Abu Dhabi Harlequins scored with the very last move of the match to snatch a dramatic 22-18 victory from the jaws of defeat against Dubai Exiles and maintain their 100 per cent start to the season.
Exiles’ head coach Jacques Benade had spoken prior to the game of wanting to test the reigning champions, who had sauntered to three impressive victories in their opening three games.
They did that and more, dominating for large spells in Quins’ own back-yard on Friday night. Despite playing with 14 men for 20 minutes following Stephen Ferguson’s 60th minute red card, Exiles led 18-15 inside the final minute and with Quins pegged back on their line.
The hosts won a penalty and, from the shadow of their own posts, full-back Matt Smith launched an attack that quickly saw them advance up the field, winger Barry Dwyer touching down for the most dramatic of wins. While Dwyer was pounced on by ecstatic team-mates, Exiles were left shattered.
Quins run the length of the field and score a try! 20-18 to Quins. Conversion is good! 22-18 and the final whistle goes. #rugbyquins
— Abu Dhabi Quins (@Abudhabiquins) October 16, 2015
“Gutted. Absolutely gutted,” said Exiles prop Kristian Stinson. “But that’s a championship-winning team and that’s what you do, score in the last minute and don’t give up. We’ve just got to learn from that and play for 80 minutes, not 79-and-a-half.”
Despite falling behind to Sam Bolger’s early try, Exiles responded and took the lead when UAE international Charlie Sargent’s try in the corner was converted from the touchline by Durandt Gerber.
Luke Stevenson and Gerber traded penalties before Chris Marshall, another UAE sevens player, went over in the corner, Stevenson converting to give the hosts a 15-10 half-time lead. The try came at a cost for Marshall, who dislocated his shoulder in the process.
“We’ve got to learn from that, play for 80 minutes, not 79-and-a-half” – Stinson
Exiles were completely dominant in the scrum though, and had begun to assert themselves before the break. When they caused havoc from a Quins’ scrum five metres out early in the second half, Ferguson capitalised to touch down, although Gerber inexplicably missed the conversion from in front of the posts.
Exiles were turning the screw, consistently overpowering Quins in the scrum, and Gerber’s penalty gave them a deserved 18-15 lead before Ferguson went from saint to sinner, red-carded for what the referee deemed a knee to the head of Marcos Flores.
Stevenson missed a kickable penalty to tie the scores, but apart from that, Quins didn’t look like penetrating a determined Exiles’ defence. Then, from nothing, victory was snatched thanks to the ingenuity and pace of Smith and Dwyer.
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