16 Cook Islands
Rugby League World Cup Tuesday 5th November 2013 Leigh Sports Village, Leigh Att: 10,544
G Fisi'iahi , J Taumololo , K Hurrell , J Taufua
S Langi x3
C Taripo x3
C Taripo x2
Match Official: Ashley Klein
Tonga came out on top in an entertaining match at Leigh Sports Village. They beat the Cook Islands 22-16 to keep their hopes of reaching the Rugby League World Cup 2013 quarter-finals alive.
There were firework displays lighting up the sky around the ground and there were plenty of fireworks on the pitch as well with Cook Islands wing Christopher Taripo claiming a hat-trick and four different Tongans on the score sheet.
Both sides came into the match on the back of defeats, with the Cook Islands beaten in the first ever Rugby League World Cup fixture to be played in Bristol by the USA while Tonga were surprised by Scotland in Workington.
In front of a stadium-record crowd of 10,544, the players seemed to feed off the energy of their imposing pre-match war dances and the sound of the drums beating to the rhythm of the night.
Tonga opened the scoring when Sika Manu broke through the Cooks’ defence just inside the Islanders’ half and carried the ball for 25 metres before offloading to Glen Fisi’iahi, who was unchallenged on his way to the line.
Samsoni Langi added a simple conversion and the Tongans seemed like a side on a mission to bounce back from their surprise opening RLWC2013 defeat to the Bravehearts.
Manu’s loose handling coast the Tongans a quick-fire second, he fumbled with wing Daniel Tupou free on the right, and the try line beckoning.
But the Islanders were having none of the Tongans’ dominance, and duly responded with a try of their own, as Isaac John’s perfectly-directed kick found Taripo, who shot past his only challenger to touchdown. The winger converted his own try to level the scores.
The Cooks took the lead minutes later, as the same combination came up with the goods again – John this time with a delicate grubber through a gap to enable Taripo to score in the corner.
The game was developing into a thrilling end-to-end encounter, as each side were completing their sets and testing defences consistently. The Cook Islands were unlucky when they overran a move involving the ever-dangerous Taripo, before being forced to defend stoutly as Tonga also applied pressure.
The Cooks committed the first real error of the night and it cost them dear. Sam Mataora gifted the ball to Tonga which resulted in Jason Taumololo eventually powering over. Langi gave them the lead with the conversion and then added a penalty to put them 14-10 ahead.
Konrad Hurrell then extended their lead just before the interval, his barnstorming run flattening three Cooks challenges on his 30-metre charge to the line.
However, the Cook Islands hit back just immediately after the interval as Taripo added to his points tally with another brilliant score. He managed to stretch out a hand in a full-length dive to touchdown and added a superb conversion from the touch line to reduce the deficit to two points.
Revitalised, the Cooks were doing more than enough to tame the Tongans in the second period, as the Islanders upped their aggression in defence.
But as the half wore on the Cooks’ intensity waned and their concentration seemed to lapse as they gifted Tonga possession deep in their own territory. Jorge Taufua ultimately took advantage, doing well to keep himself out of touch before crossing in the corner to put his side 22-16 ahead.
However the Cooks rallied and with 10 minutes remaining carved out a scoring opportunity when Jordan Rapana got on the end of a long pass with the line at his mercy. Inexplicably he lost control of the ball before he could touchdown and that was to prove their last chance of salvaging the game.