It’s not exactly “back to the drawing board”, but Mike McFarlane feels Abu Dhabi Harlequins can’t afford many more off days if they are to build on their fine start to the 2018/19 season.
Quins welcome defending West Asia Premiership champions Jebel Ali Dragons to Zayed Sports City this weekend looking to get back to winning ways following just a second defeat of the season in Bahrain a week ago.
McFarlane’s men were downed 39-20 in Saar by Louie Tonkin’s side, who leapfrogged Quins at the top of the table.
Quins trailed Bahrain 18-0 at one stage, a situation McFarlane felt left his side facing “mission impossible”.
“It has to be a game where we put our hands up and say we didn’t click today and the better team won,” said the fourth-year coach.
“We didn’t show up at the start and gifted them an 18-point lead which at a place like Bahrain sets up mission impossible.
“Their bench had a huge impact and we know with numbers this year we don’t have the depth we have had before.”
Quins are second on 20 points from four wins and two losses and McFarlane remains upbeat ahead of Dragons’ visit to the capital.
“It’s not back to the drawing board but certainly a warning that we can’t afford any more off days. We are looking forward to Dragons and putting in a Quins performance from one-22 against them.”
Dragons head to Abu Dhabi buoyed by an impressive result over Dubai Exiles – a thrilling 45-36 victory resuscitating their flagging campaign.
Mike Phillips’ men remain fourth but are only five points behind Quins, who they could draw level with if they achieve maximum points on Friday.
“The good thing is it’s a long season and that win gives us a nice platform to move in to next week,” said skipper Ross Samson.
“We played the best rugby we have played in a couple of years in the middle 40 minutes which is really encouraging.”
Bahrain, no question though, are the team to beat this season. Quins did pull back to 18-15 at one stage last week, but reinforcements off the bench for the hosts proved pivotal as Bahrain eventually sauntered to a convincing, bonus point win.
They now lead the way by four points ahead of a trip to Dubai Eagles this week, before returning to Dubai again the following week for a match against Exiles that will bring to an end the second block of games and signal a mini break ahead of the Dubai Sevens.
Tonkin felt the tussle between the top two was a great advert for the Premiership.
“It was a great win. If you’d said we would have won 5-0 beforehand we’d have bitten your hand off,” said the Welshman.
“It was a real high quality game, the highest standard I think we’ve been involved in out here. Both teams were going through high phases and defending well. It was a really good contest and advert for the league.
“Home games are really important. We’ve played them before and it’s been really close but we have dropped some key opportunities before – but on the weekend we took those opportunities.
“I think the bench coming on was the difference. From 58 minutes we dripped some key players on and that proved the difference. Quins brought it back to 18-15 but put key subs saw us ramp up the intensity and we scored three brilliant tries at the end. One of them was a bit contentious so we maybe got some luck, but it was our turn to get some luck.”
Looking ahead to the trip to winless Eagles this week, Tonkin added: “We’ve got two more games now to finish this block before the Sevens, Eagles away and Exiles at home, so two big games for us and hopefully we can finish the block in a really strong position.”
In Friday’s other fixture, Exiles host Hurricanes in a Dubai derby at The Sevens.
19:00 Dubai Eagles v Bahrain
19:00 Dubai Exiles v Dubai Hurricanes
19:00 Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Jebel Ali Dragons
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