“There’s always one winner and one loser. We were hopeful that we could come home with the bronze, but unfortunately we didn’t” says team manager Ewan Cameron.
The team started the second and final day of competition at Marist St. Joseph’s in Samoa with an imposing 26-7 win over the lowly ranked Wallis and Futuna side. The team looked strong and were able to stick to their game plan.
The team then had a two-hour break, before playing the toughest match up of their pool, New Caledonia.
The Vase Samania-coached side played with determination and grit to win 14-7 and book a berth in the bronze medal playoff against Tonga.
The nerves were high as the team ran out to a packed stadium, with a small but vocal contingent of Cook Islanders there to support the team.
“The team have been preparing for the last four months, they’ve put in a lot of hours away from their families, they’ve also had to ask for extra time off from their employment, so they’re quite invested in being here at the Pacific Games” Cameron says.
The first half against Tonga was full of controversy, with two yellow cards being dished out to Cook Islands players and the first red card of the tournament be handed to a Tongan player after a small scuffle broke out.
Tonga struck first, after finding a gap on the Cook Islands left fringe. However, the Cook Islands bounced straight back, scoring a try straight from the kick-off thanks to the fast pace of Colati ’Tua’ Ravula. Tonga scored once more, to lead 12-5 at the break.
Although they only had six players on the field, Tonga managed to extend their lead to 14 points after they scored another try out wide. The second half saw more controversy, with yet another yellow card being dished out, this time to a Tongan player.
The Cook Islands managed to capitalise on their two-player advantage, with some solid play leading to a try to Leki Vahefoou, but it proved to be futile as the final buzzer sounded not long after and Tonga walked away with the spoils.
“We achieved our goal to get as far as the bronze medal playoff,” Cameron says.
The result is still a good one for the Sevens team, who will look to continue to improve after a shift of focus from the Cook Islands Rugby Union from the 15s version of the game to the abbreviated code.
“We’re going to get a bit of recovery and relaxation, but we’ll be back to training as soon as possible because we’ve got the Oceania Tournament coming up in November,” says Cameron
- Liam Ratana in Apia, Samoa