x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

Abu Dhabi Harlequins need Bahrain help to retain Western Clubs Champions League trophy 

Dramatic late draw in Sri Lanka, which was the width of a post away from being a defeat, means the capital club's destiny is out of their hands.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in white, in action against Bahrain in the Western Clubs Champions League. Satish Kumar for the National
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in white, in action against Bahrain in the Western Clubs Champions League. Satish Kumar for the National

Abu Dhabi Harlequins will have to hope for a favour from Bahrain next weekend if they are to retain the Western Clubs Champions League trophy.

The capital side were denied the win that would have given them the title outright when Kandy scored an injury-time try to level the scores at 29-29 in Sri Lanka on Friday.

However, the away side were also the width of a post away from losing, after the ensuing conversion from the right touchline, with time over, hit the right-hand upright.

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Coincidentally, Harlequins also had a draw – against Dubai Exiles – in the process of winning the Champions League for the first time a year ago.

Back then, they won the title in absentia, as they had to wait for the result of the Exiles against Kandy in the final match. They will have a similar wait this time around.

All the result in Sri Lanka guarantees is that Bahrain, who travel to Kandy next weekend for the final match of the event, are now unable to win the title.

The draw might leave a frustrating wait for Harlequins, but the match was not without its positives.

Joe Teasdale, the young centre who is a product of the Quins’ mini and youth set up, continued his fine early season form by scoring the opening try, a week after doing similar in a win over Bahrain.

One concern for the touring side, though, will be fact they let slip a 29-17 lead late in the piece.

“At the beginning we were just thinking about our systems and not focusing on the result too much,” Sean Wijesinghe, Kandy’s coach, said. “In the end we came so close, and I think we could have finished them off.”

The fact the sides were so closely matched leant some credence to the idea proposed by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union last week to start a Super Rugby-style league involving nations from the Gulf and elsewhere in South Asia.

Asia Rugby hope to increase the scale of the Champions League in future. However, the sides involved realistically only regard the tournament as a tune up before the regular season.

The West Asia Premiership starts on Friday, while Sri Lanka’s season is still the best part of two months away.

The SLRFU believe a season-long league competition involving sides from Sri Lanka, the Gulf and even India and Pakistan, could be commercially attractive for sponsors.

“[The Champions Leagu] has been a good starting point for us for the past few seasons,” Wijesinghe said. “We are still seven or eight weeks away from the start to our season, and this tournament is a good opportunity for us, especially our young kids, to have the chance to show their talent.”