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Maroons stage stunning comeback

Monday 24 June 2024 | Written by Solomone Taukei | Published in Rugby league, Sports

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Maroons stage stunning comeback
The standout player, earning the MVP title for game two of the Origin Series, was Brian Akava from the Country Maroons. Akava scored three tries, made numerous line breaks, tackle breaks, set up plays, and maintained a strong defensive presence. CIRL/24062304

The Country Maroons made a resounding comeback in the second match of the Cook Islands Rugby League State of Origin Series, narrowly defeating the Town Blues 32-26, while Town Whites secured the Conan’s Cup after second win.

After an agonising extra-time defeat in the first leg, the Maroons showcased their resilience and strategic prowess in an electrifying game that kept fans on the edge of their seats on Saturday at Aretere Park in Avatiu.

The match started with a bang as Josh Koroi cleared the line to the far right within the first 20 minutes, putting the Blues ahead 4-0. The Maroons responded swiftly, scoring a converted try five minutes later to take the lead at 6-4. Dan Taokia extended the Maroons’ lead to 10-4 with another try at the far left. The Maroons’ strong backs attack, supported by forwards creating sustained spaces, kept the Blues on their toes.

Ryan Toa’s impressive kick and chase resulted in another try for the Maroons, pushing the score to 16-4 after a successful conversion from Brian Akava. The Blues didn’t back down, as Toru Katuke broke the line and assisted Josh Motu, who scored, bringing the Blues closer at 8-16. The momentum shifted multiple times as both teams lost possession twice before Brian Akava tapped over the line again, extending the Maroons’ lead to 22-8.

Just before halftime, the Blues launched a powerful attack with their forwards driving hard and creating space. This strong offensive play allowed Jale Lagidela to find a quick opening, crossing the line and bringing the score closer at 14-22 with a converted try.

The second half began with a brilliant solo effort from Tama Nicholas, who gained 40 metres and scored a try, bringing the score to 20-22. The Maroons responded with a strong break, completing sets right on the Blues’ try line, and extended their lead to 28-20, thanks to another conversion from Akava.

Katuke of the Blues made a significant impact by breaking the line and scoring a converted try, narrowing the score to 26-28. Despite the Blues’ hard-fought efforts, the Maroons’ defence remained impenetrable, nullifying two attempts from the Blues in the last 20 minutes. Finally, the Maroons’ forwards opened a gap for Caleb, who dived across the line, sealing the game at 32-26.

The standout player of the weekend, earning the MVP title for game two of the Origin Series, was Brian Akava from the Country Maroons. Akava scored three tries, made numerous line breaks, tackle breaks, set up plays, and maintained a strong defensive presence. His high-pressure bombs kept the Blues guessing throughout the match.

Maroons’ coach Dion Nepia praised his team, saying, “We looked at a few things we needed to change in our attack, and I felt we executed things well in patches. We still gave away cheap points, so that will be something we need to address.”

“They will have their big guns come back into the side for the decider, the likes of Tua, Tevita, Oz presumably, but we’ll see how we go. Big mentions, Brian Akava, change of position didn’t faze him and he was rewarded for his control of the game with three tries.

“Kaleb Chase and Dan Taokia’s strong direct running and strong defence rewarded with a try each. Props Rob Heather and Clarke Ngaau set the foundation and led from the front. Timo Tangirere had a really good defensive game. We will need to be a lot better next (this) week.”

Co-coach Clive Nicholas of the Blues acknowledged their shortcomings, stating, “We faced small problems that cost us a game yesterday (Saturday)… those we’ll be dealing with this week. We were outrun by a fast country side! But it’s a good thing, makes the last game more interesting.”

In the women’s division, the Town Whites delivered a dominant performance against the Country Blacks. The Whites set up a strong attacking game that pushed the Blacks against their own line.

Maintaining a cool game, the Whites ensured completion of sets, leading 14-12 at halftime. However, the Country Blacks fought back, forcing errors on the Whites and closing the gap to 24-22 by full time. Despite their efforts, the Town Whites secured the Conan’s Cup for the 2024 season after their second win.