Henry Paul, Bahrain and Lindsey Gibson the winners in Sport360's 2017/18 Rugby Awards

Matt Jones - Editor 17:50 22/04/2018
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After another arduous campaign, it’s safe to say the 2017/18 top-flight season has re-ignited the art of competition in UAE rugby, following last term’s major trophies being swept up by the all-conquering Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ juggernaut.

Quins have been caught up by their biggest rivals, with Jebel Ali Dragons, Dubai Exiles and Bahrain all making huge strides this season. Quins held on to their Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League title from last year and added the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup – and the fact they remained so competitive amid a raft of departures a feat in itself.

Yet the four major titles were shared around the other three clubs, with a resurgent Exiles claiming a Dubai Sevens and UAE Premiership double, Dragons lifting the West Asia Premiership to earn a first trophy in four years and the Bahrain revolution under Louie Tonkin yielding a first piece of silverware in eight years in the shape of the West Asia Cup.

A nod also to fledgling Dubai Eagles, who were unceremoniously kicked out of the nest into their debut season, but eventually found their feet, with a brighter future ahead.

Here we hand out our end of season awards for player, coach, team and game of the season.

The way it worked was we gave every club in the UAE’s top-tier West Asia Premiership three votes apiece – head coach, captain and chairman. The only rule they had to adhere to was they could not vote for someone from their own club for either player, coach or team of the season, but they were allowed to include their own club in the game of the season category.

The 21-man panel included Ross Samson, Henry Paul and Stuart Quinn (Dragons); Luke Stevenson, Mike McFarlane and Andy Cole (Quins); Durandt Gerber, Jacques Benade and Mike Wolff (Exiles); Lindsey Gibson, Louie Tonkin and Mike Cunningham (Bahrain); Jonny Taylor, Peter Henderson and Jake Basson (Saracens); Dave Knight, Mike Wernham and Simon Lewis (Hurricanes) and Andrew O’Driscoll, Conor Coakley and Sean Carey (Eagles).

Bahrain hooker Gibson has been unanimously announced as the player of the season, with six of 21 votes being registered for the Scotsman.

Coach of the season was a tightly-contested affair with Paul of Dragons edging out Bahrain’s director of rugby Tonkin by seven votes to six.

Team of the season goes to Bahrain, with the voting statistics reversed as they earned seven votes to Dragons’ six.

The game of the season ended in a three-way tie between two epic West Asia Premiership clashes; Dragons’ 36-32 win in Bahrain on the final day that earned them the title by a mere point; their early-season 34-33 defeat at home to Quins and the West Asia Cup semi-final between Quins and Bahrain which ended with Tonkin’s men going through to the final via a 26-21 win.

Each game received three votes so we cast the deciding one, giving the nod to the Dragons 33 Quins 34 encounter.

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