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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Dubai Exiles beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins to win UAE Premiership title as Kristian Stinson signs off in style

Exiles front row scores the last try of the final, and likely of his career, as the Dubai side claim the title from the depleted defending champions

Dubai Exiles, in black, won the UAE Premiership title after a comprehensive victory over outgoing champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Satish Kumar / The National
Dubai Exiles, in black, won the UAE Premiership title after a comprehensive victory over outgoing champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Satish Kumar / The National

As a mass of burly Dubai Exiles forwards rumbled towards the try-line late in the UAE Premiership final against Abu Dhabi Harlequins at Dubai Sports City on Friday, two things seemed certain.

First, that the Exiles were about to return to the winner’s circle in a competition they last won two years ago. They promptly did so, clinching the domestic title with an emphatic 38-12 win over the outgoing champions.

And, second, it felt sure that Gio Fourie, their free-scoring hooker, would emerge from the bundle of bodies over the Harlequins line with ball in hand, claiming the try. He did his best to, as well, trying to wrench the ball into his possession as the maul drove across the whitewash.

But, just this once, Kristian Stinson, another of the Exiles’ front-row union, was not letting go. He landed on the ball to register the five points, and, just for good measure, ran off with it, too, the ball clasped vice-like between his arms.

He was running, in all likelihood, into retirement. Aged a mere 32, but with studies, a busy day job, plus the joys of being a father to a nine-month-old daughter, he says he thinks he has played his last club rugby match.

What a way for the former – and possibly, for one last time, current – UAE prop to sign off. It was to be with a winners’ medal, and a very, very rare try.

“For the next year at least I will be taking a break,” Stinson said. “I’m not too sure whether I’ll be retiring 100 per cent.

“We will see how the off-season goes, but the level of commitment you need to play in this competition, training two nights a week with time in the gym, it has been tough to balance it all.

“There are plenty of young boys coming through. It is a good way to sign off. I think we earned this.”

Stinson’s 72nd minute try had essentially clinched the win. Carel Thomas scored two, Exiles forced a penalty try, while DuRandt Gerber provided 16 points with the boot.

“I loved that, I absolutely loved that,” Stinson said of his try. “I was not letting it go, even though I could feel someone at the back of me.”

Jacques Benade, the Exiles coach who will now join Apollo Perelini’s support staff for the UAE’s friendly internationals against Gibraltar, praised his side’s resilience.

“Our defence was unbelievable,” Benade said. “They spent 15 minutes in our 22 [in the second half] and couldn’t come away with any points. I think that was the difference.”

Barry Dwyer and Esekia Dranibota, the loose forward who was outstanding for Harlequins, scored the tries for the defeated – and depleted – side.

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Mike McFarlane, the Harlequins coach, will also join Benade in assisting Perelini during the international campaign that follows the domestic season.

He said he was proud of the way his side had fought to defend the five trophies they won last season. Adding two more trophies to the club’s cabinet is no mean feat, given the troubles the side from the capital have faced this term.

“If we had been to win this, it would have been miraculous, with three out of five trophies,” McFarlane said.

“Considering the boys we have lost, which included two players [on the morning of the final], there is only so much we could do.

“I am really proud that the boys have not made excuses all season through. We have got through it, fielded four sides throughout the season, and to walk away with two trophies after all those challenges is great.”

WEST ASIA RUGBY 2017/18 SEASON ROLL OF HONOUR

Western Clubs Champions League
Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Runners up: Bahrain

Dubai Rugby Sevens
Winners: Dubai Exiles
Runners up: Jebel Ali Dragons

West Asia Premiership
Winners: Jebel Ali Dragons
Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

UAE Premiership Cup
Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins
Runners up: Dubai Exiles

UAE Premiership
Winners: Dubai Exiles
Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins