THE West Asia Premiership title came down to a matter of inches on Friday night as a penalty from Dubai Exiles’ talisman Durandt Gerber with the final kick of the game against hosts Bahrain fell just short, much to the delight of the home team and supporters.
Bahrain Rugby Football Club (RFC) XV thus lifted this prestigious title 23-21.
If ever there was to be a dramatic finish to define a season then this was it, with late scores, a red card and the aforementioned penalty miss all thrown in to the equation.
Quite remarkably, all that drama came about after the scheduled 80-minute mark, at which point Bahrain enjoyed a ten-point lead.
Indeed, Bahrain had held the lead from as early as the 16th minute, when Jack Phillips crossed for the first of his two tries after some superb build-up play across the right hand side.
That try was converted by fly-half Ross Preedy but opposite number Gerber then got his side on the score board just shy of the half hour with his first successful penalty of the game to make it 7-3 in Bahrain’s favour.
The number tens then traded further penalties to keep it an one-score game but when Phillips struck for his second try just before the half-time break, it looked like a crucial telling blow to the Exiles’ chances.
Another Preedy penalty shortly after the resumption extended Bahrain’s lead but it wasn’t quite the catalyst the vociferous home support had hoped for, as the Exiles kept in touch through the boot of Gerber.
A penalty from Preedy’s replacement Leon Mauer with seven minutes of normal time to play looked to put the result to bed but then came the dramatic end-game, with Gerber kicking another penalty and then setting up a try in the corner to give him the opportunity to level the scores with a conversion.
The conversion fell just wide but with the referee awarding a penalty in the act of try-scoring, Gerber had a chance to steal the result at the death.
Thankfully for all in red, it wasn’t to be and the Bahrain faithful celebrated accordingly.