Abu Dhabi Harlequins win UAE Premiership, their fifth trophy of the season
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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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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“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
Tries: Vecanuau 2, Stevenson
Cons: Stevenson 2, Brown
Pens: Stevenson 3
Tries: Naisau, Reyal
Cons: Bell 2
Pens: Bell 2
Man of the match: Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins)
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Updated: April 7, 2017 04:00 AM