Dubai Exiles usurp Abu Dhabi Harlequins as UAE Premiership champions

Matt Jones - Editor 10:59 14/04/2018
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Dubai Exiles beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins to win the UAE Premiership final last term; they also won the Dubai Sevens.

Dubai Exiles capped a fine comeback season with a convincing 38-12 triumph over reigning champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins to lift the UAE Premiership title.

Jacques Benade led Exiles to the Premiership, as well as the West Asia Championship in his debut campaign in 2015/16. But the shine was taken off that in a below par second year as they meekly surrendered both titles, with Quins romping to a brilliant quintuple.

But this significant triumph at Dubai Sports City proved Exiles are back.

Quins had claimed the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup last month with a tense 28-25 triumph over Exiles, but Benade’s men stormed to a win in Friday’s final with a controlled performance – adding the trophy to their Dubai Sevens title to win a second double in three seasons.

They were in the ascendancy from the start, Namibian scrum-half Carel Thomas sniping over after taking a quick tap penalty.

Durandt Gerber converted and made it 10-0 with a penalty before Quins reduced the deficit with a try converted by Luke Stevenson.

Exiles kept their foot on Quins’ throat and their powerful pack forced Mike McFarlane’s men to concede a penalty try minutes later.

Jaen Botes was sent to the sin bin shortly after but Gerber extended the lead to 20-7. A big moment arrived just before the interval when McFarlane’s men were held up over the Exiles line, but when they were given a penalty for a high tackle, they were penalised for holding on after kicking for the corner and Exiles cleared their lines.

Botes returned but was replaced in the bin by Thomas early in the second period for a high tackle and Quins took full advantage as Barry Dwyer went over out wide – Stevenson missed a difficult conversion and the gap was now just eight.

But Quins were then reduced to 14 themselves and from there on out the men in black kept Quins at bay, thanks to an assured kicking performance from Gerber.

Gloss was added late on as first Kristian Stinson went over for a game-clinching score in his final Exiles appearance, before the brilliant Thomas chased Botes’ kick and forced a mistake from the full-back to dive over at the death to hand the title to Exiles on a silver platter.

It was a battling performance from Exiles, who had been beaten 47-25 in the West Asia Cup final by Bahrain a few weeks ago, but Stinson said their display in the final game of the season was a performance that had been coming.

“Today was the performance we were threatening all season so we’re delighted we could do it on the big stage,” said the Northern Irishman.

“From the double two years ago to the double this year, picking up the two biggest trophies in UAE rugby, the Sevens and the Premiership, we’re delighted.

“We’re still gutted about the West Asia Premiership and Cup but fair play to Dragons and Bahrain, they deserved that and you can’t take that away from them.

“But to finish top of the log in the UAE and pick up the final is testament to the boys and their doggedness all season. I am so pleased for the boys, the coaches and especially Durandt for steering the ship all season.

“There were some boys injured today such as Danny Waddy and Kookies (Lehan Koekemoer) and they have to be congratulated too as they were huge this season and a huge part of what we achieved, so it was great we could win it for them. A real team effort.

“And a nice way for me, Liam (Andrews) and Kris Hughes to sign off from Exiles rugby.

“Four finals, two trophies, not a bad season for a team that were last year called “also rans”. You have to applaud the squad, the management and the back room staff including our awesome physio Chris Page for that.”

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