Cook Islands Rugby Union development manager Ben Koteka said they were impressed with the success the age group tournament had brought since its inception last year.
In a bid to improve the profile of the annual event, Koteka said the union have planned to hold the U16 tournament as part of the Raro Sevens from October 1-3.
“We hope this will improve competition level and add more excitement to both the U16 tournament as well as the Raro International Sevens,” Koteka said.
“The quality of competition we witnessed in this year’s tournament had surely improved and we expect it to go up to another level next year especially with the tournament running alongside the Raro Sevens.”
Fourteen teams took part in the 2019 Air Rarotonga U16 7s. Nine of them were from overseas, one each from Aitutaki and Mangaia and the remaining from New Zealand. The rest were from here.
“In the first year we had 10 teams and this year we had 14. The popularity of the event and the competition level is surely improving,” Koteka said.
New Zealand’s Tikipunga claimed the title after finishing the tournament undefeated. The side beat Mt Roskill Grammar 17-5 in the final played at Raemaru Park on Saturday.
In the semifinal, Tikipunga overpowered Te Aute 36-0 while Mt Roskill Grammar defeated Hato Paora 24-17 in a close tussle.
Tereora College won the girls title overcoming Tasman in a close competition.
The 2018 tournament was also won by a New Zealand team, Kerikeri High School, who made a clean sweep claiming the boys and girls titles.
Koteka said the onus was on the local teams to restore pride and win the tournament next year.
He thanked the sponsors for supporting the tournament this year.