x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Harlequins' bonus is a Gulf Top Six title win

The 'lucky captain', Alistair Thompson, returns just in time, as the five-try win gave capital side an extra point and they jumped to the top of the table.

Alastair Thompson, who had surgery to reconstruct his knee a little over a year ago, led the Abu Dhabi Harlequins to the title.
Alastair Thompson, who had surgery to reconstruct his knee a little over a year ago, led the Abu Dhabi Harlequins to the title.

DUBAI // Alistair Thompson probably would swap his Midas touch for a fully-functioning knee, but it still came in handy last night as the lucky captain of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins landed another trophy just two weeks into his second spell in the job.

On the eve of yesterday's trip to Dubai Exiles, the No 8, who had surgery to reconstruct his knee a little over a year ago, had said he would "need a miracle" if he were to make the squad for the game.

His leg had flared again, and he was predicting three weeks on the sidelines. Yet the UAE back-rower pronounced himself fit enough to be named on the replacements bench at the The Sevens.

He made a 30-minute cameo at the end. He was on the field when the decisive fourth try was scored by Ed Lewsey, and laid the pass for Christie McCormack, the young prop who is a pupil of his at British School Al Khubairat, to score the fifth.

Harlequins, who won 35-13, had to wait the best part of an hour to discover their fate, as they awaited updates from the Jebel Ali Dragons match with Doha, as both sides were above them at the start of the day.

The fact the capital side secured a bonus-point win, which neither side managed at the Centre of Excellence, meant they won the title thanks to a points difference that was 39 superior to Doha in second place.

"We knew we had to look after what we could control, we did that, and it went our way in the end," said Thompson, who won three trophies in his first spell as captain and retook the role when Jamie Clarke left the country recently.

"At no point in the season, other than right at the end, were we at the top of the league, but we managed to steal it.

"It is deja vu for many of us from three years ago, when we pipped Dragons to the title on the last day of the season."

In a bid to stem previous confusion over programming, the administrators of rugby in the Gulf split the season in half, which explains the early conclusion to the cross-border campaign.

"There has obviously been a big change in rugby in the UAE, and it is a good sign to have three teams still in the running for the title on the final day," said Andy Cole, who is chairman of both the Harlequins and Gulf Rugby, who oversee the competition.

The Dragons will have just one week, rather than a whole summer, as in previous years, to fret over their lost chance, before the new UAE Premiership season starts.

"One part of the season has gone, we have missed the silverware on that one, and now we have to look forward to the next silverware," Shane Thornton, the Dragons coach, said.

"We know we are good enough to win games. It is a matter of coming here and playing our game, then working through the next 10 weeks. We are too good a side not to get silverware."

pradley@thenational.ae