DEFENDING champions Bahrain steamrolled the Jebel Ali Dragons, 43-12, at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence in Dubai last night to extend their unbeaten run to six consecutive wins in the 2022-23 West Asia Premiership.
They now lead the five-team table with 27 points, 10 ahead of second-placed Dubai Tigers who subsided to a shock 29-24 defeat to the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, also last night, at Dubai Sports City.
Bahrain Rugby Football Club (BRFC) chairman Mike Cunningham told the GDN by phone from Dubai that the team recovered well from a mistakes-ridden first half to put on a fantastic display in the second.
“We made it tough for ourselves in the first half,” he said. “We were the better side, right from the first kick-off, but we gave a lot away to the Dragons and it became a really tough game.
“It was very tight at half-time when we were leading by just one point at 10-9 and we had a player sent off just before the break which really put us under pressure.”
But the team recovered brilliantly with the players showing the kind of game they could play in the second half, Cunningham added.
“The guys did fantastically well in the second half,” he continued. “They got into their groove and showed the kind of game we can play.
“In the second half, we kept them down to just one penalty. The Dragons scored only three points in the whole of the second half and we romped away with the game. And to win by 33 points is awesome!”
A pleased Bahrain team manager, Elliot Behan told the GDN from Dubai that, although the first half had been hard-fought with the Dragons showing plenty of fight, the Reds completely dominated the second half.
“We had a scrappy first half,” he said. “And a determined Dragons side kept the scoreline very tight.
“But, in the second half, the floodgates opened with Bahrain controlling possession and territory extremely well.”
The Bahrain back line functioned better in the second half, Behan said, adding that it was the best he had seen them play all season.
“Our back line really started to function well with a brace of tries from new signing, the winger Stewart Heunis,” Behan explained.
“And an outstanding performance from man-of-the-match David Evans saw our back line functioning the best it has all season.”
Bahrain captain Jordan Viggers told the GDN that the encounter had been a game of two halves with the Reds forced to play with one less player after James Kora received a red card just before the end of the first half.
“It was a real game of two halves,” he said. “But we managed to dig in and play some really good footy with 14 men for the majority of the game.”
Bahrain are seeking a hat-trick of championship triumphs, having won the last two editions of the competition, the last of which was held in the 2019-20 season before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
They have produced stellar performances throughout the current season, beginning by defeating the Dubai Exiles, 28-26, in Dubai before hammering the Harlequins, 39-15, in Abu Dhabi and romping to a 34-10 win over the Dragons at home in Bahrain in November.
Then, in early January, they beat the formidable Tigers, 25-14, in Dubai before hammering the hapless Harlequins again, 22-8, before an ecstatic home crowd at the BRFC last week.
Bahrain will play the Exiles next at the BRFC on February 18 before taking on the Tigers on February 25, also at home, in their last game of the season.