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Valiant national 7s teams fall short of Oceania glory

Tuesday 22 November 2022 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby Union, Sports

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Valiant national 7s teams  fall short of Oceania glory
Cook Islands men’s team lost to Papua New Guinea in the 2022 Oceania Rugby Sevens Challenge semi-final on Saturday. Picture: OCEANIA RUGBY/22112103

Cook Islands men’s and women’s teams fell short of qualifying to the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series at the 2022 Oceania Rugby Sevens Challenge over the weekend in Brisbane.

The national men’s side lost to Papua New Guinea 12-21 in the Challenge semi-final while the women’s side went down to Tonga 15-26 in the plate final on Saturday.

The two-day tournament featured 14 teams, eight men’s and six women’s teams, from across the Oceania region.

The top two men’s and the top placed women’s teams at the 2022 Oceania Rugby Sevens Challenge qualified to the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series. The winner of the 2023 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series will achieve core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2024.

The finals were abandoned due to rain. Tonga was scheduled to play Papua New Guinea in the men’s final while the Cooks were set to take on Solomon Islands in the third place playoff.

The national men’s team kicked off the competition with a 22-12 win over Vanuatu before going down to Australia A 5-31. In their final pool match on day one on Friday (Cook Islands time), Cook Islands lost to Tonga 5-42.

In the quarter-final, the national side defeated Niue 22-5.

In the women’s competition, Cook Islands defeated Solomon Islands 24-5 and Vanuatu 41-5 before going down to Papua New Guinea 5-27, Samoa 7-19 and Tonga 0-19.

In the plate final, the side lost to Tonga 15-26.

PNG was scheduled to play Samoa in the Championship final.

In lead up to the tournament, Junior Taia, Cook Islands men’s captain said: “I’ve been a part of the team for a few years and am proud to be leading this group for the first time as captain and our first outing since 2019.”

“It is the first tournament for most of the boys so they are pumped and proud to represent the Cook Islands. It would be a big step up for rugby for the Cook Islands to qualify to the Challenger Series, we are here to put our best foot forward and make that happen.”

The Cook Islands Rugby New Zealand Inc. was tasked to field the national men’s and women’s teams, on behalf of the Cook Islands Rugby Union (CIRU), due to the national body’s “financial states”.

In a Facebook post, Cook Islands Rugby New Zealand’s Maia Samuela said: “As we head back to our homes, we take with us great memories, new friendships, a family, a nation! A huge meitaki maata to our Brisbane and Gold Coast family for the huge support, we are ever so grateful for the love and spirit of giving by you all. Our Papa Boat for the sponsorship of our training and warm up gears and cousin Sylvia T George for sponsoring our Physio Pete! What a legend! Our team managers Andrew Grant and Donovan Gray for going the extra mile with keeping our girls hydrated both on and off the field. Our coaches Donny, TK, Special K, Vardey, our doctor Roimata Herman, thank you for accepting our huge patianga to come into battle with us. Our Vaine and Tane Toa who braved the battles we encountered. Our family and friends everywhere!”

Cook Islands teams

Men’s – Repoama Morris-Ponga (Auckland), Junior Kiria (Auckland), Junior Taia (Auckland), Habasaloma Tamarua (Auckland), Kaiya Mareva Tumaki (Auckland), Heimona Potoru (Auckland), King Paulo (Auckland), Kobe Tararo (Brisbane), Yvahn Allsworth (Brisbane), Brian Akava (Rarotonga), William Ravatudeis (Perth), Zacharius Patai (Auckland), Adam Lewis John Vardey, Simon John Kopu. Manager – Opura Samuel (Auckland), Coach – Koiatu Koiatu (Brisbane), Physio – Roimata Herman (Auckland), Assistant Manager –Terepai Samuel (Brisbane), Assistant Coach – Adam Vardey (Auckland).

Women’s – Rima Talia Browne (Rarotonga), Nicol Tiaore (Rarotonga), Manea Poa (Auckland), Paulina Morris-Ponga (Auckland), Tamara Ruaporo (Auckland), Kaden Rota-Moeke (Auckland), Marissa Alexis Elenor Moira Iroa (Auckland), Myracle Monga (Auckland), Mary Tuaana (Brisbane), Beniamina Koiatu (Auckland), Alekermay Tuaana (Brisbane), Gazelle Tiaremanea Tumu Makara, Moehani Pipiniata Samuel, Alekana Dean, Meika Dean, Ratu Chantay Kiria. Manager – Maia Samuela (Auckland), Coach – Tau Korea Moeke (Auckland), Physio – Preston Matete (Auckland), Assistant Manager – Andrew Grant (Auckland), Assistant Coach – Donald Mill (Brisbane).