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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

A ‘courageous shift’ for Cowie and Abu Dhabi Saracens, but also a ‘tough day’ in Doha

Plagued by visa issues, Abu Dhabi Saracens had just 17 in their matchday squad on Friday, forcing coach Winston Cowie into playing action in a 37-7 loss to Doha.
Abu Dhabi Saracens coach Winston Cowie shown during the pre-season in June. Reem Mohammed / The National
Abu Dhabi Saracens coach Winston Cowie shown during the pre-season in June. Reem Mohammed / The National

Five years after suffering a knee injury that has left him with permanently impaired mobility, Winston Cowie returned to the same playing field to renew his rugby career on Friday.

The New Zealander was recruited by Abu Dhabi Saracens this summer to act as a non-playing head coach. As an experienced hooker in the past, though, he also registered as a player to cover any potential problems regarding front-row availability.

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That was what faced them when visa issues prevented a variety of Saracens players from making the trip to Doha for their first official match in this season’s West Asia Premiership.

Only 13 of the original 22-man squad were able to travel. It meant Cowie and even the team physiotherapist, Tim Fletcher, the former Arabian Gulf player whose playing career was also curtailed by injury, were forced into emergency action.

Saracens eventually assembled a match day squad of 17 players, but were soundly beaten 37-7 as Doha bounced back from their opening day loss to Dubai Exiles.

Cowie was proud of his side’s display in adversity, on the field where he suffered serious ligament damage to his right knee in a match in 2011.

“Our boys put in a courageous shift considering all the problems we had, but it was a tough day at the office,” said Cowie, who is a former captain of Doha.

“The front row - Craig Nutt, Murray Reason, Andy Crabtree and Ross Byres - were huge. We must have had 100 scrums. From a personal point of view, to be out there for the full 80 minutes was fantastic and I loved every minute of it.

“I hadn’t planned to play this season, but I have got the hunger back after being involved with such a good bunch of guys at Saracens.”

In Dubai, Bahrain maintained their fine start to the season as they followed up their opening day thrashing of Jebel Ali Dragons with an away win at Dubai Hurricanes.

pradley@thenational.ae​

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