Gulf Top Six preview: Dubai Hurricanes still upbeat, Jebel Ali Dragons fired up

Matt Jones - Editor 07:57 05/02/2015
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Reversal of fortunes: Dubai Hurricanes (yellow) won their Gulf Top Six opener but have lost the subsequent three fixtures to sit second from bottom on the table

Abu Dhabi Harlequins will be look­ing to heap further misery on Dubai Hurricanes when the two UAE Pre­miership finalists meet at 7he Sev­ens on Friday evening.

After a morale boosting opening Gulf Top Six win against Bahrain, when they scored 29 unanswered points to eradicate an early 16-0 deficit, Ross Mills’ men have lost three straight games.

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Those have included a 41-5 thrashing at home at the hands of Doha, a 43-24 defeat to Abu Dhabi Saracens and last week’s agonising defeat to Mills’ former side Jebel Ali Dragons, who won 31-29.

After a wobbly start to their GT6 campaign, suffering a heavy 50-10 mauling at the hands of Doha and a first ever defeat to city rivals Sara­cens, Quins have steadied the ship with two wins against Dragons and Bahrain.

Quins do still have injury con­cerns, with reserve scrum-half Ed Lewsey out with a pulled calf, but the team will also welcome back several key players too.

Ben Bolger, their starting open side flanker, will be returning after missing last week’s game with a concussion. Loose-head prop Gra­ham Murphy will also be returning.

Their latest loss against Dragons was heart-breaking, but he insists the team are buoyant.

Canes do have several absentees, including Andy Longley and Jamie Williams.

David Knight and Mike Lancas­ter are on holiday while Nick Beau­mont has a damaged shoulder.

Building on success: Jebel Ali Dragons.

Jebel Ali Dragons head to Doha this weekend with renewed vigour after back-to-back wins, while free-scoring Doha are nursing a heavy defeat.

Dragons began the season with a double dose of capital punishment, defeated at both Abu Dhabi Saracens and Harlequins.

They then scraped a victory against winless Bahrain and followed that up with a thrilling, narrow win at Dubai Hurricanes last week, with player-coach Murray Strang’s late penalty sealing a 31-29 triumph.

“We are hoping to build on last week’s victory and this is a potential chance to force our way back into the top two again,” said Strang.

“It’s also our last away game ahead of five home games on the trot, so a win would set us up really nicely for the run-in.”

Dragons welcome back No8 Nick Taylor as well as Mikey Botha at centre, who returns from holiday.

Doha coach Aaron Palmer missed the defeat at Sarries with work commitments last week, and was disappointed the squad didn’t carry out his instructions from training.

“I wasn’t at the Saracens game but I was told the players didn’t stick to the plan they were given and got a little outmuscled,” said the New Zealander. “Obviously we will be looking to fix that this week against Dragons at home and make up some lost points.”

Keeping it clean on the road: Abu Dhabi Sarries.

Ali Thompson has urged his Abu Dhabi Saracens to continue their unbeaten start to the Gulf Top Six campaign by taking their 100 per cent record on the road.

Sarries destroyed Doha, their fellow early GT6 pacesetters, 39-15 at Al Ghazal last week, but Thompson is wary that while their home ground is becoming a fortress, their form away from home is yet to be tested.

Three of Sarries’ four games so far in the final competition of the season have been at Al Ghazal and they did not have to travel outside the capital for their solitary away game, a trip across Abu Dhabi to Harlequins.

That yielded an historic first ever win over their cross-city foes, but Thompson says he and his men are still searching for perfection.

“We’re continuing to improve but we’ve not had the perfect performance yet so we’re still searching for that, but it’s not far away,” said the Scotsman.

There are several concerns for Sarries and Thompson ahead of their trip west. Cormac Meyler is out for four weeks after dislocating a elbow in the  win against Doha.

Elsewhere, South African scrum-half Rhuwan Pienaar has visa issues and unable to travel.Despite no wins from their opening four games, Bahrain have put in some spirited displays.

They led Dubai Hurricanes 16-0 before eventually being pegged back and losing 29-16 on the opening day.

Bahrain scored 24 points against Doha in their second game, but shipped 45, earning a bonus point.

And they led Jebel Ali Dragons for 72 minutes before eventually losing 23-18 and also gave Quins a real game last weekend before losing 32-17.

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