x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Months of effort undone in a flash

The Arabian Gulf lamented a "heartbreaking" end to the pool stage at their home World Cup as they suffered a controversial injury time defeat to Italy.

DUBAI // yThe Arabian Gulf lamented a "heartbreaking" end to the pool stage at their home World Cup as they suffered a controversial injury time defeat to Italyesterday. The plucky part-timers from the region held a 17-12 lead when time went dead, yet the referee still allowed enough time for a twice-taken line-out near the Italian goal-line.

The Italians worked the ball up the field and, although the Gulf briefly had their hands on the ball again, Kristopher Shaun Burton broke from halfway for the decisive converted score. "It is heartbreaking for the guys - all that hard work, nine months comes down to one moment," said Mike Lunjevich, the coach. The loss was harsh on the tireless Joshua Sherrin and Stephen Cooper. Chris Gregory, a veteran of the bad old days when the Gulf turned up for IRB competitions expecting to get thrashed, scored what looked to be the winning try in the corner.

He said: "We thought we had it. It was a dubious decision, but that is the way it goes." The Gulf will go in search of a consolation prize today without two of their speediest players, Taif al Delamie and Stuart Gibb, after both suffered injuries on day two. Gibb had earlier scored the Gulf's first ever World Cup try, in their early match against New Zealand. His score levelled the tie at 5-5 and, amazingly, the local amateurs would have then held the lead against the world's best side, had Marcus Smith not knocked on over the line.

New Zealand raced away to a 41-5 win, and Lunjevich added: "We are 100 per cent better than we were [in 2006, when they lost 54-0 to New Zealand], but there is no substitute for gas, raw pace." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae