Bahrain beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins to lift first trophy of 2018/19 Gulf rugby season

Matt Jones - Editor 18:55 15/09/2018
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(Pic courtsey of Jodie Baker, [email protected])

Louie Tonkin was delighted as Bahrain claimed the first piece of silverware of the new Gulf rugby season – but claims their defeat of Abu Dhabi Harlequins means nothing if they can’t back it up in the UAE capital next weekend when the West Asia Premiership kicks off.

Bahrain claimed a gripping 27-21 triumph over Quins at home on Friday to win the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League – denying Mike McFarlane’s men a three-peat in the pre-season curtain raiser.

The two do it all again next weekend as the 2018/19 season gets under way, and Bahrain coach Tonkin is already focused on the game at Zayed Sports City.

“I’m delighted with the win but it doesn’t count for much now if we don’t back it up next week,” said the Welshman.

“We have to go to Abu Dhabi next Friday and do it all over again.”

Quins relinquished their grip on a trophy now in its fifth year and one they had won for the past two years. But a third was denied by the hosts, who added it to the West Asia Cup they won last season – a maiden piece of silverware in eight years.

McFarlane called it a “learning curve” for his side, one which are attempting to remain competitive this term despite a flurry of departures for the second summer in succession.

“It was a fiercely contested game as ever with great patches of play from both teams,” McFarlane said of a game that ebbed and flowed superbly.

“A frustrating first half with the breakdown which prevented any continuity of rugby. A convincing start to the second half saw us back in the game but poor game management led us to losing the game in the last 20 minutes.

“I said to the boys it’s a learning curve and as long as we take away those lessons then it’s a positive experience. We’ve got to learn to play with conditions put upon us and be proactive in our decision making on the field to try and combat them.

“I’m really happy a lot of the boys got great minutes under their belts and we look forward to hosting Bahrain next week. It’s always a pleasure visiting Louie and the boys and we are always looked after so well.”

Tonkin praised the performance of both fly-halves, his own Ross Preedy and Quins’ Luke Stevenson, who enjoyed superb games.

“Both 10s were incredible with positional kicking and from the tee. Luke Stevenson was excellent in the second half and Ross Preedy for us was exceptional – a great showpiece between two fantastic outside halves,” said Tonkin.

“It was a really good game, tough and intense and highly pressurised for a game at this stage of the season. It was pretty rare.

Quins' Andrew Semple tries to spark his side (Pic courtsey of Jodie Baker, Baker@jodiebakerphotography.com)

Quins’ Andrew Semple tries to spark his side (Pic courtsey of Jodie Baker, [email protected])

“The momentum kept switching. We were dominant the first 15 minutes then they became dominant before half-time. It could have gone either way.

“We were very pleased to get the outcome. It was 24-21 with five minutes left and they put us under intense pressure, so we were delighted to get the right side of the result.”

Both teams will now hope to recover ahead of what is sure to be another battle in the UAE capital next weekend.

“Both teams have things to work on now for next week,” added Tonkin.

“A lot of sore bodies this morning so we need to make sure we’re well recovered.”

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