Bahrain return with a bang and Dylan Hartley makes winning start in Gulf rugby

West Asia season kicks off with wins for some familiar old faces

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Bahrain made an inspired return to competitive rugby as they stunned Dubai Exiles in the West Asia Premiership on Friday night.

The club from Saar had established themselves as the leading side in regional rugby before the coronavirus put a halt to cross border competition in 2020.

Just as the Covid outbreak took hold that year, leading to an aborted end to the rugby season, Bahrain were confirmed as West Asia champions in absentia.

Travel restrictions then meant they were precluded from competition for the next two and a half years.

In the meantime, the Exiles went the best part of three years unbeaten, before they lost the grand final of the UAE Premiership to Abu Dhabi Harlequins at the end of the last campaign.

Reunited after so long apart, the old rivals were straight back into the old routine, playing out another classic at The Sevens. Bahrain eventually won out 28-26.

A day later, Dubai Tigers gave further notice of the changing face of UAE rugby as they beat Jebel Ali Dragons 57-17.

Dragons were one of the dominant forces in UAE rugby for much of the past decade, but Tigers have made rapid advances in recent times.

In the UAE Division 1, Dylan Hartley made a winning start as director of rugby at Dubai Sharks, as they beat Abu Dhabi Pumas 22-20 at Dubai Sports City.

The former England captain’s new charges downed a side who are regarded as one of their rivals for the Division 1 title this season.

Next weekend, they will face another of the likely contenders, Dubai Hurricanes. The new-look Hurricanes, one of the giants of UAE rugby who have dropped out of the Premiership due to a lack of front-row resources, beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins’ second XV on the opening day.

Updated: October 02, 2022, 10:00 AM