Jebel Ali Dragons - UAE Premiership Champions of 2023-2024 season

Jebel Ali Dragons – UAE Premiership Rugby Champions 2023/24

Published On: 28 Apr 24By 5.4 min read
Visit YallaRugby.com for up to date scores and league table standings
Visit YallaRugby.com for up to date scores and league table standings

Photo credits: Ruel Pableo

In a thrilling conclusion to the 2023/24 UAE rugby season, the Jebel Ali Dragons have been crowned UAE Premiership Champions for the first time in a decade, clinching the championship title after a decisive 25-11 victory over the Dubai Hurricanes.

Riding through turbulent times filled with almost-wins hasn’t slowed down the UAE’s favourite underdogs. Now sitting pretty as Premiership Champions for the first time in 10 years, shows everyone—fans or foes—that when you’re talking about sheer grit mixed with talent, that’s where you’ll find winners!

The Dragons’ journey to the Premiership final has been characterised by their impressive win against favourites and newly crowned West Asia Champions – the Dubai Tigers in the semi final, which truly highlighted what makes them an exceptional side.

It showed off not only how deep but also how skilled this team can be on their day. From the beginning of the season, the Dragons have struggled to convert a few closely lost games. Narrowly missing out on beating the Dubai Exiles both home and away, showed that they had the fight in them. But something was brewing inside the belly of the Dragon. We saw a shift in momentum at the start of the year in their victory over Bahrain in the wider region’s West Asia Premiership league, which seemed to have given the Dragons the confidence to front up against the top sides in the domestic top flight league.

Bradley Janes - Jebel Ali Dragons

Bradley Janes with ball in hand for the Jebel Ali Dragons

The UAE Premiership Final, held yesterday at the Al Ain Amblers rugby club, was attended by a bus load of passionate Dragons supporters, who were treated to an electrifying display of skill and sportsmanship. Right from the start, the Dragons jumped ahead, setting a pace for the game that stuck. Holding onto the ball and dictating how fast or slow things went was key to their win. Key players, including team captain Bradley Janes, delivered standout performances that contributed to the scoreline.

Dragons Player-Coach, Matty Richards said;

“We have been building this squad for about three years. We had a strong team who always used to compete, then we had an outflux of players as people left, as seems to happen on the rugby scene.”

“Then we had more players coming in, and managed to retain the right type of person. It took a little longer than some clubs have managed to do, but you can see what it means to everyone.”

Club Chairman Andy Lyons added;

“This title is the product of a lot of hard work at every level throughout the Club and especially the players and the coaching staff – I’m incredibly proud of their achievement and grateful to everyone for the effort that has gone in to getting the job done. We’re a very tight family that goes back over 30 years and it’s amazing to see the depth of that support grow stronger year on year.”

The Hurricanes put up a strong performance in their first season back in the Premiership, following a drop to Division 1 last season. However, it was the Dragons openside flanker, Janes who scored the third try at the start of the second half to give his side enough of an advantage from which the Hurricanes were unable to recover from.

Hurricanes Head Coach – Henry Paul said;

“What a first year with the Canes, we achieved a lot as a squad, I’m looking forward to next season!

Paul went on to praise his side, saying;

“Dragons played really well, their defence was organised and they won the battle at the breakdown between the 2 teams. In attack they took their chances when offered. Credit to our guys, we competed for the full 80 but if we made a slight error, Dragons were good enough to score points and keep their score board ticking over. It was close at halftime but I think the key to their win was keeping us from scoring early in the 2nd half with the opportunities we had.”

With the Hurricanes return to Premiership rugby action this season, new club Chairman – Jim Dickinson, who took over from Peter Clapp at the beginning of the year, said;

“We’re are in great shape, across the whole club. Henry Paul has really made a difference to the mens side that has filtered down to our Colts and Junior Colts. Our Ladies and senior Women continue to grow and we have huge numbers, and have a pathway programme in place”.

He went on to say;

“There’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes and if we can continue to attract good players who want to play at a high level and enjoy the social side, then we’re in good shape for next season.”

Looking ahead, the Dragons’ success sets a high standard for next season. It raises the bar for what is expected of them and adds to the pressure to maintain after their recent run.

UAE Rugby Referees for the Premiership final 2023-24

Matt Riley, Graig Williams, James Fairbourn and Juan Pierre Clements

It was a day to be celebrated for UAE rugby as a whole, not just the Dragons. Most notably, Al Ain Amblers proved the perfect hosts once again as the ground staged 27 cup finals at various levels and age-groups and with monumental commitment from over 40 match officials throughout a busy day in the picturesque Garden City is a reminder of the vibrant and competitive spirit of rugby here in the UAE. It underscores the growth of the sport in the region and the potential for further development. As the UAE Premiership continues to attract talent and attention, it stands as a beacon for rugby’s thriving community in the Middle East.

Officials

  • Referee: James Fairbourn
  • Assistant Refs: Juan Pierre Clements, Matt Riley

Dubai Hurricanes Team

  1. Bradley Engelbrecht
  2. Llewellyn Wessels
  3. Riaan Barnard
  4. Sefa Waqa
  5. Sidhant Mehra
  6. Lucien Jansen
  7. Martin Mangwiro
  8. Ruan Steenkamp (C)
  9. Andre Gerber
  10. Alex Glashan
  11. Toby Oakeley
  12. Brad Owako
  13. Paul Jarvis
  14. Dom Williams
  15. Aaron Dubois
  16. Francois Bruwer
  17. Benji John
  18. Pio Tanimakatu
  19. Aidan Gleeson
  20. Boris Finck
  21. Eremia Tapsell
  22. Kahu Emberson

Jebel Ali Dragons Team

  1. AP MC William
  2. Lewis Anderson
  3. Colin Jackson
  4. Nial Sweify
  5. Jonny Harris
  6. Ian Surteesy
  7. Bradley Janes (C)
  8. Phil Leader
  9. Gareth Newman
  10. Jamie Gavin
  11. Sam Yawayawa
  12. Tom Pascoe
  13. Angus Guthrie
  14. Duirmuid Carr
  15. Matt Richards
  16. Liam Cronin
  17. Ben Harvey
  18. Hadyn Annakie
  19. Nacho Baru
  20. Paul Power
  21. Kyle Brown
  22. James McFarlane

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