x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hurricanes caught in Gulf Top Six title storm as Doha protest

The Dubai side will today discover if they will be forced to relinquish the premier trophy in the region following a points dispute which has arisen because of the unrest in Bahrain.

Dubai Hurricanes, pictured in black playing Dubai Dragons, are fighting to keep the Gulf Top Six trophy.
Dubai Hurricanes, pictured in black playing Dubai Dragons, are fighting to keep the Gulf Top Six trophy.

The Dubai Hurricanes, the leading club side in the Gulf, will today discover if they will be forced to relinquish the premier trophy in the region following a points dispute which has arisen because of the unrest in Bahrain.

The Hurricanes were due to host Bahrain in the final round of matches in the Gulf Top Six on March 18, but the fixture was not played because the visitors were, apparently, unable to travel due to the situation in the Gulf state.

As a result, the Hurricanes were handed a five-point victory — four points for a win and a bonus for "scoring" four tries. The other two matches that weekend were also called off; the Dubai Dragons and Dubai Exiles were unable to raise a team for the trips to Doha and Abu Dhabi Harlequins respectively.

Doha and Harlequins were both awarded five-point victories, meaning Hurricanes won the 10-game league by a point from Doha.

However, Doha lodged a complaint on Friday, claiming that the Hurricanes should only have been awarded two points for a draw — as opposed to the five they received — as Bahrain were not unable to fulfil their fixture because of a "forced measure". This scenario would mean Doha would win the league by two points.

The Hurricanes became aware of the dispute on Friday night after they had beaten Doha, 20-15, in the West Asia play-off final in Qatar. A three-man Gulf rugby committee, comprising chairman Andy Cole, vice-chairman Gary Allen and secretary Richard Harris, will decide today the outcome of the hearing.

"We'll have to look at the rules and regulations to ensure the points have been awarded fairly," Cole said. "There was a query from a club last week and we are obliged to follow up that query on behalf of the club. We'll look at the rules to see what action should be taken."

Bahrain's readiness to travel and their previous travel record are two factors that are likely to be taken into consideration. "We could never have foreseen a situation like this," Harris said. "It's a tricky one. We've never been in a situation where a team couldn't play because of [unrest] in their region.

"It's a pity the game couldn't be played. If I was the chairman of Doha, I would also fight it, but we have to see what the rules say."

The news has taken the gloss of what has been a remarkable season for the Hurricanes, who have performed a clean sweep of the domestic silverware in winning the Dubai Rugby Sevens title, the West Asia crown and the Gulf Top Six.

"It's a really bitter end to the season," Chris Gregory, the Hurricanes captain, said. "We saw the two trophies [the Top Six and the West Asian play-off] on the table at the end of the match on Friday and then couldn't leave with one of them. Bahrain say they were unable to travel because of martial law but we saw half the team in the Irish Village [in Dubai] that night.

"We knew they had a weak team, had a few players missing and had nothing to play for. To them, that [the situation in Bahrain] was the final excuse. Doha are saying the points should be shared or the game played again. That isn't an option, for me. If they want to win it that way then let them have it. We won it fair and square as we are the best side."

Steve Holohan, who took over as coach from Brian Allen at Christmas, added: "They [Doha] are just being pedantic. We are not happy.

"The fact is the Dragons refused to travel to Doha and they got five points, yet Bahrain refused to travel to us and they are saying we shouldn't get five points.

"It leaves a sour taste as the Top Six is the one we wanted - that is the main prize."

 

kaffleck@thenational.ae