Abu Dhabi Harlequins clinch fifth trophy of the season

Matt Jones - Editor 20:14 07/04/2017
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Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Quins’ relentless pursuit of silverware culminated in a thrilling finale at the inaugural UAE Rugby Finals Day at Dubai Sports City, with Mike McFarlane’s men winning the fifth and final accolade on offer to draw the domestic season to a close in fitting style.

It was a familiar outcome between the two fierce rivals, with victory a fourth from four for Quins over their beleaguered opponents, although Dragons pushed the champions to the wire in a thrilling spectacle – one that required Emosi Ratuvanacua’s 80th minute try to finally extinguish their dreams of thwarting a Quins monopoly.

Luke Stevenson, who put in a familiar man of the match display, was just relieved to get over the line after a bruising encounter.

“We had to work hard. That’s one of the most physical games I’ve felt in a while,” said the fly-half.

“Every game has been tough, Dragons have given us four good games, they’ve all been close bar one, so we’re just happy to get over the line.

“It’s been a long season and the last few weeks have been pretty tough on the body and mind. It’s a good feeling, the boys have earned it, we’ve worked hard all year.

Having won the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League, Dubai Sevens, West Asia Premiership and West Asia Cup previously, it’s been hard to avoid talk of the Quintuple.

It is something Stevenson claims he and his team-mates have been able to put to one side, although he acknowledges the significance of claiming five trophies in one campaign.

“Obviously it (quintuple) gets mentioned, it’s been raised but we just try and put it to the back of our minds and concentrate on winning games,” he added.

“The standard of the league is really good this year so you can’t take any game for granted. We’re aware. We missed out closely last year and this year we’ve managed to win those tight games we lost last year and get over the line.

“I think it’s exaggerated a bit because a few of the trophies have come out of nowhere but the three main ones are the West Asia Premiership, UAE Premiership and Dubai Sevens, so anything on top of that is a bonus.”

Dragons full-back Imad Reyal was left exhausted by yet another defeat to Quins, but was satisfied with the performance of his team.

“We’ve been beaten by Quins every other game this season so we wanted this win really bad. We gave it everything but were just unlucky in the end,” said the UAE international.

“We wanted to leave it all out on the field as it was the last game of the season, play as hard as possible and we did that.”

Stevenson was off target with an early long range penalty, but potted his next two to open up a 6-0 lead for Quins.

Dragons had been penned almost exclusively inside their own half up until then, but signaled their intent when they took the lead with the opening try.

Explosive former Al Ain Amblers centre Sakiusa Naisau burst through the Quins defence to go in under the posts, with Dan Bell’s conversion giving Dragons a 7-6 lead to ignite the game into life.

Quins’ own livewire centre Brian Geraghty was key to their opening try. The Irishman rampaged down the left wing before offloading to the supporting Ratuvanacua who strode over. Stevenson converted to send Quins in 13-7 ahead at the interval.

Stevenson was off target from the tee early in the second period, with Quins’ advantage cut to three when Bell bisected the uprights from 40 metres.

They reclaimed the ball from kick-off though and just a few phases later Stevenson cut through to score Quins’ second try – his conversion and a following penalty meant he had scored all but five of his side’s opening 23 points.

That could have been the moment that took the game away from Dragons but Bell again ate into the advantage with a penalty before they got the score back to 23-20 with a superb second try.

Flanker Matt Henry gained ground and fed Nasau, he surged ahead and offloaded to Reyal who made a bee-line for the posts to make things very interesting.

Bell had the chance to level the scores with minutes left, but he sent a penalty agonizingly wide, much to the relief of Quins.

And they then made the game safe through Ratuvanacua’s second try, the Fijian rumbling to the line and crashing over, with Tom Brown drop-kicking the conversion to send Quins and their supporters delirious.

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