After three days of intense and hard fought games, both teams are sitting in second place on the table in both categories.
In the women’s competition, the Cook Islands got their campaign off to a winning start on Friday (Thursday CI time) disposing of touch newcomers Kiribati 18-1 before going on to keep Tonga scoreless and win the one-sided affair 19-0.
Co-captain Julz Westrupp was in her element as she led her team along with fellow captain Princess (Mary) Adams.
Both seasoned national representatives stood out as touch experts and were ably supported by fellow seasoned touch players as well as a crop of talented youngsters including the explosive Hemilda Vavia and youngest Team Cook Islands member 14-year-old Ngapare Noovao.
Sunielia Tom has also had an impressive campaign and so Rangi Apera, Edith Nicholas and Rima Moeka’a.
The agile and speedy PNG women’s side was tagged as the toughest game for the local ladies and it certainly was as the PNG women came out firing against the Cooks who had just previously played Tonga that morning (Friday CI time).
In response, the tenacious Cook Islands women’s team put up a brave defence to keep PNG in check however the host nation kicked into higher gear to keep the Cooks at arm’s length and won 6-2.
After the match, head coach Mark Brown was confident that his team had pinpointed PNG’s weak points – and their own – for when they may meet in the semi finals of the tournament.
After a long night at the games opening ceremony, the women returned to the field on Sunday morning (Saturday CI time) to meet Samoa in a tit-for-tat match.
The game was anyone’s but the evenly-matched teams had to settle for a 4-all tie.
At that stage of the tournament and with more round robin matches to be played, the Cooks were sitting in second behind PNG and ahead of Samoa in third and Tonga in 4th.
The playoff of the tournament will see the top-ranked team play the 4th with the winner heading to the gold medal playoff while teams ranked 2nd and 3rd will play off for the second spot in the gold medal finals. The losers will play for the bronze medal with the losers of the 1st and 4th playoff.
In the men’s division, it was a wake up start for the Cooks team on Friday (Thursday CI time) who were caught off guard by the explosive PNG side who were hyped up and no doubt motivated by the promise of thousands of kina (PNG dollars) for winning gold.
It was a PNG try fest as the Cooks fought hard to keep up and despite some valiant flying try attempts – the Cooks were kept to just one dotdown as PNG raced away to win the game notching up 17 tries.
The match certainly woke up the local lads who were then forced to have a day off on Saturday (Friday CI time) due to the late arrival of Tuvalu who had a rough passage by sea to Fiji before flying to PNG arriving late Saturday night (Friday CI time).
Back on the field on Sunday (Saturday CI time), the Cooks faced the Solomon Islands first up in a closely fought battle that ended in a 4-all tie.
The Cooks were looking for a win to put them in a better position to reach the top four.
With making the top four in mind, the Cooks returned to the field for their second game of the day against Tonga putting on a more cohesive
Young touch rugby up-comers BJ Heather, Cahjun Willis, twins Thomas and Jason Potoru, Puna Hiro and Matamanea Andrews shone on the field.
The youngsters were guided on the field by captain Apii Rau, touch stalwart Andy Kapi, world cup campaigner Kristopher Williamson and Australian based Mokopuna (Sonny) Nooroa.
The Cooks put away Tonga 8-2 before playing their third game of the day, their deferred match against late arrivals
Boosted by the leadership of late arrival player in the experienced Teava Terangi, the Cooks opened up Tuvalu like a can of spaghetti to win strongly 11-3.
The Cooks were to play Samoa and Kiribati on Monday (Sunday CI time) and endure a nervous wait to see if their round robin performance was enough to get them into the top four.
Touch play-offs and finals are scheduled for Tuesday (Monday CI time).