The defending champions struggled to find a gap in the crowded Cook Islands backline in the early minutes but after adjusting to their deep defensive structure, Kelli Brown broke through to open the scoring in the 18th minute.
After Maggie Jenkins followed up with two quick goals, Brown slotted in two more to bring New Zealand’s tally to five.
Captain Maya Hahn was the next to get her name on the scoresheet, finding the net from the penalty spot after a handball in the Cook Islands box.
Substitute Margot Ramsay, who came on in place of Maggie Jenkins in the 36th minute, was the last goal-scorer of the half, sending the ball past goalkeeper Dora Iripa only six minutes after taking the field.
Cook Islands held their heads high when they returned to the field and continued their defensive game, letting only Jayda Steward and Grace Wisnewski find the goal and holding out New Zealand to a single digit score.
Although their exit from the competition is earlier than hoped, Cook Islands coach Theresa Tatuava was overjoyed with the milestone her team had reached in the competition and proud of her young team for fighting until the end.
“We knew our chances were not that great but I’m proud of the girls. This is the first time they’ve played in a formation; they have never done it before against a very strong team.
“It is huge playing against a team like New Zealand and hopefully our players will learn from this experience and be proud of their performance tonight.
“This has been an incredible experience. The girls have learned a lot and they have achieved something that no other Cook Islands football team has ever managed to accomplish. They can go home knowing that they have set a standard.”
Despite Cook Islands’ formation causing trouble for New Zealand in the opening minutes of the game, New Zealand coach Leon Birnie was pleased to see his side adapt to their structure and become more clinical in their execution as the game went on.
“I was quite impressed with the girls today. Cook Islands showed their intent straight away, that they were going to set up defensively, and in the previous few games it has taken us a while to put the goals in the back of the net,” he said.
“What was really impressive was the way they were able to execute what we spoke on and had worked around and work that out for themselves without being triggered from the side-line. They did that really well, especially in the first half.”
The team will arrive home on NZ46 today at 2:35pm.