Louie Tonkin praised the impact of his new players as well as a handful returning from long-term injuries as Bahrain beat Kandy to put themselves in the driving seat to claim the maiden trophy of the 2018/19 season.
Bahrain are competing alongside the Sri Lankan champions as well as Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the pre-season Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League tournament – which has acted as the traditional curtain-raiser to the Gulf rugby season since 2015.
The West Asia Cup champions won 31-20 in Sri Lanka, with Tonkin all the more pleased as it was his side’s first run-out of pre-season, having been training for just a month.
“I’m very happy with the win. It was a great performance considering we’re only four weeks into the pre-season,” said the Welshman, who led the club to their first trophy in eight years as they beat Dubai Exiles in last term’s West Asia Cup final.
“The most pleasing thing was the new boys who were making their debuts had a good performance. We had three long-term injuries back too and they played extremely well.
“Adam Wallace missed most of last season and came back in and led us exceptionally well. We had three yellow cards so there was a lot of leadership needed and he was immense for us in the middle and carried a lot of ball.
Below is our line-up that is travelling to Sri Lankan champs Kandy Sports Club.— Bahrain Rugby (@bahrainrfc) 29 August 2018
Watch the game live in our Clubhouse this Friday for a 1.30PM Kick-off.
For supporters further afield you can watch the stream by following this link https://t.co/qRisgzEvRr#REDWALL #bahrainrugby pic.twitter.com/KnR84b6Ey3
“We also had Ross Preedy and Rich Muncaster off the bench. Munky’s been out for almost a year so it was very pleasing to get him out there.
“He played very well and got us a penalty try that got us the bonus point late on, so very, very happy and looking forward to the next challenge which is (Abu Dhabi) Quins in two weeks.”
Kandy travel to Abu Dhabi this weekend before Bahrain host Quins on September 14 in what is likely to be a showdown for the trophy.
“The guys’ intent to win was excellent,” added Tonkin.
“We spoke about making sure we win the battle of the effort. It was huge to go there and start with a win and build some momentum.
“I was pleased with the defence. The guys worked hard for each other. We were defending 13 or 14 phases which is pretty unheard of in our league.
“In attack we wanted to strangle them and play very direct and I’m happy with the way that went. It was the right thing to do for the first game. We thought we would be more physical than them but we’ll try and open that up now as we go forward.”
Lindsey Gibson went over at the back of a driving maul to open the scoring before Thilina Wijesinghe’s penalty made it 5-3.
Luke Radley made it 8-3 when he added a three-pointer midway through the half, and another two made it 14-3 at the break to Bahrain.
The visitors exerted their dominance further after the interval when Suna Famitao crossed wide on the left, Radley failing to land the touchline conversion, as Tonkin’s men led 19-3.
Asia Western Club Rugby League championship 2018— Kandy Sports Club (@kandyscofficial) 2 September 2018
1st Week - FULL TIME - 🏉👉🇳🇱️
Kandy Sports Club 20 vs 31 Bahrain Rugby Football Club
🏉 Vishva Mithra Jayasinghe(T1)
🏉 Lahiru Daulagala (T1)
Kandy’s efforts were finally rewarded as Buwaneka Udangamuwa found himself in space and did well to get a pass out to Wishwamithra Jayasinghe, who touched down in the left-hand corner to score their first try of the game.
Wijesinghe’s conversion made it 19-10 and his penalty then cut the gap to six.
Two tries in just two minutes killed Kandy’s comeback though, Tom Bell and a penalty try taking the men in red clear. Burnwell’s effort came after he burst through two tackles before impressively outsprinting the cover defence on his way over the line.
Repeated scrum infringements led to the fourth, bonus point score, with Lahiru Daulagala’s late try only a consolation as Bahrain left the Nittawela Stadium in confident mood as they look to end Quins’ two-year reign as champions.
The Cheetahs and Southern Kings got their PRO14 seasons off to a disappointing start this weekend as their best efforts left them short on the scoreboard against Munster and Zebre Rugby Club respectively.
Both teams started off their clashes competitively, but they fell off the pace as the opposition made better use of their try-scoring opportunities.
The Cheetahs tried hard to make their presence felt against Munster in Limerick, but their limited possession and turnovers at crucial times cost them dearly with the team suffering a 38-0 defeat.
Munster attacked at will throughout the match, and although the Free Stater’s did well to shut them out early on, they were unable to continue this for the full 80 minutes, which saw the hosts and 2017 Semi-finalists run in six tries to none after holding a slender 12-0 halftime lead.
The Southern Kings also delivered a determined display against Zebre Rugby Club in Parma, where they found themselves trailing 10-7 after 15 minutes as Mikey Botha scored a try to cancel out the one by Zebre’s Oliviero Fabiani.
The home team, however, scored another try shortly before the break to hand them a 17-7 lead and they added two more after the break, while the men from Port Elizabeth opted for three second-half penalty goals by Masixole Banda as they battled to breach the defence, which saw them go down 34-16.
In the other matches, defending champions, Leinster, pipped the Cardiff Blues 33-32 at Cardiff Arms Park and Ospreys held on for a 17-13 victory against Edinburgh in Swansea on Friday.
In Saturday’s matches Connacht Rugby suffered a heart-breaking 27-26 defeat against the Glasgow Warriors in Galway, Ulster best the Scarlets 15-13 in Belfast, and the Dragons went down 17-21 against Benetton Rugby in Newport.
PRO14 Round 1 results and scorers (click on the hyperlink for the full scoresheet):
Munster 38 (12) Cheetahs 0 (0)
Munster – Tries: Dave Kilcoyne, Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy
Zebre Rugby Club 34 (17) Southern Kings 16 (7)
Zebre Rugby Club – Tries: Oliviero Fabiani, Mattia Bellini, Apisai Tauyavuca, Jimmy Tuivaiti. Conversions: Carlo Canna (4). Penalty Goals: Carlo Canna, Giovanbattista Venditti.
Southern Kings – Tries: Mikey Botha. Conversion: Masixole Banda. Penalty Goals: Masixole Banda (3).
All three sides kicked off their campaigns on a winning note in the second round of the tournament last week, and they continued their fine form for a full house of points.
Defending champions Western Province proved too skilful for the Pumas in Nelspruit as they outscored the hosts eight tries to four for a rewarding 57-28 victory. Such was their dominance, the Capetonians secured their bonus-point try in the 26th minute.
SP Marais was a key figure, scoring a try, seven conversions and a penalty goal for 22 points, while Sergeal Petersen also made his presence felt as he touched down twice.
A hat-trick by Blue Bulls flanker Ruan Steenkamp was not enough in Pretoria as the team went down 38-31 against the Golden Lions in a fast-paced Gauteng derby.
Hacjivah Dayimani was in solid form for the visitors once again as he touched down twice, while Shaun Reynolds also made a vital contribution with his try, five conversions and a penalty goal for a personal total of 18 points. That penalty goal proved to be the difference on the scoreboard as both sides scored five converted tries.
The Sharks had to work hard for their narrow 33-29 victory against the young Free State Cheetahs side in Bloemfontein, with three of their five tries being compliments of rolling mauls.
Their skipper, Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored two of these five-pointers, while the Free Stater’s flyhalf, Louis Fouche, was their go-to-man as he scored two of their four tries, two conversions and a penalty goal to keep them in the game.
Currie Cup Round 3 results and scorers
Blue Bulls 35 (28) Golden Lions 38 (21)
Blue Bulls – Tries: Andre Warner, Ruan Steenkamp (3), Johnny Kotze. Conversions: Manie Libbok (5).
Golden Lions – Tries: Shaun Reynolds, James Venter, Dillon Smit, Hacjivah Dayimani (2). Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (5). Penalty Goal: Shaun Reynolds.
Free State Cheetahs 29 (15) Sharks 33 (19)
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Louis Fouche (2), Lloyd Greeff, Penalty Try. Conversions: Louis Fouche (2). Penalty Goal: Louis Fouche.
Sharks – Tries: Chiliboy Ralepelle (2), Wian Vosloo, Dan Du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Robert Du Preez (3), Curwin Bosch.
Pumas 28 (14) Western Province 57 (29)
Pumas – Tries: JP Lewis, Chris Smith, Le Roux Roets, Jerome Pretorius. Conversions: Chris Smith (4).
Western Province – Tries: Kobus van Dyk, SP Marais, Sergeal Petersen (2), Ruhan Nel, Ernst Van Rhyn, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Herschel Jantjies. Conversions: SP Marais (7). Penalty Goal: SP Marais.
Currie Cup First Division
The Valke and Leopards continued to stamp their authority in the Currie Cup First Division as they continued their winning ways to remain the only unbeaten teams after the second pool round.
The Valke’s Friedle Olivier was the hero of the day in Welkom as his second try on the stroke of fulltime handed the team a nail-biting 56-52 victory against defending champions, the Griffons, in a thrilling encounter in which a whopping 108 points were scored.
A strong first half by the SWD Eagles and braces by Marlo Weich and Ruben Schoeman, meanwhile, nudged them to a 37-22 victory in East London against the Border Bulldogs, who delivered a strong second-half showing but were unable to undo the damage caused by their porous first-half defence.
In Potchefstroom the Leopards were dominant from the outset against the Boland Cavaliers, which earned them a convincing 35-12 victory. The host scored five tries to Boland’s two after racing to a confidence-boosting 28-0 halftime lead.
Currie Cup First Division Round 2 results and scorers ((click on the hyperlink for the full score sheet):
Griffons 52 (38) Valke 56 (21)
Griffons – Tries: Danie van der Merwe (3), Cody-Anthony Basson, Shirwin Cupido, Niel Stannard, Rodney Damons, Nkululeko Marwana. Conversions: Duan Pretoruis (6).
Valke – Tries: Friedle Olivier (2), Shane Kirkwood, Etienne Taljaard (2), Grant Donavon Janke, Don Mlondobozi, Penalty Try. Conversions: Anrich Richter (5), Errol Jaggers (2).
Border Bulldogs 22 (8) SWD Eagles 37 (32)
Border Bulldogs – Tries: Somila Jho, Soso Mqalo (2).Conversions: Dilolo Mapuko, Aphiwe Stemele. Penalty Goal: Bangi Kobese.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Marlo Weich (2), Ruben Schoeman (2). Conversions: Divan Nel (3). Penalty Goals: Divan Nel (2).
Leopards 35 (28) Boland Cavaliers 12 (0)
Leopards – Tries: Marius Stander, Gerhard Nortier, Akhona Nela, Bradley Moolman, Jimmy Mpailane. Conversions: Gerhard Nortier (4), DP de Lange.
Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Clemen Lewis, Tapiwa Tsomondo. Conversion: Jacquin Jansen.
GRAPHIC: Recent Currie Cup winners. Who will lift the trophy this year? pic.twitter.com/S7j7Icitte— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) August 25, 2018