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Match Report – A spirited Bahrain side fall just short of the Dragons

Bahrain vs Jebel Ali Dragons Match Report – 9th March 2018

A huge Bahrain crowd saw a spirited Bahrain side fall agonisingly short to 2018 West Asia Premiership (WAP) Champions Jebel Ali Dragons in a thrilling encounter at BRFC. Two sides throwing themselves into battle in a deciding end of season match is a mouth-watering prospect and it certainly didn’t disappoint the biggest crowd of the season. It was a hugely intense and physical battle and both sides will be dressing their wounds for weeks to come.

Jebel Ali came to Bahrain with a full strength side despite fears of facing visa issues at Bahrain immigration and they knew they needed to win with a bonus point to secure the West Asia Premiership title. The Bahrain side knowing that the title was probably out of their grasp but were dedicated towards the win to secure a home semi final in the West Asia Cup.

Bahrain got on the score card early with two great sequences of pressure leading to two well kicked penalties by outside half Luke Radley. An error in a Bahrain possession gave the Dragons a penalty and thereafter a line-out on the Bahrain 5m line. They hammered away and after 6 phases of attack they found the Bahrain defenders sleeping unorganised on the blindside of a ruck and a clever inside pass from the winger putting in the Dragons number 6 for the opening try – well converted by outside half James Love. Bahrain 6 – Dragons 7.

The Bahrain passion and spirit earned them a great period of play in the Dragons half and with some great carrying from the Bahrain forwards and a great offload from Man of the Match Mani Tupou put Greg Heath in at the corner – a missed conversion making the score Bahrain 11 – Dragons 7.

Bahrain showed fantastic courage and endeavour to attack but a number of unforced errors in the last ten minutes of the first half kept letting the Dragons off the hook – some great kicking from impressive outside half James Love, brother in law of Bahrain stalwart Rich Wilkinson kept relieving the pressure and kept pushing Bahrain back into their own half. A yellow card was awarded to the Dragons number 13 for a high tackle but Bahrain were unable to capitalise before half time. A last minute penalty from Love made the half time score 11-10 to the home side.

The Dragons came out after half time full of energy and hunger and produced perhaps their best period of play in their recent history scoring 3 quick tries from some individual brilliance from Love and some intense pressure on the Bahrain line. The Bahrain side were really up against it now with Dragons celebrating as if they’d won the league on the 50 minute mark. The reaction was strong from the team and a substitution at 10 in Ross Preedy sparked a resurgence in the Bahrain attack. Bahrain attacked from left to right with real vigour and looked odds on to score a spectacular try but a brave play from Dragons winger Niko Volavola stopping a certain try jumped out of the line and won an interception and ran in 70m to score the nail in the coffin try. Bahrain 11 – Dragons 36.

With 25 minutes to go Bahrain could have easily laid down but their character shone through strong to bring real pride to all the Bahrain faithful that came out to support. Spirited attacks from all over the field orchestrated brilliantly by the outstanding Preedy in his comeback from a 2 year injury layoff saw Bahrain score three fantastic tries by Iwan Phillips (giving him a personal try record of 11 tries in 12 games), Mani Tupou and perhaps the best of the day coming Luke Radley at the death – all converted by Preedy. The full time score Bahrain 32 – Dragons 36. If the game was 5 minutes longer then who knows what the outcome would have been and the Bahrain team have to take real confidence from the way they dominated the game in the last 25 minutes.

A disappointing end to another successful West Asia Premiership campaign from a Bahrain perspective but the team will go away recover and regroup now as they have importantly qualified for the West Asia Cup Playoffs. Finishing fourth in the WAP they have been drawn against first placed Dragons away on the 23rd March where they will have a chance to get their revenge with a mouth-watering rematch and crucial semi final.

West Asia Cup Semi Finals –

Jebel Ali Dragons vs Bahrain – 23rd March 2018 @ 5pm

Abu Dhabi Harlequins vs Dubai Exiles – 23rd March 2018 @ 5pm

West Asia Cup Final –

Friday 30th March 2018 @ 7pm