[Dubai, May 14 2010]: In its last ever international match, the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union (AGRFU) bowed out on a historic note beating Korea 21-19 this evening at The Sevens in Dubai. The win is the Arabian Gulf’s second in its HSBC A5N 2010 campaign after beating Hong Kong in Bahrain two weeks ago, and is the first over Korea in its 17-year history of test match rugby. As a testament to the growth of rugby in west Asia, tonight’s historic match opened with a curtain raiser featuring the first ever test between Jordan and Lebanon. Lebanon won on its HSBC Asian 5 Nations debut 27-8.
Korea opened the showcase match with its customary intensity and enjoyed the run of possession in the first half, but could only manage a 14-6 lead at the break through tries from scrumhalf Park Wan Yong and Han Kun Kyu and two conversions from fly half Lee Yong Min.
The Koreans first crossed over in the 12th minute through a darting run from scrumhalf Park and it seemed that the game was in danger of breaking Korea’s way until the Gulf settled down through two well taken penalties from winger James Love to bring the score to 7-6 Korea with ten minutes remaining in the half.
A second Korean try this time from powerful No. 8 Han Kun Kyu who charged over the line from short range put paid to the Gulf’s momentum and brought the score to 14-6 with the conversion. Han’s try was a just reward for the mobile loosie who had shaken off an earlier injury that required extensive treatment on the field to get his name into the scoring books.
Conceding points in the last minute of the half can be a confidence killer but the Arabian Gulf rebounded in the second half, particularly through some strong play from standout stand-off Duncan Murray who matched some canny kicks for territory with some incisive runs that helped chip away the Korean defence. Murray’s efforts were rewarded early on when he completed a bruising run through several of Korea’s back line defence to crash over for the Gulf’s first try of the night. Love’s conversion brought the AGRFU to within one point and 30 minutes remaining - setting up a thrilling second half.
After the Gulf try, Korean fortunes turned from bad to worse as Korean lock Youn Kwon Woo was sin-binned for a questionable tackle, allowing the Gulf to capitalize with a second try, this one to hulking centre Trent Eastgate who capped off a flowing move that saw the ball go through seven pairs of hands and 80 metres before being capped by Eastgate. The missed conversion put the Gulf ahead for the first time in the match 18-14. More importantly the man advantage sapped the remaining strength of Korea, whose players began to flag under the hot conditions in the second half.
Adding to their evident fatigue, the Koreans feverishly threw themselves at the Gulf defence, which managed to repel every attack, further frustrating the visitors. In the 72nd minute Love converted his third penalty of the night to edge the home team ahead by a converted try, 21-14. That score line would hold throughout the remaining eight minutes as the Koreans, winless in the tournament to date and facing the threat of relegation, threw everything they had at the Arabian Gulf.
The final moments of the match saw Korea mount attack after attack, moving the Arabian Gulf forwards from side to side in an effort to create gaps. The sustained possession was rewarded as wing Chae Jae Yong, (who has been one of the standouts of this year’s campaign since being brought into the side after the loss to Hong Kong), finished a simple backline move to touch down in the corner.
But reserve fly half Oh Yong Kwon could not convert and the Gulf capped a brave effort with a historic first ever victory against the Koreans and only their second win in the elite Top 5 competition of Asian rugby.
The win brought the Arabian Gulf’s HSBC A5N 2010 campaign to a close with two wins and two losses and ten points on the table, two behind Japan and Hong Kong. Korea remain in the relegation zone with one bonus point (for a loss within seven points) from three losses and will be desperate to salvage an all-important win and bonus point against Kazakhstan to avoid the unthinkable – relegation for a team that is traditionally one of Asian rugby’s superpowers. Kazakhstan is on 7 points from a win and two bonus points and are away to Japan in Tokyo today before travelling to Korea for next week’s clash. Table toppers Japan will host Hong Kong next week in the final week of the three-year, 33-match IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 Asian qualifiers.
From the elite levels of Asian rugby to the emerging nations, Jordan and Lebanon, the newest Associate member of the Asian Rugby Football Union as of December 2009, marked their first ever international test match today as a curtain raiser to the Arabian Gulf v Korea.
On its HSBC A5N debut, Lebanon surprised Jordan 27-8. Lebanon opened the scoring with first half tries to winger Wael Harb and prop Ziad El Murr. Lebanese captain and scrumhalf Karim Jammal added a conversion. Jordan replied through centre Nidal Ziyadat to bring the score to 12-5 Lebanon. Lebanon added two more tries through No 8 Hesham Husni Bey and fly half Raymond Asfour. Another conversion from Jammal brought the hafltime score to Lebanon 24, Jordan 5. The heat slowed down the pace in the second half with the teams only accounting for one penalty each with Jordan’s scoring coming from fly half Jamal Masri to bring the final tally to Lebanon 27, Jordan 8. Lebanon will be hoping to continue its impressive start to HSBC A5N rugby next year while Jordan are off to compete in the new Division IV competition next month alongside Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.