The top tier of rugby union in the Middle East region has gone through plenty of upheaval and any number of revamps over the last decade but current organisers must be pretty content with how things are shaping up ahead of the final round of the regular season of the latest carnation – the West Asia Premiership – this coming weekend.
Since the heady days of 2009 and 2010 – when the then Arabian Gulf Cup and Arabian Gulf Premiership were secured in successive seasons – Bahrain have had to watch on as money and power brought continued dominance to the ever-growing legion of clubs in the UAE but they are certainly right back in the mix of things now.
While top spot in the league standings might be out of reach – barring a frankly impossible result for new boys Dubai Eagles against reigning champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins – Bahrain welcome current league leaders Jebel Ali Dragons to the Saar fortress on Friday evening knowing that a win would not only derail the Dragons’ chances but also all but guarantee them a home semi-final in crucial end-of-season play-offs.
That the semi-final participants have been confirmed since early February should not detract from the high level of competitiveness of this season, with the top four in particular producing some ding-dong battles.
Bahrain have bounced back impressively from a couple of bitterly disappointing losses on the road to the two title contenders back in January and four wins on the bounce has them even more determined than ever to go one better than the epic cup final defeat to Quins last season.
On the face of things, Bahrain are in a similar position to this stage last season – having already secured a semi-final spot – but the reality is much different and so the Dragons should expect a warm welcome by players and fans alike for the 5pm kick-off in Saar on Friday.