Abu Dhabi Harlequins coach Mike McFarlane pleased for physical contest with Jebel Ali Dragons

Mike McFarlane says his Abu Dhabi Harlequins side will be better off for being pushed to the limit by Jebel Ali Dragons, as they move into an imposing title run-in in the West Asia Championship.
Jebel Ali Dragons vs Abu Dhabi Harlequins at the Rugby Zone in Sports City. Antonie Robertson / The National
Jebel Ali Dragons vs Abu Dhabi Harlequins at the Rugby Zone in Sports City. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Mike McFarlane says his Abu Dhabi Harlequins side will be better off for being pushed to the limit by Jebel Ali Dragons, as they move into an imposing title run-in in the West Asia Championship.

The capital outfit are one of two undefeated sides in the cross-border competition. They share an identical record to Dubai Exiles, who have also won three out of three. However, one of those wins came by way of a walkover, after Al Ain Amblers forfeited the fixture last weekend.

That meant Friday’s’s meeting at Dubai Sports City was just the second time Quins have played 15-a-side rugby since November.

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They were only able to close out the 36-22 win thanks to a second-half flurry of tries, but McFarlane said that was down to the excellence of the Dragons’ forwards rather than their own rustiness.

“It was exactly what we needed,” the Harlequins coach said. “You can do all the running you want, but in the terms of physicality, it is the collisions that the boys need to be conditioned to again.

“The Dragons pack did a great job, but it was good for us to get those minutes under our belt.

“We couldn’t generate any quick ball at the breakdown, but we put a plan in place at half-time to play to the way the game was being officiated.

“That seemed to work for us. We generated better ball from that and we were able to play our running rugby. We were structured throughout which was fantastic.”

Dragons held a half-time lead thanks to tries from two of their UAE sevens representatives, Ian Overton and Niall Statham, plus Paul Hart, the national team second-row forward.

Sam Bolger scored twice for Harlequins, while Matt Smith and Renier Els, who was running the Dubai Marathon the last time he was involved in sport in this city, also went over.

Harlequins, who are targeting a treble of major trophies, have been used to vying with Dragons for top honours in recent seasons. They have five matches left in the West Asia Championship, against opponents — particularly Dubai Hurricanes, Doha and Exiles — who might realistically believe they can beat them to the title.

McFarlane says that shows the strength of Middle East rugby at present.

B“Other clubs have really stepped up, there is some really good quality and some high quality coaching as well,” he said.

pradley@thenational.ae

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Published: February 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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