Abu Dhabi Harlequins clinch Dubai rugby sevens title with a little help

Presence of injured Mike Ballard spurs capital side to long-overdue trophy. Paul Radley reports.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red, white and green, beat Doha to reassert their position in Arabian Gulf club rugby. Satish Kumar / The National
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red, white and green, beat Doha to reassert their position in Arabian Gulf club rugby. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Abu Dhabi Harlequins had two major incentives for doing well at the Dubai Rugby Sevens over the weekend.

It turns out, the chance to avenge years of finishing as second-best to Jebel Ali Dragons was the lesser of them.

Amid the hullabaloo of thousands of revellers on Pitch 1 on Saturday afternoon, the capital’s oldest club had a significant supporter roaring them on in their final against Doha.

They eventually won the title to end years of near-misses. They dedicated the result to Mike Ballard, who had flown to the UAE for the first time since he returned to his native United States to start rehab on a broken back.

“The best thing about this weekend is that Mike is here to share in this occasion with us,” said Ed Lewsey, Quins’ veteran scrum-half.

“It is so emotional having Mike back here. The first time he has been able to fly since he was medevaced back to the USA after the operation was here to Dubai, a couple of days ago. We are so delighted he is here and pleased we won for him.”

Ballard, who says he is ahead of schedule in his bid to walk again after fracturing vertebrae in the West Asia Cup final in 2013, barely made it to Pitch 1 in time.

He has also been following Speranza 22 this weekend. The final whistle blew on their agonising International Open defeat to Wyvern Harlequins on Pitch 2 shortly before Quins played on the main field.

“We have come so close for so many years,” Ballard said of the win over Doha.

“To have that redemption in a year like this, where I have been working through my rehab, was special.

“I was fortunate enough to be here. I scheduled my rehab so I could have this week off, because this is the best weekend of the year out here.

“It is the best tournament you could possibly come to. I wanted to be a part of it and I knew the boys were going to do something special.”

With the likes of former league professionals Sam and Ben Bolger, former union pro Jeremy Manning, and the highly rated Iziq Foa’i in their ranks, Quins were peerless this weekend.

Players of that pedigree are used to playing in front of teeming crowds, but the side also included talented teenagers like Fraser Knox and Adel Al Hendi.

Knox was outstanding at scrum-half, and kept Lewsey, his former rugby master at school, out of the starting line-up for much of the weekend.

“I got six minutes [in the final] and I can just about handle that,” Lewsey said.

“The boy has completely transformed his character, and he was rewarded for that with a place in our first seven squad and had a superb weekend.”

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM

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