WEST ASIA CUP SEMI FINAL – Abu Dhabi Harlequins vs Bahrain Match Report – 23rd March 2018
What a fine day in Bahrain rugby history – a first win in Zayed Sports City for Bahrain 1st team as they claim a fantastic away win in the West Asia Cup Semi Final. The young squad travelled to Abu Dhabi with no easy task ahead of them – facing the reigning champions on their home turf is a challenge indeed with Abu Dhabi Quins winning 5 trophies out of 5 attempts last season.
Bahrain had played Quins 6 times in 2 years with last years West Asia Final and the 2017 West Asia Clubs Champions League games included and Bahrain had lost 5 and drawn 1. With the cards stacked against them they defeated the odds and managed to put out their best performance to date to earn an emphatic win – but it wasn’t easy and came with its dramas.
The game started at a frantic pace with both teams flying into each other. On occasion the physicality fizzled over with some scuffles breaking out between the teams. Abu Dhabi got penalised early on under the posts after some Bahrain pressure and Ross Preedy slotted it with ease giving Bahrain an early lead.
For the next 30 minutes every time Bahrain got into a good position to attack their discipline cost them as the referee kept penalising the team for a variety of offences thus relieving pressure on the opposition. Abu Dhabi being the clinical well lead team they are managed to score two good tries after sustained periods of pressure in the Bahrain half – the centre carving through on a great angle to go in unopposed and a great opportunist score from the impressive Andrew Semple. Another well struck Preedy penalty into the wind made the half time score a worryingly 14-6 to the home team’s favour.
Strong words at half time from the leaders rang of discipline and to stop letting the Abu Dhabi team off the hook. The team came out after half time better disciplined but unfortunately conceded another well worked try down the blindside and well converted giving Abu Dhabi a 15 point lead with 25 minutes to go.
Some strong substitutions on the 60-minute mark really impacted the game positively with some fresh legs with Sanson, Burnell and Booth replacing the heroic efforts of Davis Tui, Borrow and Sale. Bahrain for the first time had some good purchase deep in Abu Dhabi territory and through extensive pressure won a scrum on the 5m line. The front 5 were fantastic all game and walked the scrum over for Man of the Match, Number 8, Elliot Behan to control and dot down under the posts– converted by Preedy.
The belief in the group was growing by the second and was visible to see and Bahrain dominated the last 15 minutes. Bahrain for the first time managed to really put Abu Dhabi under pressure through great carries by the forwards and strong incisive runs by the backs. The pressure told with scrum half Rob Bennett breaking the line with a quick tap and scored a great solo effort under the posts – converted by Preedy making the score 21-20 with 10 minutes to go.
Every time Bahrain got possession in the last ten minutes they were dominant – crucial turnovers at key moments by an impressive and aggressive defence were the difference in the end – a great scrum on the Abu Dhabi 22 won Bahrain a penalty out wide. With Ross Preedy carrying a leg injury Bahrain stalwart Luke Radley stepped up to the plate under huge pressure and slotted a fine kick to take the lead 23-21 with 6 minutes to go.
The Bahrain team looked buoyant, fresh and extremely confident and they were always going to win at that point. Another period of well executed and controlled play gave Radley another shot at the sticks – with only 1 minute to play the decision to kick was the right one knowing the ball floating out of bounds; success or fail would bring a close to the game – he slotted it making the final score 26-21 to Bahrain and the elation started.
This really was a fantastic result for Bahrain and one of those special moments enjoyed by the players/ staff and the amazing travelling support. The job for the day was done but now all focus is on a West Asia Cup Final and even more importantly with Exiles beating Jebel Ali Dragons in the other semi final – Bahrain have won a home final for the first time in 10 years!!
We’ll hopefully see you all for a huge final match this Friday at 5pm. The squad will need you as they strive to make history in this special day at BRFC.
West Asia Cup Final 2018 – Bahrain vs Dubai Exiles BRC @ 5pm – Friday March 30th