x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Abu Dhabi Harlequins snare last-minute victory over Dubai Hurricanes in Gulf Top Six

Match finishes 14 v 14 despite overall lack of enmity between teams

Iziq Foa'i, centre, of Abu Dhabi Harlequins carrying the ball against Dubai Hurricanes during their Gulf Top Six match in Dubai yesterday. Jeff Topping / The National
Iziq Foa'i, centre, of Abu Dhabi Harlequins carrying the ball against Dubai Hurricanes during their Gulf Top Six match in Dubai yesterday. Jeff Topping / The National

Dubai Hurricanes 19

Abu Dhabi Harlequins 20

Hurricanes Tries: Coupland Cons: Powell; Pens: Powell 4

Harlequins Tries: Graham, Bolger, Murphy

Cons: Hutchings; Pens: Stevenson

Man of the match Billy Graham (Harlequins)

DUBAI // A season that started with the woe of long-term injury for Matt Hutchings reached a belated high on Friday night as he kicked Abu Dhabi Harlequins to an injury time win over Dubai Hurricanes.

The Welsh centre has found the path back to the starting XV to be a potted one since beginning his recuperation from an ankle injury in the summer, given the stock of talented backs from which Quins can choose.

But the side from the capital were indebted to his nerveless kicking as he landed the conversion after Graham Murphy had touched down a final-play score that had started deep in their own territory.

The victory was a third in succession for Quins since the start of the Gulf Top Six season, and it avenged a decisive loss to the same opposition in the UAE Premiership before Christmas.

How they managed it, though, is a difficult one to solve. They spent more than half the game down to 14 men – and for some of it with only 13 on the field – as their indiscipline brought four yellow cards.

Two of those added up to a red for the repeat offender, Phil Brady, yet they somehow managed to register the win on the back of tries for Murphy, Ben Bolger and Billy Graham, their captain.

“I suppose we didn’t deserve to win, but the boys toughed it out and Matty Hutchings held his nerve to kick the goal at the end,” said Jeremy Manning, the Quins coach.

Bearing in mind there was barely a cross word spoken between the two sides during the course of the 80 minutes, the card tally was a surprise.

Brady was the fall guy for continued infringements by the away side, but he had earlier put Ollie Delapp, the Hurricanes hooker, out of the game with a shoulder injury after tackling him in the air.

Hurricanes also saw two of their own players sin-binned, and the encounter was down to 14 versus 14 in the final throes.

Yet they had the game in their grasp as they had possession inside the Quins 22 with time virtually up.

“It was a very close game and Quins are always going to be hard to subdue,” said Russ Huxtable, the Hurricanes coach. “At the end of the day, we allowed them to come 60 metres in the last minute. That cost us the game and it was down to a lack of concentration.

“It is a work in progress for us. It was a tough, hard game for us. We didn’t play for the whole 80 minutes and it was the last minute that counted.”

The last-minute success means Quins maintained the only unbeaten record in the region’s elite cross-border competition.

Manning says his side are intent on a return to silverware after a season of near-misses in 2013, including missing the UAE Premiership final altogether.

“We have had a great start, having not played very well in the UAE Premiership,” Manning said. “The boys are pretty keen to do well in this competition, and to get three wins in the first three games is great.

“We were let off the hook here, but we will take a win on the road. It is all about regrouping after last year and getting right back up there.”

Jebel Ali Dragons continued to right their path to retaining their West Asia title, having comprehensively lost the opening game of the season against Quins.

The champions thrashed Abu Dhabi Saracens 50-10 at the Centre of Excellence on Friday night, while Doha won 24-16 in Bahrain.

pradley@thenational.ae