Abu Dhabi Har­lequins look for clean sweep of tro­phies to­day.

McFar­lane says vis­i­tors are ‘best team we’ve played’

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Paul Radley [email protected]­ational.ae

ABU DHABI // De­spite beat­ing them twice, and fin­ish­ing 14 points and two places above them in the league cam­paign, there will be no risk of com­pla­cency when Abu Dhabi Har­lequins welcome Bahrain for the West Asia Cup fi­nal.

That is the view of Mike McFar­lane, the Har­lequins coach, who says to­day’s guests are the best side his team have faced this term.

Har­lequins have lost just once all sea­son, and scooped the three tro­phies on of­fer so far, but McFar­lane says there is a size­able ob­sta­cle be­tween them and the next prize. “They are the best team we have played against and the fact they are here proves that,” said McFar­lane, whose side reached the fi­nal af­ter beat­ing Jebel Ali Dragons last week­end.

“It comes from hav­ing a solid team. Other teams are re­liant on two or three out­stand­ing play­ers. If they don’t per­form you are stuck, but Bahrain don’t have that prob­lem. “When we played Bahrain away [and won 17-15] the boys went to hell and back. It was a bru­tal, bru­tal game. The two teams flogged each other. It was out­stand­ing and we were lucky to come away with a win. Based on that en­counter, there will be no com­pla­cency from us.”

Bahrain ar­rive for the fi­nal off their big­gest win of the sea­son, ac­cord­ing to their coach Louie Tonkin, af­ter a 23-22 win in Doha last Fri­day. Given how the cup has been ar­ranged, based on the fi­nal stand­ings of the league, third­placed Bahrain have had to ar­range their flights at late no­tice for both the semi-fi­nal and fi­nal.

As such, it is re­mark­able that this is the only time in the course of the cam­paign that Tonkin has been able to field an un­changed side.

“It is quite com­i­cal re­ally that it is the first time all sea­son we have been able to field the same side for two games in a row,” Tonkin said. “We are in a good place. We have had a lot of in­jury prob­lems this sea­son, but the boys have re­ally fronted up the past cou­ple of weeks. There have been a lot of sore bod­ies, but we have man­aged to get our best XV out again which we are de­lighted about. We are ex­cited.”

When the sides met two weeks ago, Har­lequins were com­fort­able win­ners in a fix­ture that was con­spic­u­ous for the vol­ume of the trav­el­ling sup­port.

The match co­in­cided with a ju­nior tour­na­ment at Zayed Sports City, and many of the Bahrain con­tin­gent had stayed on to watch.

Even though there is no such fes­ti­val this week­end, the tourists are still ex­pect­ing to be able to hear some cheers.

“We have a big sup­port­ers’ bus ar­ranged, with 40 or 50 trav­el­ling sup­port­ers,” Tonkin said.

“It just shows how much rugby means to this place. We are very lucky to have peo­ple who will to pay from their own pocket to fly and sup­port us.”

Ravin­dranath K / The Na­tional

Abu Dhabi Har­lequins, in red and green, have lost only once this sea­son ahead of to­day’s fi­nal.

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