x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Thompson will play on, but calls it a day as Harlequins coach

As captain, coach, No 8 and pack-leader, the Scottish teacher has overseen a rich run of success for the club over the past two seasons.

ABU DHABI // With an angry-looking black-eye ripening, and another scar added to the collection on his left cheek, it was hardly surprising when Alistair Thompson announced he was ready to unload some of his numerous responsibilities to the cause of the Abu Dhabi Harlequins. As captain, coach, No 8 and pack-leader, the Scottish teacher has overseen a rich run of success for the club over the past two seasons.

With the Danway Gulf Cup safely wrestled back from Bahrain after a nail-biting final in Saar, Thompson confirmed he is to let go the coaching reins for next season. "I'm standing down as head coach, so the club will be looking for a new one," said Thompson, who juggles his rugby duties with his job as a teacher at the British School al Khubairat. "I'm looking forward to playing solely as a player next season.

"I don't want to commit to something that I can't commit to 100 per cent. I love it, but sometimes you can't do everything. I'll come back into coaching, and I'll continue to coach at the British School. It may be my final season, and I want it to be as one of the boys." Thompson's decision to step down as coach has brought into focus the possibility of Wayne Marsters, the former player and coach of Abu Dhabi, returning to his old club.

The affable ex-Arabian Gulf coach is also set to leave his role as head coach of the Dubai Exiles at the end of the campaign, and would probably be welcomed back in the capital. Earlier in the month, Bahrain had taken the Gulf Premiership crown from Abu Dhabi, only for the Quins to regain their cup title from their Gulf rivals on their home patch this weekend. The Abu Dhabi club would have suffered a blank season, though, had Dan Bell's injury-time conversion attempt for Bahrain not skewed wide of the right-hand upright.

The 6-5 final triumph was no less than the Quins deserved after a season of toil, according to their outgoing coach. "I have said to these guys time and again that we are too good a side to not win any silverware this season," said Thompson. "Although it was close, I think it was just reward for a long season. The boys have kept battling. It is nice to be on the right side of a one-point game." pradley@thenational.ae