Judging by the manner of their victory over Hong Kong in Bahrain, the Arabian Gulf have finally stumbled upon a home fortress. It is a pity, then, that they will never play there again. The regional side claimed their maiden victory in the Asian Five Nations at the weekend, when they beat Hong Kong in front of a fervent crowd of 1,800 supporters in Seer. "Bahrain were fantastic hosts," said Bruce Birtwistle, the Gulf's head coach. "They put on an excellent show, with both the expat community and local people as well out there to support the Arabian Gulf.
"The place was pretty well packed, and that hometown support was important to us. When we were under pressure, the crowd realised what was going on and came to our support." However, with the Arabian Gulf union set to break up at the end of this year, the next time an international fixture will be played there the stakes will be far less. Bahrain RFC officials yesterday met with Matthew Oakley, the IRB's West Asia project manager, to discuss the prospect of setting up their own national association.
The Gulf's next home match will be played at The Sevens, Dubai, against South Korea in a fortnight's time, when they are unlikely to be backed by such partisan support. "Location, location, location is the key to it," said Bob Phillips, the Bahrain RFC club manager. "We are right in the middle of the expatriate part of Bahrain, so that helps. Secondly, Bahrain is not a very big place. To come out from the centre of Manama is less distance that it is to go out from Dubai to The Sevens.
"People naturally know about it, so when something like this comes along it grips everybody and they just make an effort." firstname.lastname@example.org