Ex­iles’ trial by fire

Un­beaten Dubai side ready for a mon­ster test against Jebel Ali Dragons

Sport360 - - Regional Rugby - By Matthew Jones @Mat­tJones360 mat­tjones@sport360.com

The big games will come thick and fast this sea­son and the big­gest one to take place on UAE soil so far this cam­paign takes place at The Sev­ens to­mor­row when Dubai Ex­iles welcome Jebel Ali Dragons.

Ex­iles have rock­eted out of the traps fol­low­ing two im­pres­sive wins in which they have racked up 125 points. But fol­low­ing de­struc­tive wins against new boys Dubai Ea­gles and a Hur­ri­canes side in tran­si­tion, the visit of Dragons is set to be a real test.

Henry Paul’s out­fit have only played once as they had a bye two week­ends ago, but on opening night they fought tooth and nail with Abu Dhabi Har­lequins be­fore hav­ing their hearts bro­ken when Luke Steven­son put over a last-minute

+110 Dubai Ex­iles points dif­fer­en­tial

con­ver­sion to earn Quins a 34-33 vic­tory.

But Jebel Ali skip­per Ross Sam­son saw plenty to get ex­cited about by his team in de­feat to Quins.

“It’s a big week­end for us, it was a bit of a killer los­ing to Quins in the last minute so we need to get the show on the road with a big per­for­mance this week­end,” said the Scot­tish scrum-half. “The re­sult was a sore one and no-one likes los­ing but we can take a lot from the game in terms of per­for­mance.

“We were ab­so­lutely deadly at times so I’m ex­cited to see more this week­end. We have some ridicu­lously good tal­ent in the squad and I can’t wait for ev­ery­one to see these boys show how good they are.”

In­jury may rule Ex­iles’ all-ac­tion lock Stephen Fer­gu­son out of the game, but he is rel­ish­ing a stern test for his team-mates, who have looked ir­re­sistible in the early and have al­ready started to erase the mem­o­ries of a painful 2016/17.

“The team is look­ing slick and sharp,” ad­mit­ted the North­ern Ir­ish­man, who missed a few weeks after an op­er­a­tion to re­move an abcess on his arm, which was un­for­tu­nately ag­gra­vated in a sec­ond team fix­ture he par­tic­i­pated in against Quins last week.

“Hope­fully we can build on the mo­men­tum from pre­vi­ous weeks. Un­for­tu­nately I’m un­avail­able, play­ing last week ag­gra­vated my arm and an­other in­fec­tion popped up.

“I was hav­ing my best pre-sea­son in a few years and I’m gut­ted this has hap­pened again be­fore the big­gest game of the sea­son. I’ll sit out this week and get bet­ter for Bahrain and Quins.”

Fer­gu­son will be an avid spec­ta­tor at The Sev­ens as he hopes Ex­iles can make it three in a row.

“This game will be the tough­est so far,” he added.

“They made the fi­nal last year and have re­cruited well. Maybe as well as us. Our pack is big and hav­ing talked to a few of their guys that’s where they are wor­ried.

“But we’ll stick to our plan and all going well it’ll be three in a row.”

Swap­ping shirts: Gio Fourie, now of Ex­iles, play­ing against them for Dragons last sea­son.

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