Abu Dhabi Har­lequins held to draw by Kandy

The National - News - - SPORT - PAUL RADLEY

Abu Dhabi Har­lequins will have to hope for a favour from Bahrain next week­end if they are to re­tain the Western Clubs Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy.

The cap­i­tal side were de­nied the win that would have given them the ti­tle out­right when Kandy scored an in­jury-time try to level the scores at 29-29 in Sri Lanka on Friday.

How­ever, the away side were also the width of a post away from los­ing, af­ter the en­su­ing con­ver­sion from the right touch­line, with time over, hit the right-hand up­right.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, Har­lequins also had a draw – against Dubai Ex­iles – in the process of win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time a year ago.

Back then, they won the ti­tle in ab­sen­tia, as they had to wait for the re­sult of the Ex­iles against Kandy in the fi­nal match. They will have a sim­i­lar wait this time around.

All the re­sult in Sri Lanka guar­an­tees is that Bahrain, who travel to Kandy next week­end for the fi­nal match of the event, are now un­able to win the ti­tle.

The draw might leave a frus­trat­ing wait for Har­lequins, but the match was not with­out its pos­i­tives.

Joe Teas­dale, the young cen­tre who is a prod­uct of the Quins’ mini and youth set up, con­tin­ued his fine early sea­son form by scor­ing the open­ing try, a week af­ter do­ing sim­i­lar in a win over Bahrain.

One con­cern for the tour­ing side, though, will be fact they let slip a 29-17 lead late in the piece.

“At the be­gin­ning we were just think­ing about our sys­tems and not fo­cus­ing on the re­sult too much,” Sean Wi­jesinghe, Kandy’s coach, said. “In the end we came so close, and I think we could have fin­ished them off.”

The fact the sides were so closely matched leant some cre­dence to the idea pro­posed by the Sri Lanka Rugby Foot­ball Union last week to start a Su­per Rugby-style league in­volv­ing na­tions from the Gulf and else­where in South Asia.

Asia Rugby hope to in­crease the scale of the Cham­pi­ons League in fu­ture. How­ever, the sides in­volved re­al­is­ti­cally only re­gard the tour­na­ment as a tune up be­fore the reg­u­lar sea­son.

The West Asia Premier­ship starts on Friday, while Sri Lanka’s sea­son is still the best part of two months away.

The SLRFU be­lieve a sea­son-long league com­pe­ti­tion in­volv­ing sides from Sri Lanka, the Gulf and even In­dia and Pak­istan, could be com­mer­cially at­trac­tive for spon­sors.

“[The Cham­pi­ons Leagu] has been a good start­ing point for us for the past few sea­sons,” Wi­jesinghe said.

“We are still seven or eight weeks away from the start to our sea­son, and this tour­na­ment is a good op­por­tu­nity for us, es­pe­cially our young kids, to have the chance to show their tal­ent.”

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