A rare try for Joe Cooper sealed a potentially vital win for Jebel Ali Dragons in their top of the table West Asia Premiership clash with Bahrain on Friday night.
The towering second-row forward has gone years without scoring, but he showed the finishing instincts of the most predatory winger as he pinched an interception near the Bahrain tryline to score late on at the Centre of Excellence.
When James Love kicked the ensuing conversion, it gave the home side an eight-point lead. There was just enough time for Terence Tantoh to score a try that gave Bahrain a losing bonus-point – which could prove vital in the final count up – but not force a comeback win.
Dragons had started the game in first place, with only points-difference separating them from their visitors at the top of the table.
The fact they managed a win, but fell just short of a four-try bonus point, means they slipped to second, after Abu Dhabi Harlequins thrashed Dubai Sports City Eagles 74-8 at Zayed Sports City – but are still level on points with the side from the capital.
This was the first of a three-weekend spell that will likely go a long way to deciding where the title ends up this season.
Dragons travel to defending champions Harlequins next Friday, while Bahrain meet Harlequins seven days later.
The previously undefeated side from Bahrain had held a 15-9 half-time lead, thanks to tries from Jon Kenny and Alistair Crombie.
They were in the ascendant at the start of the second half, too, until a breakaway try by Scott Hayes, Dragons’ UAE-international centre.
Bahrain maintained an 18-14 advantage via the boot of Iwan Phillips, but the home side forged ahead through the tries of Matt Richards and Cooper.