DEFENDING champions Bahrain will look to cap their unbeaten run in the league stage of the 2022-23 West Asia Premiership season with their eighth consecutive win when they take on the Dubai Tigers in their final game tomorrow at the Bahrain Rugby Football Club (BRFC).
Aiming for a hat-trick of championship triumphs after winning the last two editions of the Premiership, Bahrain have taken an unassailable lead in the five-team table with 31 points from their seven matches thus far. They will play the Tigers, who are in second place with 22 points, in the final which is scheduled to be held at the BRFC in April.
That is why tomorrow’s game will be a virtual dress rehearsal for the final with Bahrain determined to end the season undefeated, BRFC chairman Mike Cunningham told the GDN.
“We expected this game against the Dubai Tigers to be the one that determined the final positions in the league,” he said. “Following our 22-6 victory at home over the Dubai Exiles and the Tigers’ 29-18 loss to the Jebel Ali Dragons in Dubai last week, our status as league champions was already confirmed.
“Now, we have the opportunity to go undefeated through a full season. This is massive for the boys. The Tigers, however, are here to try and spoil the party and to prove that they will not be a pushover in the final.
“It’s going to be a great contest, as we always expect when taking them on. We had a tight game against them in Dubai last month and I’m sure it’s going to be a nail-biter again tomorrow and a sample of what to expect when the final takes place here in April.”
Team manager Elliot Behan echoed Cunningham’s sentiments, saying the game would be an excellent opportunity for both teams to gauge each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“It’s not often that you get a dress rehearsal for a cup final, but it’s a great opportunity for both sides to size each other up,” he told the GDN. “The lads are very excited to get stuck in.
“However, although the home final is already secured, we won’t be taking this fixture lightly as we set out at the start of the league stage to have an undefeated season and we’re still aiming to achieve that goal.”
Bahrain captain Jordan Viggers called the Tigers a “great outfit” and added his team was looking to challenge themselves in their last league game of the season.
“It’s the last league game of the season and a top-of-the-table clash,” he told the GDN. “We can think of no better way to challenge ourselves and, hopefully, provide an exciting spectacle to our home crowd.
“The Tigers are a great outfit and we look forward to hosting them at our home ground.”
Bahrain have been excellent throughout the season. After defeating the Exiles. 28-26, in their opening game last September, they hammered the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, 39-15, in Abu Dhabi ten 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 Tigers, 25-14, in Dubai before hammering the hapless Harlequins again, 22-8, before an ecstatic home crowd at the BRFC a fortnight later.
Bahran’s sixth consecutive victory came at the end of January when they steamrolled the Dragons, 43-12, in Dubai and they duly notched up their seventh straight win last Saturday when they pummelled the Exiles, 22-6, in Bahrain.
The Tigers, meanwhile, have had a mixed season. They started off with a 57-17 mauling of the Dragons in Dubai last October, before sauntering to a 40-29 win over the Exiles, also in Dubai, a week later, before savaging the Harlequins, 46-15 in November to notch up their third consecutive win.
But their fortunes took a dip with the start of the new year as they ran into a rampaging Bahrain team who beat them, 25-14, in Dubai last month. Two weeks later, the Harlequins rubbed salt into their wounds by defeating them, 29-24, in a surprise win for the Abu Dhabi team.
The Tigers rediscovered their form in a 28-17 win over the Exiles in Dubai earlier this month but then slumped to another surprise, 29-18, defeat to the Dragons last week to hand the top slot in the table – and a home final – to Bahrain.
Tomorrow’s game will kick off at 5pm.