Nearly six months to the day they met in an enthralling West Asia Cup final, Abu Dhabi Saracens and Doha were again separated by less than a converted try.
Only this time it was the Qatari side who triumphed, beating the reigning West Asia champions 19-14 as the pair opened the inaugural Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League in Doha yesterday, the scene of Sarries’ sweet victory back in March.
Sarries scored first and last, but Doha’s three length of the field tries in-between proved the difference as Aaron Palmer’s men gained a little bit of revenge and put themselves in the driving seat for Champions League glory.
Sarries’ bullocking South African hooker Gio Fourie, who scored two tries in the West Asia final, picked up right where he left off from an impressive debut season at Al Ghazal, crossing for the opening try, new Emirati signing and UAE international Hassan Al Noobi potting the extras.
Doha centre Greg Evans levelled the scores, sprinting 70 metres to touch down on the back of a turnover from a Sarries lineout, new fly-half Brook Tremayne tying things up.
Another Sarries mistake led to the hosts taking the lead, full-back Luke Ward capitalising for another breakaway score when an Abu Dhabi kick failed to make touch, Tremayne again adding the conversion.
Sarries were camped in Doha’s half for the majority of the second half but their fate seemed sealed when James Nakkan scorched 80 metres for another impressive try with 10 minutes to go.
Debutant Garth van Nierkirk gave Sarries a glimmer of hope with a late score, converted again by Al Noobi, but it proved to be in vain.
Former Arabian Knights man Al Noobi was happy to play his first competitive game for his new side but was disappointed it ended in defeat.
“I felt so good to be with the team but there were some mistakes which led to their tries,” he said.
“We played so well and in the second half, Doha didn’t see our try-line until they scored near the end. The boys are unhappy because we lost but we’re also happy we played well and we hope we can improve for the next game.”
Doha’s coach Aaron Palmer was impressed by what he saw.
“It was a very physical match by two teams that looked like they were in an end of season final not the first game,” he said.
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