It was agony for Wanderers – champions of the Conference two seasons ago – who had missed a penalty just a few minutes earlier that would have seen them win a second title in three years.
As it was, Shane Thornton’s Tigers went up the other end of the pitch, with a deep kick from defence deceiving Sharjah’s full-back and gifting Tigers an attacking platform. They took full advantage to storm over the whitewash soon after to send the team and fans into rapture.
“It was brutal,” said Sharjah chairman Shane Breen.
“Missing a kick to win it and then losing is tough but fair play to Tigers, they were great.”
It was a fitting finale for one of the UAE’s youngest clubs, who were only established in 2014, while playing against one of the country’s oldest teams in Sharjah – set up in 1977.
It had been a pulsating final against two teams who could not be separated all season. Both teams had finished the campaign on 41 points, and the final proved to be a mirror image.
Tigers led 20-13 late on but a try in the final minutes from Sharjah brought them back within two points, with the conversion coolly slotted to send the game to extra time.
From there it was not to be though for Wanderers – who won their title against Jebel Ali Dragons in similarly nervy fashion in 2015/16 – scoring a last gasp try to win 27-26.
Last year’s final was also a nail-biter as Abu Dhabi Harlequins 2nds beat Al Ain Amblers with a golden score in extra time.
In the Conference Bottom 4 final, meanwhile, between last season’s Top 6 finalists, Amblers gained a little slice of revenge as they beat Quins 24-16.
Elsewhere on Friday, Mike Ballard praised his battling Abu Dhabi Harlequins 3rds side as they exorcised the demons of a year ago to beat Jebel Ali Dragons 3rds and lift the UAE Community League title.
Victory was down to the flair of a pair of Quins’ Frenchmen as Gwennael Pettilat bagged a late winning try, while Alexandre De Sambucy also crossed the whitewash.
De Sambucy touched down in the first half, with Joao Guerrierio converting. He then added a penalty before Pettilat scored in the 70th minute, either side of Charles Abban and Ian Overton scoring to level the game for Dragons.
Ballard said: “The boys battled. It really epitomised club rugby, having teenagers playing alongside vets and everyone in between.
“I don’t think a training session went by without somebody mentioning the Dragons. They are a strong club, and we knew that the title was going to go through Jebel Ali.
“The boys are going to be talking about this one for a long time. The Dragons put out a strong side and it was a very physical game, but our boys didn’t give an inch.
“Above all, it was a great day for the club. A lot of our guys coach in the junior section, so they were here at 08:00 winning championships with the Under-9s and Under-11s, and then they came out and got one for themselves.”
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