Al Ain: The Arabian Gulf's ambitious attempt at qualifying for the 2007 rugby World Cup is over after suffering a disappointing 20-5 defeat against Korea here last night.
The home team paid the penalty for making a slow start, conceding three tries in the first half, while the lack of a front-line kicker and an effective line-out also proved to be costly.
In spite of these drawbacks, the second period was a much closely-fought affair with the Koreans forced to go on the back-foot for long periods.
But the Arabian Gulf side managed to pull back only one try during this phase and were eliminated from Asian qualifying zone for next year's finals in France.
Earlier, Korea made a perfect start in extremely hot conditions at the Khalifa Stadium, claiming the first try of the match in only the second minute when hooker Lee Jong Woo forced his way through some weak tackling, wide on the left, for a try superbly converted by Oh Youn Hyung.
Oh was wide with a penalty, soon after, as Korea continued to dominate the proceedings before Arabian Gulf finally managed to break out of their own half.
Muscat's Gareth Allum and Oh both missed further kicks at goals. But Korea still managed to strengthen their lead on the half hour when prop Kim Tae Hyung popped up wide on the right to crash over from close range for an unconverted score.
Dubai Exiles winger Wayne Esslemont brought the Gulf side to life with a superb crossfield break and a chip and chase, which almost produced a try the ball just bobbling out of reach on the line.
That effort inspired Arabian Gulf as Bahrain's Chris Pardon turned out to be quite a handful with the ball.
Pardon stepped up a gear, exerting blanket pressure with the Korean defence stretched to the limit.
The visitors then showed they could also go on the counter-attack, breaking from the deep for winger Yun Hi Su to eventually race over for an unconverted try under the posts, although TV replays clearly showed that the final pass had been forward.
Korea claimed the first points of the second period through a penalty from Kim Keunhyun, before the Gulf outfit finally opened their account. Replacement prop Mike Riley made an instant impact, muscling over from close range for an unconverted try, while Sebastian Mouchet almost conjured up a second score with a probing chip, which almost unlocked the Korean defence.
The Gulf side tried desperately to pull themselves back into the game, but it was Korea who came closest to scoring again as winger Lee Gyudeuk inexplicably passed when he could have touched down himself.
The Gulf coach, Mark Butterfield, said after the match: "I'm disappointed because I thought we could have done it. We should have done better, but I'm still very proud of the team.
"We did not play particularly well in the first half and it was only in the last 20 that we turned it on. But, Korea are ranked 20 places above us in the world and we competed with them."