The Abu Dhabi Harlequins must feel as if history is repeating itself.
In their last two major tournaments, the Quins have romped away in the league stage before falling at the final hurdle to the Jebel Ali Dragons.
Having lost the UAE Premiership last November, the ARFU West Asian Cup also eluded them on Friday as not even ill-discipline and an early deficit could prevent a rampant Jebel Ali side, inspired by the boot of Andy Russell, from securing a 29-2 victory.
While the ‘Quins were the dominant team in the 10-game long group stage, winning all nine of the games they took to the field in, once again the Dragons were the winners when it mattered most, something they are making a happy habit of.
"We were used to be the opposite,” said captain Paul Hart. “We [had four players sin binned] just to make it competitive.
“We had terrible discipline and obviously we disagreed with a lot of the decisions, but we won so we’re not going to make a big deal about it. I got a 10 minute break which is perfect at my age.
"We’re overjoyed, this is the most successful season for the Dragons in the history of the club. It’s the 20th year of the club so it’s amazing, to be able to lead a team to that is brilliant.”
It didn’t all start so well for the Dragons. Matt Hutchings gave the ‘Quins an early lead with a penalty that was soon cancelled out by Russell’s kick.
Hart and Andrew Carpin were then given yellow cards that put the Dragons down to 13 men. The ‘Quins took immediate advantage by scoring two quick tries through Nick McBride, leaving the Dragons overrun and desperate at the interval, 15-8 down.
When the Dragons have needed someone to step up, they have always been able to rely on try machine Sean Crombie and the Dragon didn’t let his teammates down as he ran over two tries to pull his side within two at 15-13.
An Ian Overton try and a pair of Russell penalties gave the Dragons an imposing 26-15 lead that was briefly trimmed thanks to a stunning try by ‘Quins sensation Imad Reyal before Russell put the seal on the win with another penalty.
Hart had nothing but praise for the man that stepped up and got his team back in the game - two-try hero Crombie.
“It’s all about [Crombie’s] attitude, he never misses a training session, he helps people, mentoring people, really taking it seriously even though he has come from Premiership level rugby in the UK, he has come here with the right attitude.”
While the Dragons celebrated another finals win, the Harlequins had to again accept another bitter defeat despite holding the better league record.
“Just disappointed, just gutted for the boys,” said Harlequins director of rugby Chris Davies. “They sacrificed a lot, they’re proud lads and their pride has been dented, as has mine.
"Absolutely gutted, I just think the momentum swung and a couple decisions didn’t go our way. There were situations we had to react to and I thought the Dragons just reacted to the momentum swing better than we did.”
- Sports & Recreation