Article By : Chris Bath https://www.facebook.com/TheGulfRugbyPaper/
The historic Asia Rugby Championship Division III (West) match between the home side Jordan and Saudi held special significance to rugby in the region and deserves mention as an indication of the path of West Asia’s growing standing and interest in the game. Jordan won the match 44 – 13 and the Div 3W title.
We have often commented on the need for a more competitive and even environment for the game to flourish in this region and the prospect now with Saudi Rugby’s first International 15s game is that the interest has caught on and the local Unions will keep up the momentum.
Coming into this game, Jordan held an advantage of playing at home and getting some game time and settling in under the belt with a mid-week game against UAE Shaheen. Saudi Rugby though were always going to be such an unknown prospect and while Jordan would have been confident, they must have been uneasy taking on a side full of experienced campaigners from Saudi’s various expat clubs.
The score line then maybe did not reflect the game, as Edmund McMahon Turner (who played for Saudi) explained; “Jordan were a well drilled side and five of the tries were them capitalising on Saudi mistakes. Our biggest problem was that this morning at our captain’s run was the first time the whole squad had trained together”
Saudi Rugby’s whole front row live a total of 1500km between and the team had no benefit of a training game to fine tune the systems.
Edmund continues “special mention should go to Waleed Yousef, our captain who led from the front with some storming runs and big hits. It was a great moment when he scored Saudi Arabia’s first ever try from a tap and go 20m out, barrelling through 5 or 6 defenders to score”.
“The Saudi scrum did well and was holding and driving back a much heavier Jordanian pack, but again” (maybe due to the lack of practice time), “the line out didn’t function well at all, which cost us possession and position too many times”.
Development in Saudi Rugby has moved on tremendously, since they have developed a more formal Union under the Secretary General Mr. Faleh Bishi, who has been involved right from the start and has been a key figure in pushing rugby’s agenda in the country.
The summation Saudi Rugby, is similar to many other West Asia teams, in that, there could be so much more. One has to praise the work done so far though and to see six regional countries involved in International matches in the space of 5 weeks is a true sign of not only the potential but an indication of where this region is heading.