New Abu Dhabi Harlequins coach Niall Lear got his regime off to a stunning start with a 56-16 triumph over old foes Jebel Ali Dragons as the West Asia Premiership season got under way.
The Scot marvelled at the performance of his side, who ran away with the game in the latter stages, admitting that he feels things can “only get better” as the season goes on.
But Quins weren’t the highest scorers on opening night last Friday as Dubai Hurricanes stormed to a 58-10 triumph over amalgamated outfit Dubai Knights Eagles at The Sevens.
Elsewhere, promoted team Dubai Tigers – two-time champions of the UAE Conference – gave a good account of themselves in a 39-5 defeat to defending champions Bahrain, who began life without Louie Tonkin with victory.
“It was a great evening,” said Lear, who only arrived in July and is the first permanent replacement for Mike McFarlane who departed halfway through last season.
“It was great to see the boys finally in action and putting into practice some of the things we have worked on. If someone had said to me opening day we’d win 56-16 I would have bitten their hand off so as a club we are happy, but need to keep pushing.”
The former Connacht A, Scottish Schools and Scotland Under-18 international added: “We came out of the blocks pretty quickly and scored three quick tries in the first 20 minutes. As is normally the case when you run into an early lead, we fell away a little bit from there and allowed Dragons back into the game.
“A combination of us looking for that miracle ball or making uncharacteristic mistakes and some class play from them. The final 20 minutes were really good and as the game opened up a bit we ran away with things.
“So many positives to take from that kind of performance, the great thing is that it can only get better and that’s the goal for us, consistent improvement.
“Against some other teams if we played like that we would have been punished and it’s great that the boys identified that.”
Bahrain’s forwards coach Lindsay Gibson paid tribute to new boys Tigers following the champions’ victory at Dubai Sports City.
“It was a tough game and a good win for us,” added the Scottish prop, who is assisting head coach Adam Wallace following Tonkin’s return back to the UK to work with Exeter Chiefs.
“The main objective was to obviously get a bonus point and on the way to hopefully defend our league title.
“The Tigers boys were outstanding to be fair, I thought they were brilliant. You can tell they’ve got a good base level there and they’re used to winning. They made it a real tough game for us, especially the first 30 minutes.”
West Asia Premiership results
Dubai Hurricanes 58 Dubai Knights Eagles 10
Dubai Tigers 5 Bahrain 39
Jebel Ali Dragons 16 Abu Dhabi Harlequins 56
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