BAHRAIN Rugby Football Club’s (RFC) first XV squad kicked off the new season with an impressive 31-20 win away to Sri Lankan champions Kandy Sports Club in the opening round of the Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League on Friday afternoon.
Scores from debutants Tom Bell and Sunia Fameitau, serial poacher Lindsey Gibson and a fourth from a penalty try did the damage for the visitors against a sprightly home side looking to avenge an one-point defeat in the corresponding fixture last season.
Despite receiving three yellow cards and a heavy penalty count against them, Bahrain controlled much of what was an absorbing contest in front of a vociferous home crowd, with some strong defensive efforts and a clean bill of health particularly pleasing for head coach Louie Tonkin.
Kandy had the opportunity to open the scoring with a penalty directly from the kick-off but it was left to Gibson to get the scoreboard ticking over with a trademark burrow over the line after seven minutes of play.
The hosts responded with a successful penalty soon after but struggled to find much penetration in a defensive line in an impressive first hit-out.
Jack Phillips and Alastair both went close to stretching the Bahrain lead but it was left to Radley to notch a couple of penalties late in the half for a 3-14 lead at the break.
The second try arrived soon into the second period as the powerful Fameitau crashed over but a converted try and a penalty in quick succession brought Kandy back to 13-19 approaching the final quarter.
Up stepped Bell with a superb solo run to claim the try of the day and with the Bahrain pack dismantling their opposition in a succession of scrum penalties, the penalty try made the result all but conclusive.
There was still time for Kandy to strike for a second try and some scoreboard confusion gave the hosts some misplaced hope but in the end, Bahrain were good value for their 11-point win and can now look forward to facing reigning champions Abu Dhabi Harlequins in two weeks time.