Youngsters at Abu Dhabi Harlequins have contributed to a very successful season overall for the Zayed Sports City club.
Quins’ Under-16s teams were dominant during the campaign as they won the UAE Rugby Federation’s U16 A and B Leagues.
The young players emulated their senior counterparts, with Quins’ senior team winning the UAE Premiership and the Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai Sevens.
First team player/coach Jeremy Manning was on hand to present the winning teams with their trophies at ZSC last month.
Rugby in the U16 division for Quins this season was very much a combined U15/U16 effort, with several younger players stepping up to the plate throughout the campaign and several more from last season’s U15s team making their mark in the U16s team.
A total pool of 40 players started the season but by the time the end of the season finished, a total of 60 players had been registered.
The coaches’ philosophy throughout has been to train as one squad, allowing all players to develop together as a unified team, reinforcing the values of rugby and developing the team culture around those values at training during, games as well as off the pitch.
“In summary the year was a great performance from all of the team and yielded well deserved wins,” said forwards coach Peter Freeman.
“We think that Quins’ U16 teams have developed into playing a mature, exciting brand of rugby with a number of players developing excellent skills and competency in various positions including forwards and backs roles.
“Both teams’ ball handling skills are outstanding, especially under pressure. This team is a great credit to Harlequins RFC and there are a number of this year’s players who remain eligible to play for the U16s next season, so this should certainly make for a strong side again.”
On the face of it, eight defeats in 10, essentially nine when you take into account a forfeited final match, doesn’t exactly scream progress.
But Bahrain can look back on the Gulf Top Six campaign with a tremendous degree of satisfaction. Their performances during Gulf rugby’s elite competition certainly give them something to build on for next season.
They finished bottom of the GT6 but their points difference (-89) was better than both Jebel Ali Dragons (-178) and Dubai Hurricanes (-161), who finished directly above them.
They conceded less points than both those teams and scored more than Dragons (176 to 121), who won the treble of UAE Premiership, Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai Sevens and West Asia Cup in successive seasons in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Their only win came against the dethroned champions, an emphatic 35-3 triumph at the Centre of Excellence.
Bahrain were definitely not whipping boys and gave every team a battle, bar perhaps in their biggest loss, a 26-point margin of defeat in their penultimate game when they were soundly beaten at Zayed Sports City 38-12 by Abu Dhabi Harlequins.
“That’s the first game where we haven’t represented ourselves well,” captain Adam Wallace had said following the defeat.
They were beaten by 20 or more points only two more times, scoring four tries and a bonus point in a 45-24 loss to GT6 winners Doha, while forfeiting their last match to eventual West Asia Cup champions Abu Dhabi Saracens cost them a 20-0 defeat.
They lost games by 13, 14 and 15 points and were beaten three times by five or less, including Dragons at home (23-18), Canes away (26-24) and Doha at home (27-22).
Their 2015 form was a long way from a 105-15 trouncing they took at the hands of Doha in the pre-Christmas Gulf Premiership.
“The story of the year is we’ve finished on the wrong side of results,” said inside centre Wallace.
“This year we’ve stepped up, closed out games and been a bit more professional about it and I think that’s something to look back on. We can take a lot from this year, it’s been a big learning curve for us, but I think we’re definitely taking something from it.”
— chreezmd (@chreezmd) February 5, 2015
Wallace described Bahrain as a close-knit club who struggle worse than their more illustrious Gulf neighbours Doha and the UAE teams to recruit players, but claims he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We do struggle because we’re not a big catchment area, but we are proud of what we’ve got. We’re a real tight-knit family,” added the skipper. “When we play each week we play for the shirt and play for the club and their friends. Off the pitch these are the guys you hang around with.
“Every week you’re playing for each other and I love the fact I’m part of that kind of set-up and as a smaller set-up we’re beating some of the bigger teams. There’s plenty to build on for next season.”
UAE rugby enthusiasts have until Thursday to cast their votes for the UAE Rugby Annual Awards. The 2015 edition of the awards to be held on Thursday April 9 at the Montgomerie, Dubai, sponsored by Daman Active Life, HSBC and National Ambulance, contains 16 updated categories.
The two biggest awards on offer will be the Senior Player of the Season accolade, which will be contested between a total of 17 players, and the Neil Palmer Award.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ duo Clendon Pene and player/coach Jeremy Manning have been nominated for the Senior Player after the Quins won the UAE Premiership and the Gulf Men’s League title at the Dubai Sevens.
Abu Dhabi Saracens’ South African duo Giovano Fourie and Jaen Botes will also be among the frontrunners after helping Sarries claim the West Asia Cup.
— UAE RUGBY FEDERATION (@uaerugby) February 2, 2015
The Neil Palmer Award replaces the Ultimate Recognition Award, renamed in honour of the Arabian Knights founder and chairman who died of a heart attack in February.
The rest of the awards on offer are: Emirati Player of the Season; Women’s Player of the Season; Coach of the Season; Referee of the Season; Fair Play Team of the Season; Volunteer of the Season; Best Mini Expat Player of the Season; Best Youth Expat Player of the Season; Best Mini Emirati Player of the Season; Best Youth Emirati Player of the Season; Best Mini Expat Talent of the Season; Best Youth Expat Talent of the Season; Best Mini Emirati Talent of the Season; Best Youth Emirati Talent.
World Cup winners Joe Roff of Australia and England’s Steve Thompson plus World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper will be special guests.
Tickets for the event are priced at Dh550, with tables of 10 available at Dh4,950. Junior tickets are Dh375. Contact Karalynn Thomson on 04 395 8833 for details.
To vote, visit awards.sport360.com/rugbyawards