Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Harlequins meet in seismic West Asia Premiership clash

Matt Jones - Editor 17:36 16/01/2019
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Bahrain beat Exiles in a thrilling West Asia Cup final last season.

Bahrain could feasibly have one hand on the West Asia Premiership title this weekend when they take on rivals Abu Dhabi Harlequins in a mouthwatering top of the table clash in the UAE capital.

The two sides have been a cut above the competition for the majority of the 2018/19 season and head into Friday’s seismic clash at Zayed Sports City 15 points clear of third-placed Jebel Ali Dragons.

Quins have 40 points from eight wins and two defeats, with Bahrain four points ahead, having lost just once all term – a 31-20 defeat to Dubai Exiles back in October.

“It’s a huge one this week for both teams,” Bahrain coach Louie Tonkin said.

For Quins, it feels like a pivotal week. They came back after the Christmas and Dubai Sevens break last week with an emphatic 57-31 defeat of Exiles, impressive giving the mini hiatus and in the wake of head coach Mike McFarlane’s exit from the club.

The Englishman has returned home for personal reasons, with the club set to release a statement in the coming days.

Mike McFarlane has returned home after four years in charge of Quins.

Mike McFarlane has returned home after four years in charge of Quins.

Win and they could go top of the table – with a bonus point. Lose and Bahrain will be heavy favourites to lift the trophy with four more games left this season.

Quins assistant coach Rory Greene said: “We’re approaching the game in the same way as we always do. We respect everyone in the league and there are no easy games anymore even if some scores say otherwise.

“Bahrain are the form side and we know we will have to be on top of our game to put them under pressure. However, our games are always really good, physical battles and we are expecting the same this weekend.

“There is still five matches to go in the league so a loss to Bahrain won’t be catastrophic but will obviously make it very hard to catch them.”

Elsewhere, Dragons and Exiles meet at The Sevens. Dragons – shorn of former Wales and British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips as coach, he left last week after six months – won last week under new coach Colin Philips.

Exiles will hope for a victory while they will also be looking over their shoulder for Dubai Hurricanes, who are just a point behind and could leapfrog them into the coveted fourth spot with a win at Dubai Sports City over Eagles.

Eagles are searching for a maiden win of the campaign, having lost 10 straight fixtures.

FIXTURES

Friday

15:00 Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Bahrain

17:00 Dubai Exiles v Jebel Ali Dragons

19:00 Dubai Eagles v Dubai Hurricanes

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