Louie Tonkin was delighted as Bahrain claimed the first piece of silverware of the new Gulf rugby season – but claims their defeat of Abu Dhabi Harlequins means nothing if they can’t back it up in the UAE capital next weekend when the West Asia Premiership kicks off.
Bahrain claimed a gripping 27-21 triumph over Quins at home on Friday to win the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League – denying Mike McFarlane’s men a three-peat in the pre-season curtain raiser.
The two do it all again next weekend as the 2018/19 season gets under way, and Bahrain coach Tonkin is already focused on the game at Zayed Sports City.
“I’m delighted with the win but it doesn’t count for much now if we don’t back it up next week,” said the Welshman.
“We have to go to Abu Dhabi next Friday and do it all over again.”
Quins relinquished their grip on a trophy now in its fifth year and one they had won for the past two years. But a third was denied by the hosts, who added it to the West Asia Cup they won last season – a maiden piece of silverware in eight years.
McFarlane called it a “learning curve” for his side, one which are attempting to remain competitive this term despite a flurry of departures for the second summer in succession.
“It was a fiercely contested game as ever with great patches of play from both teams,” McFarlane said of a game that ebbed and flowed superbly.
“A frustrating first half with the breakdown which prevented any continuity of rugby. A convincing start to the second half saw us back in the game but poor game management led us to losing the game in the last 20 minutes.
“I said to the boys it’s a learning curve and as long as we take away those lessons then it’s a positive experience. We’ve got to learn to play with conditions put upon us and be proactive in our decision making on the field to try and combat them.
“I’m really happy a lot of the boys got great minutes under their belts and we look forward to hosting Bahrain next week. It’s always a pleasure visiting Louie and the boys and we are always looked after so well.”
Tonkin praised the performance of both fly-halves, his own Ross Preedy and Quins’ Luke Stevenson, who enjoyed superb games.
“Both 10s were incredible with positional kicking and from the tee. Luke Stevenson was excellent in the second half and Ross Preedy for us was exceptional – a great showpiece between two fantastic outside halves,” said Tonkin.
“It was a really good game, tough and intense and highly pressurised for a game at this stage of the season. It was pretty rare.
“The momentum kept switching. We were dominant the first 15 minutes then they became dominant before half-time. It could have gone either way.
“We were very pleased to get the outcome. It was 24-21 with five minutes left and they put us under intense pressure, so we were delighted to get the right side of the result.”
Both teams will now hope to recover ahead of what is sure to be another battle in the UAE capital next weekend.
“Both teams have things to work on now for next week,” added Tonkin.
“A lot of sore bodies this morning so we need to make sure we’re well recovered.”
South Africa pulled off a shock 36-34 victory over the world champion All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday, steered home by the accurate boot of Handre Pollard.
It was New Zealand’s first loss in the competition in three years, although they remain head of the table with two rounds still to play.
The All Blacks outscored the Springboks six tries to five but pivot Beauden Barrett was successful with only two of six shots at goal, while Pollard landed five out of six.
Here, we take a look at the key stats from the match.
89: Metres made by All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane. The Auckland Blues star used his speed to break down the granite-like Springboks defence and attempted to put his teammates in better attacking positions
2: Tries scored by Ioane in a sterling display. The 21-year-old has now recorded 18 international tries in 18 appearances.
6: Defenders beaten for Ben Smith and Ioane. The pair beat more defenders than any other player, with centre Ryan Crotty following closely behind on four.
28: Tackles made by Pieter-Steph du Toit. The Springboks back-rower completed 87.5 per cent of his attempted tackles and put his body on the line at every opportunity to disrupt the All Blacks momentum.
6: Missed tackles by fly-half Pollard. Although he was flawless from the boot, the 24-year-old missed nearly 40 per cent of his attempted 16 tackles. His half-back partner Faf du Klerk was next on the missed tackle charts with four.
633: Metres made by the All Blacks, which is over 60 per cent more than the 245 made by the Springboks.
79: Per cent territory for the All Blacks in contrast to 21 per cent for the Springboks. Unfortunately, the home side could not turn territory into points.
83: Per cent success rate from the boot of Pollard who landed five out of six kicks, in comparison to a dire 33 per cent success rate for Barrett (two out of six kicks).
193: Tackles made by the Springboks in contrast to just 36 for the All Blacks. Du Toit, with his stunning 28 tackles, nearly managed more tackles than the entire New Zealand team.
10: Penalties conceded by the Springboks in comparison to just three by the All Blacks.
South Africa pulled off a shock 36-34 victory over New Zealand in their Rugby Championship clash in Wellington on Saturday.
It was the All Blacks’ first loss in the competition for three years, although they remain head of the table with two rounds still to play.
Aphiwe Dyantyi (2), Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx and Cheslin Kolbe scored tries for South Africa. Handre Pollard landed four conversions and a penalty.
New Zealand’s tries were scored by Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane (2), Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea with two conversions by Beauden Barrett.
Here’s our report card from a thrilling contest.
Springboks class: After losing to Argentina and Australia, much pressure fell on Rassie Erasmus and his coaching team heading into this contest in Wellington. After a torrid start, they trailed 12-0 with 15 minutes gone, but instead of caving under the intense pressure, the Boks tightened up in defence and attack and went on to score 21 unanswered points.
They ran hard at the defensive line at every opportunity in a bid to force the All Blacks into mistakes. To survive a sin bin, some poor refereeing decisions and a strong wave of attack for the final 20 minutes, makes this a famous victory.
Determination in defence: The Springboks’ rush defence cut down the All Blacks’ space and gave them hardly any momentum, in fact, the Boks made 85 per cent of their tackles, a mammoth 193 out of 226, in contrast to the All Blacks’ 36 out of 46.
It may look a bit one-sided in terms of the All Blacks time in possession, but the way the Boks stayed so calm in the dying minutes was outstanding. Between the trojan work of Franco Mostert (23 tackles), Siya Kolisi (15), Pieter-Steph du Toit (28) and Warren Whiteley (17), the Boks had four warriors who stepped up when it mattered most.
Inaccurate All Blacks: The only way to beat the All Blacks is to force them to make mistakes. For a side renowned for their consistency, the world champions made some easy mistakes with Barrett kicking out on the full in the first half, brother Jordie making a hash of a quick throw, Anton Lienert-Brown throwing an intercept for Kolbe’s try as well as a litany of knock-ons in formidable attacking positions.
Two of these three mistakes led to tries, something Steve Hansen will not want a repeat of for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
Beauden Barrett’s place kicking: There is no doubt the Hurricanes man is one of the greatest fly-halves of this current generation, but for a two-time World Player of the Year, his place kicking is appalling.
He missed four out of six conversions, including an easy kick to force a draw following Savea’s try. His brother Jordie is a much better kicker and should be given the duties for the next game against Argentina in two weeks.
4mins: Jordie Barrett touches down the opening try after quick hands from a line-out saw the Blacks create space and the full-back run on to a delicate pass from brother Beauden to score.
15mins: The All Blacks double their advantage as Ben Smith bursts down the wing to send scrum-half Aaron Smith in from close range.
19mins: The visitors hit back. Strong carrying from Marx and Eben Etzebeth puts Le Roux in space and the Wasps man sends Dyantyi over in the corner.
24mins: Jordie Barrett opts for a quick throw in and the ball takes a bad bounce. Le Roux collects possession and runs in to put the Boks ahead.
32mins: The Boks score again as Marx touches down after a powerful driving maul.
37mins: Strong defence from the Boks pins the All Blacks back, but they find a gap and Ioane touches down.
40mins: Pollard kicks a penalty to stretch the lead to seven at the break (24-17).
43mins: Kolbe intercepts from Lienert-Brown and slaloms in for his first international try.
52mins: Ioane brushes aside Kolbe’s poor tackle and powers over for his 18th try in 18 matches.
58mins: Elton Jantjies sends a cleverly weighed pass out wide to Whiteley who sends Dyanti in for his second.
61mins: Codie Taylor burrows over for the All Blacks from a driving maul to make it 29-36, Barrett strikes the upright with his conversion.
74mins: All Blacks score as Savea peels off a driving maul to cross the line. Barrett hits the post again with the conversion – an easy chance to draw the game is thrown away.
TACTICAL TURNING POINTS
A belter of a Test. Erasmus’ side looked dangerous from 1-15 and their transition from defence into attack was outstanding.
It was the sheer ferocity of their speed in defence to prevent the All Blacks from gathering hard yards late in the contest that made the difference.
Perhaps a Springboks side of old would have buckled under the severe pressure, but this crop of players showed passion and determination to close out the contest – with All Blacks pressing for that winning score that never came.
Springboks – A: Not many faults in this famous display, but Erasmus needs to use this win to help build his side up over the remaining three games in the competition. Pollard at 10 makes everything tick. Magic.
All Blacks – C: The home side had chances to win the game late on, but mistakes at critical moments cost them victory. Barrett’s kicking from the tee needs to improve.