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Town Blues triumph in thrilling series opener

Monday 17 June 2024 | Written by Solomone Taukei | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Town Blues triumph in thrilling series opener
The Most Valuable Player award recipient, Town Blues’ Tama Nicholas against the Country Maroons at Nukupure Park on Saturday. CIRL/ 24061602

The first match of the Cook Islands Rugby League State of Origin series, held over the weekend, was a spectacular showcase of skill and determination.

Kicking off at 2.30pm at Nukupure Park in Ngatangiia, the women’s teams battled fiercely for the Conan Cup.

From the start, the Town Whites dominated, thanks in large part to the efforts of frontline powerhouse Julz Westrupp. Her remarkable ability to set up breaks was instrumental in pushing her team ahead.

Despite a spirited and timely response from the Country Blacks, the Town Whites maintained their lead throughout the contest.

The Country side showcased many superb moments, highlighting their strength and skill. However, the final score of 14-26 marked a decisive victory for the Town Whites, giving them the first win of the series.

The men’s match between the Town Blues and Country Maroons kicked off at 3.30pm and was an intense thriller throughout the 80 minutes of play. With relentless intensity from start to finish, both teams capitalised on each other’s mistakes and set up strong defenses on both ends.

The game resulted in an extra-time clash, with both teams held at 16 all by full time. An extended 10-minute half was called where the score remained tied. However, a final break by the mighty Oswell Tunupopo gave Tama Nicholas a gain over the Maroons territory that offloaded to Nathan Nabou before diving across the line, securing the match for the Town Blues 20-16 at full time.

Country Maroons coach Dion Nepia said: “For our boys, it was about building combinations and confidence, as it had been well over a month since our last game. I was proud of the boys’ defense, especially against the formidable size of the Town team.”

“Even though the final break by the Blues wasn’t ideal, both teams missed opportunities throughout the game. It was a quality game of footy. Special mentions go to Rob Heather, Usa Sivo, Tom Daniel, Sailosi Ratuvukivuki and William Rani for their outstanding efforts on the field.”

Winning co-coach Clive Nicholas said: “Darren and I just said to the boys that mistakes and execution were killing us. We bombed three easy tries and didn’t execute anything.”

“Our forwards, the Panthers trio Eric, Oz, and Tua, along with Eels skipper Josh Motu, led extremely well and worked tirelessly to get us on the front foot, but our backs couldn’t execute. These are just minor issues, easy to fix for the second game.

“As one of the major sponsors, I was really proud of both teams, proud of the host and the organising committee, and the work done by CIRL. It was a beautiful and awesome day of footy.”

The Most Valuable Player for the match was Tama Nicholas, with multiple line breaks, tackle breaks, tackles, and assists. He was involved in many key areas which helped the Blues win over their strong opponents.