Either side would have been worthy of victory at The Sevens last night in a free-flowing battle that swayed back and forth.
As it was, the 13-man visitors survived the late dismissal of their captain Adam Wallace to cling onto the narrowest of victories, 22-19, one which moves them above Dragons and into third place in the West Asia Premiership.
For impressive home fly-half Dan Bell, defeat was all the more excruciating as it came against his former team.
“It’s my old team and I’ve got a few mates there, so it’s even worse to lose, it’s a little harder to take,” he said.
“It was a good game but it’s not nice when you put all that effort in and come so close. The most frustrating thing was that it was so close and we played really well.
“There’s lots of positives we can take from today. We lost by three, we could easily have won by three. I think if either side had won there wouldn’t have been many complaints.”
Former team-mate Wallace, who otherwise had an outstanding game in the centre for Bahrain, was thankful his late shoulder tackle on flying UAE full-back Imad Reyal had no lasting consequence.
“I did think a little bit that I might have cost the team victory,” he said.
“I have faith in our pattern and structure though and we knew what we had to do to close it out, and we held on.”
Bahrain had blitzed Dragons 51-10 in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season. No-one was expecting the same performance and it was the hosts who opened the scoring after 15 minutes in fine style.
Tenacious flanker Matt Henry did superbly to steal ball in midfield to set the platform. From there former Scotland 7s scrum-half Ross Samson jinked his way through the Bahrain defence, committed the last defender and sent Reyal strolling over.
It proved to be the game’s benchmark.
After the excellent Luke Radley reduced the arrears with a penalty, the visitors took the lead through Wallace’s try.
After fielding a clearance kick, winger Deina Morete launched a counter-attack, taking the ball from Wallace who continued his run and was on hand to take a return pass, and he had enough strength hold off a tackler to get to the line for a superb score. Radley brilliantly converted from the touchline.
Another fine counter saw Henry Paul’s side retake the lead minutes after the restart, Bell made the yards and offloaded to Sammy Ewing who streaked in, Bell’s excellent conversion making it 12-10 to the hosts.
The lead lasted just a few minutes though, Radley and Wallace again instrumental as Lewis Chance crossed the whitewash.
Powerful Dragons prop Dan Minks barged over in the 55th minute to give the game its fourth lead change as Paul’s men led 19-15.
Just as it looked like they might hold out, however, Dragons were cruelly slain. Their defence held out initially but an overlap eventually saw Arron Dalgarno burrow over with four minutes remaining.
Radley again knocked over a brilliant conversion to give Bahrain a three-point lead and there was plenty of time for more drama.
Wallace saw red while replacement Joel Lewis was also sin-binned. Dragons inched closer and closer into Bahrain territory but Louie Tonkin’s men defended for their lives, leaving their coach mightily relieved.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the win. We got let off the hook at the end. I thought they were going to steal it,” he said.
“If I didn’t have a bald head already, I’d have one now. The boys defended for their lives the last five minutes. It could have gone either way. I’m very happy with the boys’ character.”
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