Drawn from across Asia, they came to play rugby and to party

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The Independent Online

They came for three reasons: to play sport, to party hard, and to flush away the accumulated tensions of working as British expatriates in the ruthlessly competitive South-east Asian marketplace.

They came for three reasons: to play sport, to party hard, and to flush away the accumulated tensions of working as British expatriates in the ruthlessly competitive South-east Asian marketplace.

They knew about the threat to foreigners of al-Qa'ida, just as they knew about the other risks that were the downside of a well-paid, high-adrenalin life overseas. But they had found what they thought was a haven, a hospitable and easy-going tropical island which made an ideal setting for some harmless and boozy fun ­ a two-day amateur 10-a-side rugby tournament.

It became clear yesterday that many of the 33 British dead and missing are players and supporters taking part in the so-called Bali 10s. The men were recovering from the day's exertions in the popular Sari club when the bomb exploded.

The Hong Kong Football Club issued a statement yesterday saying that nine of its players and supporters were missing. Of these, seven are British, six men and one woman ­ Tom Holmes, 39; Nathaniel Miller, 31; Peter Record, 32; Stephen Speirs, 36; Edward Waller, 26; Clive Walton, 33; and Anika Liden, 29.

"We are certainly not saying these people have been killed," said Jason Toms, club secretary. "We have people on the ground in Bali, and we hear that it is complete chaos down there, so anyone could be in hospital or unaccounted for somewhere else. A lot of the injured were moved from Bali to Australia, so they have to be tracked down."

There were similarly tragic reports from the prestigious 150-year-old Singapore Cricket Club, which has a rugby section. It said that 17 of its members had gone to the tournament, all but one of whom were British. Three were confirmed dead, the club said in a statement, last night and five were still missing. It said that "most of the team members were in the immediate vicinity of the blast". The club, said one official, Werner Trachsel, was "absolutely devastated".

One of the dead was Chris Kays, a quantity surveyor. He grew up in Reading, Berkshire, and was working in Singapore for a British company. He was a talented rugby player and was touring Bali with the Singapore Cricket Club side.

The names of the teams competing in the Bali 10s reflects the spirit in which the tournament was played. This year's list of 16 entrants included the Pot Belly Pigs, Extreme Spurts, the Flying Elvises and the Bali Marauders. It was being held at the usual venue, the five-star Grand Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur, a few miles from Kuta, where the bombing happened.

The 574-room hotel is popular with players, partly because it offers them a special rate for a shared room but also because of its luxurious setting. It has four swimming pools, scuba diving and snorkelling off the white-sand beach, in-room massages, and a nine-hole golf course, as well as a rugby pitch.

The tournament, which draws teams from across South-east Asia and Australasia, is staged over two days. Matches of 10 minutes each way, begin at 9am and end at 6pm, with a round-robin on the first day, Saturday, and a knockout tournament scheduled to follow on the Sunday. The players ­ dominated by Britons, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans, many of them expatriates working for international corporations ­ were looking forward to the customary rowdy end-of-tournament dinner and prize-giving on Sunday night.

In the event, hell took over: the night was spent mourning, searching, struggling to survive in hospital or scrambling to get out of the place and go home.

The tourist brochures describe Bali as the island of the gods. But when touring rugby players are in town, you could more accurately call it the island of the lads. For many, the drinking, the bar-hopping and the all-night clubbing are as important as the rugby. The day is spent playing rugby in Bali's steamy temperatures; the nights are spent downing beers and male-bonding in the equally steamy clubs ­ the 66, the Sari, the Weed Bar.

The Australians, from teams across the length and breadth of the country, who enjoyed a friendly rivalry with the British in the tournament, were hit hardest. One team from suburban Sydney, the Coogee Dolphins, lost five players, all in their twenties, and another is missing.

Simon Quayle, coach of the Kingsley Senior Football Club, from Perth, said: "Realistically we expect most, or at least half, of all the blokes, to be located somewhere in that morgue." According to The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 members of the club who survived the blast made a pact to return to Australia together ­ and only after finding their missing team-mates. Yesterday they split into groups and headed to three different locations: the Australian consular office, the main hospital and an overflowing morgue.

"We are all sticking together. We slept five and six to a room last night because it was better that way," one player, Brad Phillips, 30, told the newspaper. "We decided, all of us, that we didn't want to put our mates' families through the shock of having to come up here and try to find their boys. We think it's best that we try to find them and bring them home."

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