah Nomads v the current senior men’s team. A memorial game follows for Harry Adamson, a club legend who died earlier this year.
“This year is a big year for the Wanderers and while rugby is where it began, all the sports sections are flourishing which is fantastic to see,” added Breen.
“Friday will be a celebration of all the club’s sports sections, with exhibition games from football, Gaelic football and rugby. The first rugby game will be Sharjah Nomads v the current men’s team.
“The Nomads side is made up of guys who are still in the UAE but are either retired or now play for other clubs. After this there’ll be a memorial game for Harry Adamson.”
Although UAE rugby clubs have changed in various guises throughout their existence, Wanderers are lucky to have always had their current clubhouse to call home.
And Breen revealed some players from the very first days will be back in the clubhouse for tomorrow’s festivities.
“For us as the rugby club, we’ve made a big effort to get as many ex-players back as possible and it’s been amazing to see so many former players from as far back as the 70’s making to trip back to Sharjah for the weekend,” he said.
“Quite a few of these guys haven’t been back to the club since they left up 30 years ago so it’s going to be a great reunion. Whilst all our oldest rivals have been forced to more grounds over the years, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have the same ground since the beginning.
“The Wanderers may have changed a lot over the last 40 years but it’ll still feel the same to those guys returning.
“We’ve also got a table of former Dubai Exiles players coming down to show their support and meet some old friends, three of whom used to be my teachers.”