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Cook Islands Rugby League Nines teams win medals at Pacific Games

Thursday 23 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in League, Pacific Games 2023, Sports


Cook Islands Rugby League Nines teams win medals at Pacific Games
Women’s league 9s team with their spoils. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 23112302 / 23112303 / 23112304

The Cook Islands rugby league 9s teams that were stranded in New Zealand and Fiji on their way to the Solomon Islands due to flight cancellations had their perseverance rewarded when they won medals at the Pacific Games, reports Losirene Lacanivalu in Honiara.

On Tuesday night (Cook Islands time), the women’s team created history after winning the country’s first Pacific Games gold medal in the league 9s competition. The men’s team claimed bronze in the third-place playoff.

“It is all for you Cook Islands,” said the Cook Islands Moana captain Ngatokotoru Arakua as she looked across the field to see the many supporters who gathered to watch the team receive their gold medal.

It was a match to watch as the Cook Islands side held on until the last minute, defeating Tonga 16-8 in the final.

Arakua told Cook Islands News that the team was over the moon and that they had a lot of pride and played with passion in the last 18 minutes of the game.

The Mauke-born and -bred Arakua, who is based in New Zealand, scored the opening and final try for the Moana team.

“I am very proud and the girls are very proud. Playing alongside these women and seeing what we have achieved today has left me speechless.”

Arakua said that they had only 12 players through the whole tournament and that it took a lot of encouragement and perseverance to get through the tournament.

The national women’s team did not go undefeated throughout the tournament as they had lost to Tonga on Tuesday (Solomon Islands time).

But they regrouped, and for the Moana’s, it was just a pre-warm match for the gold medal win.

“I guess Tuesday’s game was a pre-warm up game against Tonga. and we just thought today we wanted it that bad,” she said after the win.

“We’ve been through so much on our journey to get here and for my girls to actually pull through with passion and footwork, I’m just so proud of them.”

Akarua gave Cook Islands an early lead in the match before Kiana Sword-Tua scored the second try to extend the lead to 8-0.

Jodeci Joseph scored Cook Islands’ third try as the national side stormed to 12-0 lead at the break.

In the second spell, Akarua scored her second try to give Cook Islands 16-0 lead before Tonga bounced back and scored two tries but that wasn’t enough as the Rusty Matua coached-side held on to win 16-8.

Men’s team claim bronze medal

The Men’s 9s league team with their bronze medals and women with their gold medal at the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU /23112301

Cook Islands men’s league 9s team have managed to bring home another medal.

On Tuesday night, the Clive Nicholas-coached side walked away from Honiara’s National Stadium proud and content with the 16-7 win against Tonga.

Nicholas said the team went through a lot of training, for four to six months with six training sessions per week, to prepare for the Games.

He acknowledged all those who helped him with the preparations.

“We have no complaints; we came for a medal.”

However, Nicholas said they could have been playing in the gold medal playoffs if they played their cards well in the round robin competition.

“Watching the games, I was a little bit disappointed, our losses against Samoa and Fiji … because to my understanding what I saw was, we could have beaten them. Our boys could have handled them … silly mistakes cost us.”

Nicholas added that he made the boys aware of their mistakes and he was happy they managed to pull through in their last game.

As of 6pm last night, Team Cook Islands had three gold medals and two bronze.

Swimmers Wesley Roberts in the 400m freestyle and Lanihei Connolly in the 50m breaststroke won the other gold medals. Wesley and Connolly were scheduled in compete in finals of other individual events last night.

Wesley also won a bronze medal in the 200m individual medley competition.

Other events

In golf, Rotana Howard, Rowena Newbigging, Memory Akama, and Koputai Cecil played round two in women’s competition, while Kristopher Williamson, Daniel Web, William Howard, and Leonard Smith also competed in round two in the men’s category.

The Cook Islands 7s men’s team defeated Nauru 27-0 in their opening pool match yesterday.

Coach Andrew Iroa said the team focused on composure and trusting in the processes.

The national side will take on Tonga today at 3.24pm (Solomon Islands time).

Iroa said they are hoping for a top two finish in the pool competition.

“Top two in pool crosses over for quarter finals. We are confident, all the work has been done and now it’s all up to how much they (the team) want it.”

The Cook Islands women 7s side faced host nation Solomon Islands in their opening match yesterday.