Defending champions Bahrain will look to continue their unbeaten run in the 2022-23 West Asia Premiership when they take on the Dubai Exiles tomorrow at the Bahrain Rugby Football Club (BRFC).
Having won all their six matches thus far, Bahrain are seeking a hat-trick of championship triumphs after winning the last two editions of the competition, the last of which was held in the 2019-20 season before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The Reds currently occupy the top spot in the five-team table with 27 points, five more than the Dubai Tigers, who have 22, also from six games. The Exiles sit in third place, with 13 points after six games, followed by the Jebel Ali Dragons with 12 points from seven games and the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, with 10, also from seven games.
“We remain unbeaten, having won six from six and sit five points clear at the top of the table,” Bahrain team manager Elliot Behan told the GDN. “But we will be taking nothing for granted as any slip-up in our final two league fixtures could put the honour of hosting another home final at risk.
“After a shaky start to the season, the Exiles have climbed up to third place in the league. But, with only the top two teams earning a spot in the final in April, they will be battling hard to turn our men over on home soil.”
Plus, Behan added, the Exiles would still be smarting from the two-point loss Bahrain inflicted upon them last October in Dubai and would come hard at the home team.
“They will be seeking revenge after we managed to beat them in a nail-biting game at the Sevens Stadium last year by just a two-point margin,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Bahrain captain Jordan Viggers told the GDN the return fixture against the Exiles would be a challenge but added that he was looking forward to a good game of rugby in front of a home crowd.
“They are a big, physical team, very well-drilled, so, yes, it will be a challenge,” he said. “They play a good round of rugby.
“But I, along with the rest of the team, am looking forward to playing at home, in front of a large home crowd. Hopefully, it’ll be a great game of rugby to watch.”
Bahrain have been excellent throughout the current season. After defeating the Exiles in their opening game at the beginning of October, they hammered the Harlequins, 39-15, in Abu Dhabi 10 days later and strolled 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 a fortnight later.
Bahrain’s sixth consecutive victory came at the end of January when they steamrolled the Dragons, 43-12, in Dubai.
The Exiles, on the other hand, endured a difficult time at the beginning of their season. After the narrow defeat to Bahrain, they saw the Tigers maul them 40-29 before the Dragons also managed to defeat them by two points, 29-27.
But the start of the new year appeared to change the Exiles’ fortunes as they slayed the Dragons 66-7 in mid-January before romping to a 46-17 win against the Harlequins in early February.
However, just last week, the Tigers subjected them to another mauling, winning 28-17 as the Exiles seemed to wilt in the face of their attacking plays.
The Bahrain-Exiles game will kick off at 5pm tomorrow, but the Reds will have kept an eye on another important fixture taking place in Dubai earlier in the afternoon with the Tigers taking on the Dragons.
That is because, after the game against the Exiles, Bahrain face the Tigers on February 25, also at the BRFC, in what will be the last league game of the season for both teams.
Depending on what happens in both matches tomorrow, the Bahrain-Tigers game could very well turn out to be a mini-final in itself with the question of who will top the table being answered by the result of that game.