Ross Samson insists the pain and controversy of losing the Dubai Sevens final to Dubai Exiles has been firmly shunted to the back of the minds of Jebel Ali Dragons’ players as the two behemoths prepare to clash in yet another barnstorming West Asia Premiership fixture on Friday.
The reverse fixture in October was the game of the WAP season so far, and their meeting in the Gulf Men’s League final in December was also one for the ages as Exiles upset the odds to win a first Dubai Sevens title in 11 years.
They also upset Dragons in other ways, with Jebel Ali lodging a complaint with tournament organisers after discovering Exiles allegedly rolled on two extra substitutes.
And, just when it seemed the Premiership was set to settle down after a monumental three weeks of fixtures between title-chasing trio Dragons, Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Bahrain, up pops this fixture.
Two back-to-back defeats for Bahrain has seen Exiles vault back into the reckoning for silverware, and with the added needle between the two teams, this could be another fiery clash.
Despite the two recent spectacles and the furore over the Sevens, Dragons skipper Samson insists his side are over their disappointment.
“We have put the Sevens out of our mind now, they were the deserved winner as they scored more points than us,” said the Scottish scrum-half.
“We have a very clear set of goals now that we are working towards.
“I think both teams have played a lot of rugby since the last game and have improved, so it should be an interesting game.
“They are a quality side who are very physical and will pose a different threat from our last game against Quins.”
Exiles stormed into the 2017/18 season with big wins against Dubai Eagles and Dubai Hurricanes, but Jacques Benade’s men came unstuck against the top trio – losing to all three by a combined total of just 11 points as they slipped out of title contention.
But three straight wins have seen Exiles surge back into the picture, coupled with two Bahrain defeats. Following their win against Canes last week they cut the gap to Dragons in second place to a point, while they trail leaders Quins by just two.
And Northern Irish lock Stephen Ferguson said their recent form and the Sevens triumph has re-installed belief in the 2015/16 Asia champions.
“It’s a massive, massive game,” said Ferguson.
“Dragons away is always a big game. And this year especially, they owe us one after we beat them at the Dubai Sevens. And the last game at home we scored a late try that was disallowed, so that’ll be fresh in our minds.
“For us, those three defeats combined (to the top three) were by a total of 10 points, so it’s all to play for.
“It’s a season of two halves. This half, we are ready. We already have three wins this year and we will be looking to make it four. Not only are we going to challenge, after that Sevens win, we have the confidence to try and win everything.”
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