Abu Dhabi Harlequins Under-16s turned the tables on long-time rivals Dubai Exiles on the last day of the season, winning the UAE League final with a thrilling 24-12 victory.
The team from the UAE capital had lost heavily to Exiles in the first match of the season and were 12-7 down at half-time in the showpiece against the holders.
But a second-half rally saw Quins score three unanswered tries, with their forwards combining seamlessly with the backs to produce slick and high-intensity rugby.
“We have had a healthy rivalry with the Exiles at this age group for many years, and they have consistently set high standards, and won most of the trophies,” said Quins captain Johnny Greenwood.
“This year has been full of ups and downs, but we have worked really hard to develop our quality, and on the day, we were buzzing. This win was the best moment we’ve experienced as a very close group of players and coaches.”
After a tense start, the Quins youngsters opened the scoring when Ben Whiting broke through the Exiles defence before a well-timed pass put away fellow centre James Wilson for a sprint to the line. Exiles, boosted by a powerful pack, replied with two tries to edge ahead at the break.
However, Quins came out for the second half with greater coordination, and began putting together some multi-phase passages of play.
A slick interchange of passes along the left touchline led to winger Jonas Greene scoring in the corner, before second row Alex Darling finished off a long period of possession with a try to cap an impressive return from long-term injury.
Exiles continued to tackle hard and pose a threat through their strong runners, yet Quins sealed victory with five minutes to go. The ball was turned over as Exiles attempted to run the ball out of their 22, and after two quick rucks, Quins Number 8 Milo Bly evaded two tacklers to score under the posts.
The team were visibly elated as the final whistle brought a hard-fought match to an end.
“The two sets of players have come to know each other well and there is much respect between them,” said Quins head coach Dominic Whiting.
“Exiles have shown a lot of class on the pitch, and today they have also shown it off the pitch. With many players on both sides moving on to other things next year, this feels like an end of an era for this group. We will all have many great memories.”
Jubilant Quins will now have a break before finishing the season with a tour to Kenya in July, when they will play their sister club, Kenya Harlequins.
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