Abu Dhabi Harlequins head coach Mike McFarlane has paid tribute to his players’ “incredible attitude” after they were handed the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League title.
The men from Zayed Sports City were crowned champions last night after Dubai Exiles failed to beat Sri Lankans Kandy by the required 40-point margin.
Exiles won 29-9 at The Sevens but were left empty-handed following Quins’ emphatic 56-17 triumph over Kandy in the capital on Tuesday night.
And McFarlane was full of praise for his side, who played four days after their 23-23 draw with Exiles, who enjoyed a week-long rest.
“To come away from the competition with a trophy and all the lads with minutes under the belt is fantastic,” said McFarlane.
“With a four-day turnaround, with the harsh weather conditions we played some fantastic rugby rotating players. The boys are working so hard in every session and have an incredible attitude which fuels the fantastic culture in the club.”
McFarlane, a former Quins player, had spoken previously of his feeling both Quins and Exiles would underestimate Kandy at their peril.
The Sri Lankan champions wilted badly in the sticky Abu Dhabi heat on Tuesday as the game wore on, having taken the lead in the match. Their stamina was much improved in Dubai in slightly cooler conditions, and McFarlane was happy they were able to do his side a massive favour by thwarting the West Asia Championship and UAE Premiership champions.
“I said all along Kandy are a good team and have threats all over the park,” he said. “They are a great bunch of lads as well which we know from touring there, and we are happy they did us a favour today.”
The Henry Paul era at Jebel Ali Dragons is officially underway with a nine tries to two romp over UAE Conference champions Sharjah Wanderers.
Dragons warmed up for the new season with the former dual code star at the helm with a comprehensive 72-12 victory against Nic Walters’ men at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence last night.
There were a brace of tries apiece for UAE internationals Imad Reyal and Ryno Fourie, with Jeremy Copland, James Semple, Saki Thackamrickambule, Shaun McCarthy and Matt Henry also crossing the whitewash in triumph.
Welsh winger Ian Overton, another of Dragons’ UAE internationals, admitted there was still an abundance of areas to work on ahead of the West Asia Premiership and UAE Premiership kick-off later this month, but said there are encouraging signs ahead for the Dubai-based side.
“The ball was slippery and structure needs a lot of work,” said Overton. “There were lots of scores from open play but we need to drill the structure and get that second nature.
“But for a first hit out in awful conditions I think Henry was happy enough. He’s got high standards so he wants us all singing from the same hymn sheet.”
Dragons finished seventh from nine teams in the WAC and came fifth out of six teams in the UAE Premiership last season.
They open up their 2016/17 campaign with a trip to Bahrain on September 23.
Budding rugby talents in the UAE can now learn from a true star of the game with former New Zealand and England dual code international Henry Paul establishing his own coaching academy.
Henry Paul’s Rugby Academy will run under East Sports Management’s banner.
As well as arriving in the Emirates to take up the head coaching job at Jebel Ali Dragons, the ex-Wigan Warriors and Gloucester icon says setting up his own academy had always been part of the plan.
“I’m really excited. I was looking to get something like this off the ground,” said Paul, ESM’s director of rugby.
“Rugby is a growing sport here, especially sevens with Rio and the Dubai Sevens and the big expat community, there’s always that desire here.”
The academy will run at five locations throughout Dubai from Sunday to Thursday, with short sessions held for an hour. Training is open to both boys and girls, with specialist and experienced coaches joining Paul in offering training to four different age groups; five-eight, nine-11, 12-14 and 15-17-years-old.
“We try and offer it to everyone, all different abilities, we’re covering all bases,” he said.
“The theme is to have fun. I really want to try and compliment what the club coaches are doing. Each session will be a lot of fun, about skills development and the core fundamentals, which are the basis of the game.”
Despite Paul taking the reins at Jebel Ali, Dragons director of rugby Paul Hart stressed kids affiliated to any club or school should sign up for the academy.
He said: “It’s for any kid playing at any club that wants extra, elite training. Henry will also be involved with Dragons mini and youth, but it’s not exclusive to Dragons kids.
“Apollo Perelini already has his academy out here and, if I was a kid, I’d want either him or Henry coaching me, so it’s great for the future of the game in the Emirates.”