Abu Dhabi Harlequins crush Kandy as pre-season fears are wiped away

Matt Jones 8/09/2018
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Abu Dhabi Harlequins put Kandy to the sword at Zayed Sports City on Friday. Picture: Rafeef Kadhum

Mike McFarlane tempered expectations for the upcoming UAE rugby season after Abu Dhabi Harlequins crushed visiting Kandy 57-7 on Friday.

Ahead of their Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League encounter with the exciting Sri Lankans, McFarlane had urged his players to rise to the challenges ahead in 2018/19 as Quins look to counter the rise of Jebel Ali Dragons, Dubai Exiles and Bahrain.

Two seasons ago, Quins were the undisputed kings of UAE and indeed Gulf rugby as a whole – winning the five major trophies on offer in 2016/17.

They claimed back to back Champions League titles last summer before adding the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup, but were dethroned in the major tournaments.

Dragons won the West Asia Premiership – the region’s main club honour – while Exiles won the Dubai Sevens and beat them in the season-ending UAE Premiership final. Bahrain took the West Asia Cup off them.

And ahead of the new campaign, Quins have been shorn of a host of star names, leaving many to wonder just what lies in store for them in 2018/19.

McFarlane asked his side to step up to the challenge and he was delighted by his team’s response as Quins set up a showdown with Bahrain next week for the Champions League title.

“It’s a great way to kick off the season in what was our first contact run out,” said McFarlane of the Kandy triumph.

“The players showed excellent core skills in testing conditions and executed the game plan carefully. The attitude and application was brilliant and that’s all I’ll ever ask of the boys.”

Mike McFarlane (r) celebrates with brothers Sam and Ben Bolger (l) after winning the UAE Premiership, their fifth and final trophy of 2016/17.

Mike McFarlane (r) celebrates with brothers Sam and Ben Bolger (l) after winning the UAE Premiership, their fifth and final trophy of 2016/17.

But he will certainly not be getting carried away by the margin of victory or performance. Quins will be looking to make it three straight Champions League titles – but will have to do so in Bahrain, who have been formidable, especially at home, under coach Louie Tonkin.

“We know we have a challenging year ahead and certainly won’t get ahead of ourselves with this result as we know we have a lot of work and building to do,” added McFarlane.

“It’s an exciting start but next week will be a huge step up against a very good and well coached Bahrain side. I’m looking forward to Monday now and seeing the players compete for a place on the plane.”

Key figures Patrick Jenkinson, Willie Umu and Brian Geraghty left the UAE last summer while Quins lost Ben Bolger to enforced retirement due to repeated concussions.

This summer has seen long-time club captain Phil Abraham hang up his boots as well as UAE stalwart Phil Brady.

Pieter Kilian, Alfred Ries, Tom Brown, Gerrit Visser, Jona Marshall and Joe Teasdale are also among the departures – leaving Quins fighting an uphill battle. But for now they can be content with a spirited start to the new campaign.

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Matt Toomua the difference and other key stats from Australia's win over South Africa

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Toomua goes over for the easiest of tries

Australia ended a run of four consecutive test match losses to edge South Africa 23-18 in their Rugby Championship clash in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Wallabies capitalised on a poor second half by the Springboks, who led 18-17 at half-time but failed to score a point after the break.

Both teams scored two tries apiece, but Matt Toomua’s two second-half penalties proved the difference.

Here, we take a look at the key stats from the match.

36: Metres made by Will Genia. The Melbourne Rebels star used his pace and nimble footwork to break down the granite-like Springboks defence, looking to put his team-mates in more formidable attacking positions at every opportunity.

7: Defenders beaten for Springboks captain Siya Kolisi. The flanker beat more defenders than any other player, with Kurtley Beale and Genia (four each) following behind.

15: Points scored by Toomua in an overall consistent display. The Leicester Tigers centre scored a try and kicked two conversions and two penalties for the winners. His try in particular was a gem, using his superb vision to slide on to a loose ball. Literally a gift from the Boks.

16: Tackles made by Franco Mostert. The industrious lock may have missed two tackles, but he put his body on the line at every chance to disrupt the Wallabies momentum. Pieter-Steph du Toit (14) and Damian de Allende (11) were next on the list in the tackle charts.

5: It was a day to forget for the normally reliable Springboks flanker du Toit who missed a game-high five tackles. After the Stormers man, there were seven players who missed two tackles each.

4: Turnovers conceded by Willie le Roux and Faf du Klerk. Although it might seem a high error count for the Springboks duo, both players made a telling impact in attack.

84: Percentage success rate in the tackle for both the Wallabies (87/103) and the Springboks (91/108).

10: Turnovers conceded by the Wallabies in contrast to 9 from the Springboks.

18: Penalties conceded by the Springboks in comparison to 14 by the Wallabies.

728: Days since Wallabies last beat the Springboks. Since their win in September 2016, both sides had played each other three times, with South Africa winning once and the other two games finishing in a draw.

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Shannon Frizell's defensive prowess and other key stats from All Blacks win over the Pumas

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New Zealand were made to work to quell a spirited Argentina 46-24 in Nelson Saturday to remain unbeaten after the third round of the Rugby Championship.

A brief spurt before half-time and again in the closing minutes made the difference for the All Blacks against an unpredictable Argentinian attack.

Here, we take a look at the key stats from the match.

112: metres made by Pumas winger Ramiro Moyano. The Jaguares star used his speed and nimble footwork to dissect the opposition defence with ease, scoring a first half try.

7: defenders beaten for Jack Goodue and Moyano. The pair beat more defenders than Emiliano Boffelli (6) and Ben Smith (5).

2: Tries scored by TJ Perenara in a virtuous display. His first try in particular was a gem, using his superb vision to exploited a gap on the side of the ruck to touch down.

100: percentage tackle success rate for Shannon Frizell. The All-Blacks back-rower completed 16 out of 16 tackles and put his body on the line at every opportunity to disrupt the Pumas momentum.

6: missed tackles by Jeronimo de la Fuente, who for a centre was highly inconsistent in defence.

4: turnovers conceded by out-half Richie Mo’unga in the first half. Although it might seem a high error count, the 24-year-old didn’t put a foot wrong in the second period.

82: percentage success rate in the tackle for the All Blacks in contrast to 68 percent success rate for the Pumas.

17: turnovers conceded by the All Blacks in contrast to 11 from the Pumas.

14: penalties conceded by the Pumas in comparison to just seven by the All Blacks.

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