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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Bahrain delivering on their 'potential' as Abu Dhabi Harlequins win puts them top of West Asian Premiership

Jebel Ali Dragons and Dubai Hurricanes also triumphant during sixth week of the season

Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow, edged out a 30-28 victory over winless Dubai Sports City Eagles in the West Asia Premiership on Friday. Reem Mohammed / The National
Dubai Hurricanes, in yellow, edged out a 30-28 victory over winless Dubai Sports City Eagles in the West Asia Premiership on Friday. Reem Mohammed / The National

Louie Tonkin, the Bahrain coach, believes his side are starting to show signs of delivering on their potential, after reaching the summit of the West Asia Premiership.

Watched by another sizable crowd at their home ground in Saar, Bahrain beat their familiar rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins 39-20 on Friday night.

That gave them a four-point cushion over their visitors at the top of the Premiership table.

As the only non-UAE side in the competition, Bahrain are hindered by the extra cross-border travel they have to make compared with their rivals across the course of the season.

However, they also have advantages that the others struggle to match, not least of which is a vociferous home support.

Although they have competed for major honours in recent times, the top award – the Premiership title – has so far eluded them.

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After six matches, they have lost just once. Tonkin pointed out it is still early in the campaign, but was happy with the progress his side are making, as shown in the win over Harlequins.

“I felt last night was the closest we have been to reaching our potential,” Tonkin said.

“We have been in loads of those close games over the past two years, and not put those games away. We have created a lot of opportunities, but perhaps the skill level was not quite where it needed to be.

“I always said when I came out here that I had a three-year plan, and really wanted to turn this club into something special, and make a really sustainable rugby programme built on solid foundations.

“We are not getting ahead of ourselves. It is only Round 6 out of 15, but things are going really well at the moment.”

Mike McFarlane, the Harlequins coach, is content to be within striking distance of the leaders, as they try to balance injury problems and unavailability, and he said the hosts were worthy winners.

“We were beaten by the better side, so it is not really such a tough one to take, as such,” McFarlane said.

“Bahrain have great strength in depth, and their bench made a massive impact. It didn’t help that we gave them an 18-point lead, and didn’t bother turning up for the first 20 minutes.

“We got it back to 18-15, then their bench made its impact. Hats off to them, we were beaten by the better side, and you have to be able to say that sometimes.”

Jebel Ali Dragons breathed life back into their campaign after a tough start to their West Asia title defence, as they beat Dubai Exiles 45-36 at the Centre of Excellence.

Dubai Sports City Eagles remain winless and rooted to the foot of the table, but they were within two points of getting the better of Dubai Hurricanes.

Hurricanes eventually won out 30-28. They are fifth in the sixth team table, but just a point behind Exiles in third.