Mike McFarlane called it “one of our most complete performances” after Abu Dhabi Harlequins beat champions Jebel Ali Dragons 38-20 to get back to winning ways in the West Asia Premiership.
Quins, who suffered their second defeat of the season in Bahrain a week ago, bounced back, and in some style, as they beat Mike Phillips’ reigning champions by 18 points in the capital.
“Physically the boys were outstanding and put all the small bricks together to put in a performance we demanded of ourselves after an off week last week,” said McFarlane.
“It was one of our most complete performances. From one-22 we put in great shifts and I thought we dominated most areas of the game, particularly the breakdown. I’m really happy with the forwards and the platform they provided the backs who finished clinically.”
McFarlane was pleased but will look to head into the break for the Dubai Sevens with another win against Dubai Eagles next week.
“We’ve got a big week ahead now in preparation for Eagles who have pushed teams close this season and we certainly won’t be taking anything for granted,” he added.
Quins are four point behind Premiership leaders Bahrain, who maintained their advantage at the top thanks to an 88-7 trouncing of the league’s bottom side, Eagles.
“It was huge for us to keep building momentum and build a strong position points difference wise,” said their coach Louie Tonkin.
There is a new team in third place after Dubai Hurricanes beat Exiles in the Dubai derby – Mike Wernham’s men triumphing 36-25 at The Sevens to move onto 20 points, five behind Quins in second. Both Exiles and Dragons suffered their fourth defeats of the season and they are fourth and fifth respectively on 16 and 15 points.
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
RAK Rugby will be hosting the inaugural Nick Young Annual Golf Day later this month in memory of one of the club’s former players.
Australian Young, 43, died on April 29 this year, in the aftermath of suffering a head injury while playing at the Sharjah 10s tournament days earlier.
He was buried in his homeland in May, leaving behind a wife and two young children.
The Nick Young Annual Golf Day will be hosted at Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah on Friday, November 16, and is the latest initiative to be organised in the wake of Young’s death.
Abu Dhabi rivals Quins and Saracens played a memorial game to honour Young at Saracens’ Al Ghazal ground in May, while RAK and Arabian Knights – who Young had been playing against when tragedy struck – put on the first Nick Young Memorial match in Sharjah on June 1.
“We’ve set this this golf day up as Nick was a massive lover sport and has two young lads and a wife back in Australia who we’d like to help out,” said RAK chairman Simon Williams.
“It’s also a chance for the rugby community and his friends to come together to remember a great man and have some fun in the name of a good cause.
“In addition, we have a Nick Young Trophy which is an annual rugby match between the Arabian Knights and RAK, as Nick was playing in a combined Knights/RAK team at Sharjah when the fatal incident occurred.
“These are annual fixtures, the golf being the first to be held and the second rugby trophy match will happen at the end of the season.
“We’d love to see every club send representatives but the event is open to anyone interested with the aim to have 72 players and all their friends and family along to enjoy as well as raise some money (and a toast) to Nick.”
Registration and payment are open for the event at 11:00 for a Shotgun start next Friday, with tee-off from 12:30 onwards.
The price is Dh375 per person (cash only) which will also include a barbecue, beverages, a prize giving ceremony and live entertainment.
For team reservations and further information, call Williams on 056 138 4379 or Galvin McKechnie on 050 536 8676, email [email protected].