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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Abu Dhabi Harlequins win UAE Premiership, their fifth trophy of the season

If there was any debate left as to who is the region’s rugby powerhouse, Abu Dhabi Harlequins settled it by clinching a fifth trophy to cap a perfect season, in front of the TV cameras at Dubai Sports City.
Ben Bolger, front and centre, and his Abu Dhabi Harlequins teammates celebrate after beating Jebel Ali Dragons to win the UAE Premiership. Victor Besa for The National
Ben Bolger, front and centre, and his Abu Dhabi Harlequins teammates celebrate after beating Jebel Ali Dragons to win the UAE Premiership. Victor Besa for The National

DUBAI // Cup winners. Sevens winners. Champions of the UAE. Champions of West Asia. And in both the men’s and women’s game, too. Adding in the second-tier conference title to boot is just showing off.

If there was any debate left as to who is the region’s rugby powerhouse, Abu Dhabi Harlequins settled it by clinching a fifth trophy to cap a perfect season, in front of the TV cameras at Dubai Sports City.

The famous five consists of the Western Clubs Champions League, West Asia Premiership and Cup, Dubai Rugby Sevens, and now the UAE Premiership.

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■ ‘Our dream has come true’: A day of firsts for UAE rugby

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The side from the capital might have crushed the competition on the scoreboard this season, but, for the third week running, the had to battle for it after giving away an early lead.

Two tries from Emosi Vecanuau and an 18-point haul for man of the match Luke Stevenson, however, was enough to set the seal on the season for Harlequins.

“I was nervous because it was a big occasion,” said Ben Bolger, the Harlequins captain.

“We have the opportunity to play each week with our mates, and I was more nervous about letting mates down [than playing in front of TV cameras on finals day].

“A big pat on the back for the UAE Rugby for providing this occasion. They have really built it up. It was a great day, and a good touch to have it on TV.

“In the past four and a half years, that is the best it has got. That final was tough. Dragons were outstanding.”

The fact the game was televised added to the experience, according to Stevenson.

“It caught us off guard a little,” Stevenson said of the last-minute information that the final was to be played in front of the cameras.

“Initially we thought we were playing at home, then we were told it was here. Then we were told there was going to be TV cameras, which is unusual.

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Read more

Abu Dhabi Harlequins defeat Bahrain in West Asia Cup final to win trophy No 4

■ England Six Nations winners lend a hand at Dubai Hurricanes coaching clinic

Abu Dhabi Harlequins set for ‘big push’ in bid to complete clean sweep of rugby titles

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“We know from the games we have got through this year that we are always going to be in games, and that we have the ability to win games if they are tight.

“I was pretty relaxed coming into the game. To be honest, I was a little bit worried going into the last 15 minutes, I thought we were starting to lag a bit.

“But then it picked up again. We went 50 yards to score in the corner. It goes to show, every time you think the boys are starting to take it easy, they put their foot on it again.”

Ross Samson, the Dragons captain, said he was proud of his side’s performance on the big stage.

“Finals rugby is very different to the day to day league stuff that we go through,” Samson said.

“There was definitely a bit more of an edge. We had absolutely nothing to lose.

“The boys were pumped from 1pm when we watched our threes win their game, which set the tone for us. We definitely raised our game for the big occasion.”

Abu Dhabi Harlequins 30, Jebel Ali Dragons 20

Harlequins

Tries: Vecanuau 2, Stevenson

Cons: Stevenson 2, Brown

Pens: Stevenson 3

Dragons

Tries: Naisau, Reyal

Cons: Bell 2

Pens: Bell 2

Man of the match: Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)

pradley@thenational.ae

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Updated: April 7, 2017 04:00 AM

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