Harlequins have been urged to use the pain of not making the UAE Premiership final for motivation, after they beat city rivals Saracens to secure first place in the Gulf Top Six standings.
Quins made it eight wins from eight to hold off the threat of their improving opponents, thanks to tries from the outstanding Luke Stevenson, Chris Marshall, Chris Jones-Griffiths and Ed Lewsey.
Their reward for Friday’s 40-18 triumph is the guarantee of home advantage at Zayed Sports City in the grand final on April 4.
That match provides them with the chance to claim silverware after they failed to make November’s Premiership showpiece, which saw Jebel Ali Dragons thrash Dubai Hurricanes.
“The boys are hurting that they did not make the Premiership final,” player-coach Jeremy Manning told Sport360°. “It is now up to us to put our best foot forward in the remaining weeks and finish off the season well.”
The weekend meeting saw top play bottom at Al Ghazal, but there was little sign in the disparity between them in the early stages as flanker Ian Hughes powered through to give Saracens a deserved lead.
Quins held their nerve after a shaky start to let the class in a backline missing full-back Matt Hutchings prove the difference.
At the heart of it all was Stevenson, who claimed 25 points in an ubiquitous performance which saw him pop up on the wing to score his side’s opening try.
Manning revealed it is the fly-half’s dedication that is proving so vital in a campaign in which he has already gone past the 100-point mark.
“He is a match-winner, who dictates everything for us,” he said. “He is the first one at training every week. He pesters me all week for balls, and having him there gives me a nice bit of breathing space.”
Saracens’ interim player-coach James Tirrell praised the attitude of his players despite not being able to build on last week’s first-ever Gulf Top Six win.
Tirrell said: “We had a strategy to believe in ourselves, be physical everywhere and kick-chase to try and suffocate Quins. “We targeted the scrum, and we did alright there.
“It is a credit to the guys to win last weekend and then give the top guys a good game.”
Quins now host the Hurricanes next Friday, while Saracens are at home again when they face the Dragons.
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