x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bahrain clock up the miles to clinch title

Bahrain continue to present the image of a club in rude health after clinching the Prosperity Premiership title with a 43-3 victory over the Dubai Exiles.

While the rest of Arabian Gulf rugby ready themselves for an uncertain future, Bahrain continue to present the image of a club in rude health after clinching the Prosperity Premiership title with a 43-3 victory over the Dubai Exiles at the weekend. The triumph was hard-earned by a club who have to travel abroad for every away match. Such a taxing travel programme has provided too great a burden for many clubs in the region, but the new champions believe it has been the reason for their success.

"We have a tremendous squad unity and spirit," said Bob Phillips, the manager, who was still playing in the front-row when Bahrain last won the league 13 years ago. "Our guys spend a great deal of their lives together. They are in the club two or three times a week for training, then have 15 trips away per year. "Most other clubs struggle to get people on a plane, but our players are always straight up for it. If anyone is missing, there is always a genuine reason."

Elsewhere the league season is grinding towards a messy end, with the end of cross-border competition not coming soon enough for some clubs. Under new directives from the International Rugby Board, Gulf rugby will be restructured next season, with a Premier division populated solely by UAE clubs a likely outcome. Among other things, it is hoped the ensuing reduction in travel costs will stem the amount of forfeited fixtures that have occurred this year.

On Friday, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the outgoing champions, opted not to travel to Oman for their game against Muscat, who are suspended for having failed to fulfil three fixtures this season. "It has been an eye-opener for the league, and paves the way forward to the future," said Richard Harris, the Harlequins chairman. pradley@thenational.ae