AL AIN // Abu Dhabi Harlequins banished their cup final hoodoo in the most emphatic terms possible as they thrashed Mana Dubai 62-10 to claim the inaugural Rugby League Cup on Friday night.
The capital club's first foray into the 13-man code has eased some of the anguish they suffered in the other version.
Their union side made all the running in the domestic campaign that preceded this debut league competition, only to fall in three major finals.
They will be able to depart for their summer holidays with a warm glow of success following a 12-try rout of the UAE's first independent rugby league club.
"I'm really chuffed for our boys because we have a lot of young players in our team and they have really stood up," said Ben Bolger, the Quins captain. "Making the transition from union to league has opened their eyes. Some of them have been thinking back to rugby union and saying, 'I don't even want to play that game anymore.' A lot of the young guys play in the back three and are making 15 or 20 carries per game, whereas in union they may only touch the ball twice. It is fast paced and the guys have really taken to it."
The fact the respective coaches of the two sides - Tony Scott for Quins and Steve Emm for Mana - spent much of the game chatting happily to each other on the sidelines belied the venom in this final.
The first set of the game concluded with a multi-player scuffle. It did not take long to work out, though, that it would be the side from the capital who would be laughing last and therefore longest.
Quins held a 30-0 lead at half time, and their only real concern by the end was the fact they had not managed to keep their opposition to nil.
The ease with which the victors dominated the field in their first season playing the game made a joke of the fact they had their first training session in this format only eight weeks ago.
"I think the difference has been that we have been able to train and work on our structure," Scott said.
Since the end of the union season, he said, "We have been training twice a week every week … and we have just worked on it, worked on it and worked on it.
"We haven't just had 13 guys. There here been a lot so we have been able to make substitutions in and out and still not lose our structure.
"We kept it simple and played to our strengths, which is the likes of Sam Bolger, our hooker who was outstanding tonight."
WASPS DEFEAT OVERHEATED AMBLERS
When the temperature gauge is pointing at 42°C, the last thing a team realistically needs before an afternoon kick-off in the UAE is a warm-up.
Al Ain Amblers’ 40-24 defeat to Dubai Wasps in the third-place play-off in the Rugby League Cup represented a valiant display considering the circumstances.
The Amblers had been running through drills to limber up ahead of their scheduled 4pm start.
They were still going great guns 45 minutes later, when the game finally started.
The long delay was a result of a minor crash suffered to the one of the cars transporting Wasps players from Dubai to Al Ain for the match. The home team would have been better off going and having a sit down in a fridge in the meantime.
It was a tribute to their fitness that they managed to score the last try of the game. Ross Combe, a UAE international in union, completed a personal hat-trick of tries late on.
“None of the guys have really played much league and we are making some basic errors which we have to improve on next season,” said Keleto Dyer, the Amblers coach.
Simon Cook, who joined up with Wasps at the start of the league campaign, was the star. His 20-point haul included two tries and six conversions.
“The heat we have been playing in has made it very difficult but the lads have put in a great effort and everyone has been loving it,” said Dan Burgin, the Wasps captain.
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