Bahrain RFC will this weekend play host to the West Asia Cup Final for the first time in eight years, after a memorable 21-26 victory over reigning champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins in last Friday’s semi-final.
Dubai Exiles will be the visitors to Saar for the upcoming showpiece occasion after the UAE outfit secured an impressive 20-31 away win over league champions Jebel Ali Dragons in the last four.
A penalty by centre-turned-fly-half Luke Radley with the final play of the game at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday evening completed an epic comeback for Louie Tonkin’s Bahrain side and with it, a first victory of any kind over the heavyweight Harlequins since March 2010.
Up to that point, the result had seemed most unlikely, as the hosts – renowned for an almost-impeccable home record – worked their way into a healthy 21-6 approaching the hour mark thanks to a third converted try without response.
Bahrain then produced arguably their most complete 20 minutes of the whole season as tries from Elliot Behan and Rob Bennett along with ten points from the boots of Radley and Ross Preedy – to go with two first half penalties from Preedy – turned the game on its head.
As with any of the other six encounters between these two sides since Tonkin took over the reins in the summer of 2016, this game certainly wasn’t lacking in intensity as the two sides tore into each other from the off.
It was Preedy who got the scoreboard moving after five minutes with his first successful kick from the tee but thereafter, Bahrain’s discipline deserted them and allowed ‘Quins create two first-half tries, both of which were converted by skipper Luke Stephenson.
A second Preedy penalty made it 14-6 at the break but when another refereeing decision went against the visitors early in the second period, the hosts took full advantage and converted territory into another seven-pointer.
The Bahrain scrum made a telling contribution to the final quarter turnaround, allowing firstly Behan and then Bennett to borrow over from close range – with Preedy duly adding the extras – and Radley’s icing on the cake sparked wild celebrations from players and the faithful band of traveling supporters.