Ed Armitage says Bahrain team to beat as Dubai Exiles play host in West Asia Premiership

Matt Jones - Editor 21:26 03/10/2018
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Exiles won the Dubai Sevens and UAE Premiership crowns last season.

Ed Armitage is aware it will take a “huge effort” from Dubai Exiles to topple the West Asia Premiership’s early season pacesetters Bahrain.

The Yorkshireman says the west Asia side have proven themselves the “team to beat” in the initial two rounds of the 2018/19 season, but he is adamant his side will go for it, especially playing at home.

“Bahrain are coming off their Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League win and two convincing wins in the league too, proving themselves the team to beat,” said the Exiles scrum-half, who has returned to the UAE after a year working back home in the UK following the completion of his law degree.

“We’ve got a few boys missing too which makes our task even harder. We had three bad injuries in our first three games so it’s going to take a huge effort from the lads. But we can take credit from last week where we managed to put some good stuff together.”

Exiles beat Dubai rivals Hurricanes 45-26 last week to get their first win after going down narrowly to champions Jebel Ali Dragons in week one, losing 20-14.

Bahrain may be the team to beat, but Armitage is aware they have to come to The Sevens.

“They don’t have their huge support, so we’ve simply got to go out there and run them off their feet. I back our fitness to just go for it,” he added.

Bahrain are perfect after two games, with two bonus-point wins in the bag following a 24-14 victory at Abu Dhabi Harlequins and a big 52-16 triumph at home to Dubai Eagles a week ago.

Louie Tonkin led his side to an eventually comfortable 47-25 win in last season’s West Asia Cup final, although the scoreline flattered the victors, with Exiles having given them a real test.

And Tonkin isn’t sure what to expect from Jacques Benade’s men after two differing results.

“It’s been a really tough two weeks for us. We’re a bit banged up but excited to come to The Sevens for the first time, it’s a great place to play,” said Tonkin.

“Looking at Exiles’ results it’s hard to tell where they stand. We know Exiles will be hugely physical and have a great 10, we know it’ll be a big step up, but we feel we’re bringing a good enough squad to do a job.”

Elsewhere, Quins coach Mike McFarlane says his side’s tremendous 46-22 win over Dragons in Jebel Ali last week counts for little if his men don’t follow victory up with another on Friday.

His side travel to Dubai again to take on Eagles, and McFarlane labelled it a “massive game”.

“We’re chuffed with last week’s performance, I felt we executed a carefully prepared game plan, but unless we put on another big performance, it makes nothing of last week, so we’re looking to follow it up,” he said.

Life after Henry Paul hasn't got off to a great start for Dragons.

Life after Henry Paul hasn’t got off to a great start for Dragons.

“We’ve come out unfortunately with more injuries, three, including Siri (Number 8 Laladidi) who’s done his ACL, Rickus (Swart, scrum-half) will be out for a long time too with neck and shoulder injuries following a horrendous late tackle last week.

“But we’ve got a more than good enough squad to do the job and we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully we come away with a good performance that leads to a positive result.”

As for Dragons, they will be desperate to put last week’s defeat behind them having started their season in pretty uninspiring fashion, with a narrow six-point win over Exiles hardly dominant.

“It’s always good to play a local derby. We need to put things right after a rough one last week v Quins,” said scrum-half Ross Samson.

Dragons travel to The Sevens to take on Canes on Thursday.

“We have had a good week of training and are looking forward to hopefully putting in a good performance. Historically our matches v Canes always tend to be closely fought and pretty scrappy so I’ve packed my tin hat just in case.”

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