They say honesty is always the best policy and Bahrain coach Louie Tonkin admits he has no regrets over the club’s part in Abu Dhabi Harlequins being crowned West Asia Premiership champions.
Clubs had been competing in the tournament under the assumption that the league title would be decided via a play-off system.
In fact, rules published by tournament organisers Asia Rugby and sent to clubs before the start of the 2016/17 campaign clearly indicate that the Premiership is played on a league format with the team in first place at the end of the season crowned champions – as was the case in 2015/16.
This anomaly was not brought to light by anyone until Bahrain blew the whistle at the end of February, contacting Quins who had no clue their 47-7 defeat of Jebel Ali Dragons on February 24 meant they were champions.
It cost resurgent Bahrain the championship, but Tonkin insists it was the right thing to do.
“The rules got sent out to all clubs in September and it was clear this was the structure,” the Welshman said ahead of his side’s visit to Quins tomorrow (Friday).
“The issue with other clubs perhaps has been a lack of communication and marketing around the competition. It could have been documented or publicised better and then there would have been no confusion.
“I think that’s something that needs to be improved upon in the coming seasons so that everyone is aware they are two tier competitions.”
Tonkin, who has transformed Bahrain into championship contenders since taking the top job last July, feels Quins are deserving champions.
“I’m a big ambassador of the fact league champions are league champions,” he added.
“It’s a regular season league and the team that consistently wins more than anyone else should rightfully be crowned league champions and I don’t think anyone would complain that Quins have been the most consistent and best side in the league.
“They are rightfully and deservedly the champions. My opinion is there is no case for teams not knowing because the document was there to read from July.”
Bahrain head to Abu Dhabi to take on the champions tomorrow (Friday) but what looks like a mouthwatering spectacle and a possible West Asia Cup final has been dampened by Dubai Hurricanes forfeiting their trip to Doha.
That hands Alex Natera’s side a 20-0 bonus point win, meaning they cannot be caught in second place by Bahrain, thus ensuring a home semi-final for them in the Cup.
“It’s a dead rubber,” added Tonkin.
“We’re really disappointed Canes couldn’t field a side to go to Doha. We had a bit of a lifeline as we had hoped to go to Quins and play for a home semi-final which would be hugely significant. But it happens in Gulf rugby and it is what it is.
“What will be difficult for me and Mike (McFarlane, Quins coach) this week is we have a semi-final to play a week later and out of necessity both teams will have to rest some players.
“All I’ve heard from my players is how much we’ve improved on last season which we have. We went to Quins last season and lost by 100 points so we’re adamant and determined to show how far we have come as a squad and a club in a season.
“It will be played in a good spirit and we’re looking forward to a good game.”
Quins stalwart Ben Bolger has also played down the insignificance of the clash, insisting his side will want to maintain momentum.
“The boys are looking forward to getting back to playing,” he said. “We want to finish the league strong and keep the momentum going.”
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