MUSCAT: Muscat Rugby and Football Club (MRFC) edged past a British Navy team HMS Dragons 20-12 in a pre-arranged friendly match after making 12 changes to the team that beat Saudi Select in Bahrain during the weekend.
Muscat used this friendly to give well-earned game time to its extended senior squad and it saw the debutants to four new Omani players Abdul Jabar Hamed Salim, Naser Harib Suliman Al Nabhani, Mohammed Yaser Abdulrasoul Alwash and in particular Salim Ali Said Al Harthi who had an excellent debut in the center of the backline making four strong tackles.
Other notable squad members were Tiaan Nolan, Ayman Mukadam and Eduardo Andres who made their senior team debut after progressing up from the Muscat Pirates Junior section.
The game in the interest of fairness was played as friendlies regularly are in four quarters consisting of 20 minutes each. Muscat dominated the first 20 minutes but were unfortunate to come away 5-12 down. Two well worked back moves had put HMS Dragon in the lead, cancelling out the earlier try by Zac Harper, who despite several previous knock-ons was able to hold on to the ball to cross the line.
HMS Dragon continued to pressure the Muscat backline for the second quarter but with the addition of Salim Ali Said Al Harthi in the backline the pressure wasn’t enough and it allowed Muscat to gain territory into the HMS Dragons half. Penalty after penalty Muscat kept the pressure on the oppositions try line until a quick tap and go from Zac Harper allowed him over for his second try of the night. As the teams went in for the break with the Navy team were leading 10-12.
Half time couldn’t have come faster for the Navy side as they needed to make changes after a physical 20 minutes, Muscat also rang the changes bringing on some familiar faces in Joseph Thompson, Conor Quaid and powerful backline player Dillan Karelse. It was to be Dillan’s running lines that made the crucial difference as on numerous occasions he found the gaps to exploit and with a clever offload set up his fellow South African winger Jan Van Wyk to put Muscat in the lead 15-12.
Head Coach Luke O’Mahony was lucky he didn’t empty the bench too soon as the last quarter despite only being 20 minutes long continued for over 40 due to two serious head injuries, Muscat’s Centre Julian Paul an a HMS Dragons player coming out the worst in the tackles. Julian Paul eventually being taken to hospital with a nasty cut. The stoppage in play helped Muscat regroup and it was again the speed from Dillan Karelse who pounced on a loose ball to toe poke it towards the try line, he outpaced the defender to score the last try of the game.
Ex-Moroccan International Mourad Hassani playing at Out half had a terrific game however must have left his kicking boots in Sohar as he again failed to convert the conversion. That kick ended the game with Muscat completing the comeback and winning 20-12.
Muscat we will regroup now and prepare for the important home game against Doha on November16.