Abu Dhabi Harlequins look for clean sweep of trophies today.
McFarlane says visitors are ‘best team we’ve played’
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.”
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in red and green, have lost only once this season ahead of today’s final.