Dubai Exiles got their season up and running with Durandt Gerber’s late penalty decisive as they won a Dubai derby against Hurricanes.
Fresh from their resounding 58-10 triumph over Dubai Knights Eagles on opening day, Canes would have been hoping to further cement hopes of throwing their hats into the title mix this season against their rivals.
And they did just that despite defeat, with the margin of victory for Jacques Benade’s men indicative of just how tight the fight for West Asia Premiership silverware could be in 2019/20.
“I was very happy with our first game. It’s a great win for us,” said Benade.
“We are definitely not where we want to be yet but we will get better throughout the season. There’s a lot of things to work on but a great effort from our boys.
“Canes will be very strong this year. They signed some great players and on paper they should be pushing for a good season.”
Benade was happy with his side’s first half show, but not content with the second as they had to grind out victory.
“We played a great first half with our set-piece very good, our patterns worked well and we created some good space outside. Our defence was great and Canes never threatened our line.
“The second half was a bit messy with the humidity but we changed how and where we wanted to attack Canes and the players must take credit in sticking what we know will work.
“Big carries with our forwards and great kicking from Durandt putting them on the back foot and we played in the right areas of the pitch. At 20-13 up I thought we were good for the win but a nasty bounce against the post put them level at 20-20.
“We dominated again the last seven minutes and were well rewarded with a penalty that Durandt kicked to win the game. I’m very happy with the players, they are enjoying themselves, training in great numbers.”
Elsewhere there was a second big win for reigning champions Bahrain who dismissed Knights Eagles 52-3, setting up a mouthwatering clash with Exiles next week.
Exiles were the only side Bahrain lost to in 15 games last season, while the feat was almost repeated in the West Asia Premiership final, Bahrain edging to a 23-21 victory.
“It’s good for momentum and builds up a massive game for next week,” said Bahrain forwards coach Lindsay Gibson.
“Exiles will feel hard done by losing to us in the final last year, so they’ll be out to get us. It’s a massive game and we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite the margin of victory, Gibson said victory was not the walkover the scoreline suggested.
He said: “We were really happy with the result. Fair play to Knights Eagles they were really impressive, defended really well.
“Didn’t have to many opportunities in attack but they made us work hard for it.
“It wasn’t until the second half when the fitness kicked in at the end and we carved them up the last 20 minutes, which didn’t do justice to how good they were.”
Bahrain ran in eight tries through Elliot Behan (2), Tommy Booth, Gibson, Jay Paila, Daniel Anae, Jack Phillips and Greg Heath, with Ross Preedy kicking five conversions.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins also won back to back games but were made to claw and scratch for victory against newly-promoted Dubai Tigers, who again impressed in defeat, going down 29-27 at Zayed Sports City.
A relieved Niall Lear said: “It was a good win. They were seriously effective and all pushed us all the way.
“They were organised defensively and posed a huge threat breakdown-wise which we just didn’t adapt too. Massive credit to Aaron (Persico, head coach) and his team, great guys on and off the pitch.
“We didn’t play to the level that the group are capable of but the great thing is everything we need to work on is an easy fix.
“For me it’s getting that consistency so we can execute and play to our structure for the full 80 rather than yesterday where we played in small periods.
“It’s a win and it’s another one in the bank. The boys will learn from it as will I – a hard week of preparation now before we head up to Dubai to play Knights Eagles next week.”
West Asia Premiership Results
Bahrain 52 Dubai Knights Eagles 3
Abu Dhabi Harlequins 29 Dubai Tigers 27
Dubai Hurricanes 20 Dubai Exiles 23
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