The Cook Islands will now play Fiji in 2014 for a place at rugby’s showcase event.
The winner of that match will qualify as Oceania One and will join Australia, hosts England, Wales and the play-off winner in Pool A.
In front of a capacity crowd of just over 7000 in Port Moresby, the Cooks delivered a composed performance in a thrilling match to come back from 12-3 down late in the first half to go into the interval with a 12-15 lead thanks to two quick tries from Jacob Masters and Ioane Ioane.
The second half was no less dramatic and despite the Cook Islands racing into a 29-12 lead with a quarter of the match to go, four tries in the final quarter from the home side, including a fine score from Butler Morris in the final minute, meant that the Cook Islands’ passage was not secure until the referee blew for full time.
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset congratulated Cook Islands and paid tribute to the immense contribution of the Pacific Islands to Rugby World Cup.
“Teams from the Pacific Islands have contributed so much to the success of Rugby World Cup and world rugby on and off the field and England 2015 will be no different.”
“The 2013 Oceania Cup with its incredibly competitive matches showed the true passion for rugby in the region and I would like to congratulate Cook Islands on their victory and keeping the Rugby World Cup dream alive.”
“Rugby World Cup success has delivered the financial engine for the development of the game underwriting the delivery of important tournaments such as the Oceania Cup.
Indeed, the IRB is making unprecedented investment in rugby throughout the Oceania region and standards are rising all the time.
It is important for the development of every union that there is a direct pathway towards the pinnacle tournament in the sport, Rugby World Cup, and we provide that opportunity to every IRB Member Union.”
Meanwhile, the Solomon Islands scored a stunning come-from-behind 23-22 win over a vastly improved Tahiti team to claim 3rd place in the 2013 Oceania Cup.