Aaron McLelland runs Doha past Abu Dhabi Saracens in West Asia Championship match

McLelland, a New Zealander, scored two stunning tries and set up another for the side from Qatar in their 31-22 win. Doha have won all 12 matches they have played since September, writes Paul Radley.

Abu Dhabi Saracens, in black, and Doha fight for possession during a West Asia Championship match in the capital on Friday night. Vidhyaa for The National
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Abu Dhabi Saracens 22 Doha 31

Abu Dhabi Saracens Tries: Qinisile, Van Niekerk, Steyn; Cons: Hamilton 2; Pens: Hamilton

Doha Tries: McLelland 2, Elisara, Lotter; Cons: Tremayne 4; Pens: Tremayne

Man of the match Aaron McLelland (Doha)

ABU DHABI // Aaron McLelland’s inspired display at full back helped Doha avenge last season’s West Asia title defeat to Abu Dhabi Saracens at Al Ghazal on Friday night.

McLelland, a New Zealander who is a 21 – and “about 21 kgs as well,” according to Doha’s coach Aaron Palmer – scored two stunning tries and set up another for the side from Qatar.

His first score was a from deep in his own 22 against a set defence, where no Saracens player was able to lay a hand on him.

His speed also brought about the decisive – and disputed –score in the second half, which put the game beyond the home side.

“He has a bit of gas and we had to work out how to best utilise that,” Palmer said of McLelland. “We needed to let him have a look at what was in front of him, and he did.”

It was a second home defeat in successive weeks against sides from the Gulf Premiership for Saracens.

Read more: 'Huge difference between home and away': Muscat ready for return to West Asia Championship

Craig Nutt, their player-coach, acknowledged it will be tough to retain their grip on the title after the start they have made.

“We are really disappointed because I don’t think whoever wins this [West Asia Championship] will lose two games,” Nutt, who plays in the Saracens front row, said. “We will just play a game at a time and hopefully some sides will do us some massive favours.​

“They scored at crucial times, when I think the old Saracens would have folded. But it shows the character of the team we have here that we scored the last try and put them under some pressure, which they don’t have very often.”

Doha have won all 12 matches they have played since September as they target a clean sweep of trophies in the 15-a-side game.

Having won the season opening Champions League, they are clear at the top of the Gulf Premiership, and now have two wins from two in the West Asia Championship.

Palmer reckoned their trip to face Saracens was the biggest test they have faced in the 2015/16 to date, and he was delighted with the way victory was secured.

“It is Saracens at home, they have good defence and this is probably the toughest game we have had in six months,” Palmer said.

“As long as we could keep continued pressure in their half, that was our plan. We wanted to keep them down their end. It worked in the end.”

Dubai Exiles claimed arguably the best result of their comeback campaign to date, after winning 24-15 in Bahrain in the only trip they have to make outside of the UAE this season.

Muscat endured less toil in their second trip to The Sevens, Dubai in successive weeks. On the same pitch where they had been thrashed 144-5 by Exiles the previous weekend, they lost out 55-5 to Dubai Hurricanes.

Jebel Ali Dragons beat Al Ain Amblers 54-24 in the fourth match of the afternoon.

pradley@thenational.ae

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