Jebel Ali Dragons and Dubai Exiles meet at pivotal point of West Asia Premiership season

Matt Jones - Editor 08:32 01/11/2018
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Jebel Ali celebrate their West Asia Premiership triumph last season.

Although it’s early in the West Asia Premiership season it seems it could be make or break for Dubai Exiles and Jebel Ali Dragons who clash in Dubai on Friday.

Champions Dragons have lost two of their three games, while Exiles have three wins from two. Both are off the pace being set at the top by leaders Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Bahrain, a point behind, in second.

It’s a shot at redemption for Exiles, beating 20-14 on opening night by the champions, who have since floundered.

“It’s a big game for both teams, but it’s only the start of round two, so there’s still a long way to go,” said Exiles coach Jacques Benade.

Scrum-half Ed Armitage believes the winner of this tussle will receive a huge boost as they are likely to make ground on whoever loses the top of the table clash between Quins and Bahrain.

“I think both us and Dragons are looking for consistency and a bit of confidence,” said the Yorkshireman.

Ed Armitage has returned to Exiles after missing the 2017/18 campaign.

Ed Armitage has returned to Exiles after missing the 2017/18 campaign.

“The loser of this game could see their season disappear in front of them.

“We have no big names back from injury which is a blow. Matt Mills is back from holiday which boosts our back row. But losing Peter Killian last week was huge, we’re going to need a massive effort from the pack this week.

“We made too many simple handling errors last week which gave Quins so much possession. We played some good rugby but for too little periods. If we can extend those periods we’ll put teams under pressure.”

In the other game of the weekend, Dubai Eagles will hope to get a maiden win of 2018/19 when they travel to The Sevens to take on Dubai Hurricanes.

A host of players were unavailable for last week’s 31-14 loss to Dragons, but Isaac Porter returns and is eyeing a maiden win of the season following five straight defeats.

“It’s a massive game this weekend. We have a very positive mindset going into it,” said the Irishman, who will hope for a better result after an opening day 20-13 defeat to Canes.

“I felt we let the game slip away the first time we played them. I was missing myself last week so I’m looking forward to playing this weekend. We see this as a must win game.”

Canes beat Eagles 20-13 on opening night. (Pic by Sam Wainwright)

Canes beat Eagles 20-13 on opening night. (Pic by Sam Wainwright)

After Canes lost skipper Dave Knight on the eve of the season, stand-in captain Mark Weissenborn has now also been lost for the entire campaign after tearing his hamstring in Bahrain.

“We had an extremely disappointing run-out in Bahrain last weekend where we got blown away in the first half,” said the South African, whose side lost 45-15.

“In the second half we were much better but our set-piece was very poor. So that’s what we’ve worked on this week and the boys are excited to fix it against the Eagles.

“After beating Dragons in the third week we started really well against Quins away but let that game slip coupled with the Bahrain loss, we really need to get back to winning ways.

“Unfortunately I’ve had a potential season ending injury in Bahrain, so Andrew Powell takes over the captaincy from me for the rest of the season.”

West Asia Premiership fixtures:

Friday

19:00 Bahrain v Abu Dhabi Harlequins

19:00 Jebel Ali Dragons v Dubai Exiles

19:00 Dubai Hurricanes v Dubai Eagles

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