Bahrain may have ended an eight-year trophy drought with victory over Dubai Exiles in a thrilling West Asia Cup final – but Adam Wallace has warned rivals that his side are not the finished article yet.
After so many near misses, glory finally arrived for the side playing most westerly in Gulf rugby’s circle as the Red Wall got over the hump of a barren few years in style with a 47-25 thumping of Exiles on their home patch on Friday.
The club has been steadily improving in recent years which has progressed rapidly under the guidance of head coach Louie Tonkin, who arrived in the Middle East in July 2016.
Bahrain made the final of this competition a year ago and took the game to hosts Abu Dhabi Harlequins at Zayed Sports City in the first-half before falling to a 31-25 in the UAE capital.
Despite boasting a talented crop of players that had impressed in challenging for the West Asia Premiership title this term, Tonkin has often felt his side lack belief that they can compete with the big sides.
But they finally got the monkey off their back with Friday’s win – almost a year to the day since their loss to Quins. Wallace has now insisted they will not be content with simply ending a drought that goes back to the 2010 Arabian Gulf Premiership.
“It was a class result and a huge day for the club,” said a beaming Wallace.
“We’ve been working toward this point for the past four years, we’re not the finished article at all as we finished third in the domestic league but we’ve gone a step further than last year which is huge for us, and it helps us build to the future.
“We know the competition grows massively each year and next year, teams will make a step up again and it’s important that we do too to stay competitive.”
So long a talismanic figure for the Red Wall, Wallace has been forced to take a back seat for much of this season, having been plagued by persistent injuries.
After spending a large chunk of the first half of the 2017/18 campaign on the sidelines, he returned to the fold early this year, only to be forced back to the treatment table shortly after making his return.
But the project Tonkin has installed since taking over at Bahrain nearly two years ago has seen them develop, with quality players brought in to reinvigorate a side so often held together by Wallace during his first two years in the country.
Although injury has robbed him of having much of an impact on the pitch this term, he remains a core ingredient of their success, with Tonkin bringing him on board as part of the coaching staff.
And Wallace admits he’s loved retaining the feeling of being a special part of the club’s journey and their newfound success.
“I was absolutely gutted I couldn’t be playing (Friday) but so proud of the team and what we have built at Bahrain over the last couple of years,” he said.
“I’ve had a season plagued with injuries and took a range of different knocks that kept me out all year. But I’ve been assistant coach to Louie all year and it’s definitely added to my CV coaching the team this year. I’ll chalk this one up to experience and go again next year.”
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