It seems increasingly likely that an engaging West Asia Premiership title-race is going to come down to the wire following another enthralling weekend of action.
Dubai Exiles were demoted from top spot following a narrow 19-11 defeat in Bahrain – a first defeat in five games – with emphatic wins for Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Jebel Ali Dragons seeing them jump into first and second respectively.
Quins lead the way on 35 points after trouncing Dubai Hurricanes 55-15 at The Sevens, a game which also served as a semi-final for the UAE Premiership Cup – Quins will face Exiles in the final.
They are a point in front of Exiles and head coach Mike McFarlane said: “It’s a good win where our set-piece dominated. It was hot but the depth in quality told with an excellent impact from our bench. Our core skills and patience improved in the second half and we put the game to bed.”
The gap between the top four has been closed from six to four following the weekend, thanks largely to Bahrain’s marginal victory over Jacques Benade’s Exiles.
And coach Louie Tonkin feels the final round of fixtures – when they welcome Dragons on March 9 – will be crucial.
“It’s going to come down to the last game,” said the Welshman.
“There’s some big games left, Quins v Exiles next week is a big one and will play a big part, then it’s us and Dragons in the last round. We’ll end up where we end up.”
Despite all eyes focused firmly on the curtain coming down on the Premiership season in three weeks’ time, Tonkin insists he and his players are trying to stay as focused as possible on one game at a time.
“We’re trying really hard to focus on ourselves, as difficult as it is, taking it one game at a time,” he said.
“We’ve got Canes next week and they’re a very dangerous side, with a great scrum. We’re taking that game as a priority.
“We have to travel then to Eagles but we’re trying to focus on ourselves and not other things. The pleasing thing is Canes can’t catch us now. They’re 11 points behind with two games left so we’re qualified for the West Asia Cup, although we’re desperate for a home semi-final.”
Dragons chairman Stuart Quinn was happy his side got back to winning ways, soaring to a 57-7 bonus point win over Eagles to begin to erase defeat two weeks prior to Exiles.
“The boys looked a lot fresher after a weekend off,” said Quinn.
“It’s important now we go out and win every game and get as many points as we can, both in terms of bonus points and points on the scoreboard. As long as we get that job done, we will end up where we end up.”
And he was impressed with a much-improved Eagles, who will more than likely feel aggrieved at the margin of defeat.
Quinn added: “I think Eagles will be disappointed with their performance because I think they’ve got a lot better and I don’t think they quite deserved the humping they got.
“They’re certainly improving.”
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