There’s one trophy metaphorically already in the trophy cabinet for Abu Dhabi Harlequins, but Mike McFarlane has warned his side they face an arduous task to retain all five this season.
In a campaign of historic success for the Zayed Sports City outfit in 2016/17 they won the treble of West Asia Premiership, UAE Premiership and Dubai Sevens, while also lifting the West Asia Cup and Western Clubs Champions League.
They retained the latter on Friday without lifting a finger – Bahrain’s 24-23 victory in Sri Lanka against Kandy gifting the trophy to Quins for a second straight year.
Quins were getting their season up and running on the same day with a one-point victory of their own – Luke Stevenson’s 80th-minute conversion earning them victory by the slenderest of margins in a thrilling 34-33 West Asia Premiership opener at Jebel Ali Dragons.
Whereas you can’t learn too much from the first day of the season, McFarlane knows it will be nigh on impossible to repeat last year’s heroics.
“It’s some task,” said the Englishman.
“I’m not saying we can’t do it, I think we’ve got the potential to do it. But I’m not going to sit here and say we will do it. If you look at the caliber of teams now and the recruitment that’s gone on in Dubai and around the Gulf, it’s a high level now.
“As I’ve said previously, every game is going to be a cup final. Teams want to beat us but they’ll have the quality to push us to the bone, as Dragons did on Friday.”
McFarlane described the game as the best he’s been witness to during his time in the Gulf, and he insisted his mind was far from the Bahrain and Kandy clash 3,000 miles away.
Dragons v Quins never fails to disappoint and the standard of game considering, it was the first game, was a credit to all the lads and coaches involved,” he added.
“It was an absolute firecracker. We definitely knew the Premiership had begun. It was nice to get back to it.
“We had the Champions League which was a nice trophy to bag of course but we were still gelling and introducing new systems. But the first Premiership game, that’s where it becomes more real, and I don’t think as strong a game of rugby in the Gulf since I’ve been there.
“It was a tough Champions League this year. The points difference was really close and it was fantastic preparation and it shows the caliber of the tournament, it’s growing.”
Quins travel to Bahrain on Friday for their second appointment of the campaign, and PE teacher McFarlane is happy with the champions’ tough start to the new term.
“The games are coming thick and fast,” he added.
“It will be another cracker. The draw’s come out and we’ve probably got the hardest start if you look at the fixtures but it’s great for us, it allows us to get off to a flyer and the lads are all excited.
“The games were close last year but from the game on Friday the level has jumped again, which is crazy. There’s some fantastic teams and players and it comes down to each game.”
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