DUBAI // James Love did his best to repay the Arabian Gulf's investment in him as he touched down three tries in their two defeats yesterday. The weekend was a disappointing one for the Gulf, who lost all five of their matches, but it was one that Love will not forget. The union had flown the 22-year-old winger, along with fellow UK-based student Jonny MacDonald, back for regular training sessions in the build-up to the tournament.
Having been born and brought up in Bahrain, it would be fair to predict Love is a Dubai Rugby Sevens regular, but not so. "My parents always used to come over but I was never invited, plus I was away at boarding school for most of the time," said Love, whose father Andrew, the president of Bahrain RFC, was in the crowd again this weekend. "You can't ask for any more than to play with the best. We were more structured [on day two] and when we had the ball in hand we showed we could do some damage.
"It was incredible [to score in front of the packed stands]. There is nearly no one who is not supporting you out there. It was the highlight of my career so far." The Gulf had their best display against Zimbabwe, but tries from Love, Stephen Cooper and MacDonald could not prevent a 28-19 loss. They then lost their shield semi-final 26-12 to Russia, despite a brace from Love. The coach, Shane Thornton, pointed to a lack of quality competition in the build up to explain his side's struggles.
Last year the side played preparatory tournaments in Sri Lanka, Singapore and South Africa, while this time they had to be content with a club competition in Al Ain. "Coming into this tournament having only played against local club sides has been a bit of a downfall for us," said Thornton. "We have to play more matches at this level of competition to get up to the standard of international players."