Arabian Gulf bow out with A5N victory

(RUGBY WORLD CUP) Friday 14 May 2010

The Arabian Gulf ensured their last ever international match ended on a winning note with a 21-19 defeat of Korea in their HSBC Asian 5 Nations match at 7he Sevens in Dubai on Friday, the first time they had beaten their opponents in 17 years of trying.

The swansong comes following last year's announcement of the International Rugby Board's exciting plans to restructure the Game in West Asia with the creation of a number of new Unions in the area. To facilitate this major expansion it was confirmed the combined multi-state Union, the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union, would cease to exist by the end of 2010.

The victory in the Dubai desert is the Arabian Gulf's second in this year's Top 5 after their surprise defeat of Hong Kong a fortnight ago in Bahrain, an impressive return given they had lost their previous five matches in the top tier of the Asian 5 Nations.

Korea, fighting for their lives to avoid relegation after losing convincingly to Hong Kong and Japan in their two previous matches, began with their customary intensity and enjoyed the best of possession early on but only went in leading 14-6 at half time.

A darting run by scrum half Park Wan Yong opened the scoring in the 12th minute and Korea seemed set to stamp their authority on the match, only for the Arabian Gulf to steady their nerves with two James Love penalties to cut the deficit to 7-6. Korea's powerful number 8 Han Kun Kyu charged over the line to re-establish the visitor's advantage.

The Arabian Gulf responded well after the break with some strong play by fly half Duncan Murray, who combined some canny kicks for territory with some incisive runs that helped to chip away at the Korean defence. Murray got his reward when he crashed over for the hosts' first try of the night, cutting the deficit to a point with 30 minutes to play.

Bright start for Lebanon

Things got worse for Korea when their second row Youn Kwon Woo was sin-binned and the Arabian Gulf capitalised on their man advantage with a second try, centre Trent Eastgate rounding off a flowing move that had seen the ball go through seven pairs of hands and covering 80 metres.

The conversion was missed but the hosts now had the lead for the first time in the match at 18-14 and while they could not cross the line again with their man advantage, the absence of Youn saw the Koreans start to sag in the hot conditions in Dubai.

Korea, though, kept throwing everything they could at the Arabian Gulf defence, but were unable to find a way through the resolute defence and it was instead Love who extended the lead with a penalty. Korea kept battling and were rewarded for their persistence when wing Chae Jae Yong touched down in the corner.

Replacement fly half Oh Yong Kwon couldn't land the conversion that would have earned Korea the draw, leaving the visitors to settle for a losing bonus point - their first point of the competition - and remaining bottom of the standings going into the Top 5's climax next weekend.

While the Arabian Gulf may have been signing off in style, Lebanon enjoyed an international debut to savour with a 27-8 defeat of Jordan in the curtain raiser to the Top 5 encounter. Lebanon, the Asian Rugby Football Union's newest member, scored tries from wing Wael Harb, prop Ziad El Murr, number 8 Hesham Husni Bey and fly half Raymond Asfour.

Jordan could only manage a first half try through centre Nidal Ziyadat and will be hoping for more luck when they contest the new Asian 5 Nations Division IV competition with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia next month.