The National, Monday July 15th, 2013
IT WILL be a long four-year wait until the Pukpuks get a chance to compete at a Rugby World Cup qualifier.
The Cook Islands ended Papua New Guinea’s hopes of advancing to a two-match series against Fiji next year, the first stage of the qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup in England, when they out-played a brave Pukpuks 39-31 in a hard fought match at the Lloyd Robson Oval on Saturday.
The visitors also claimed the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions Cup for the first time since its inception in 2007.
Despite strangely missing out on the man-of-the-match award, which went to PNG prop Ryan Samabath, the Cook Islanders used their big pack and seasoned playmakers in flyhalf Greg Mullany and halfback Andrew Putairi to keep PNG on the backfoot for the majority of the game.
The home side was forced to play with 13 men in the first half after second-five Andrew Pease and winger Hubert Tseraha were yellow-carded within two minutes of each other for dangerous play and fighting.
Cook Islands also lost No.12 James Raea to the bin for his part in the scuffle with Tseraha.
In the 3rd minute veteran Douglas Guise got PNG off to the best start possible when he scooped up a loose ball from a maul 5-metres inside the Cook Islands half to run unchallenged to the line.
That 5-0 lead soon became 5-3 after Mullany slotted a penalty and the signs did not look promising with the Pukpuks already conceding a raft of penalties.
Henry Liliket scored another runaway try for PNG in the 25th minute, this time from a fumble off a Ralph Susuve bomb.
At 12-3 the Pukpuks looked to be settling down into a pattern but the binning of Pease and Tseraha forced them to change tack.
Prop Jacob Marsters strolled over under the uprights in the 36th minute after a period of sustained pressure and the visitors were just 12-10 behind before winger Ioane Ioane bagged another five-pointer for the Cook Islands to be 15-12 at halftime.
The Polynesians won the territorial game in the second 40, using their big men to great effect. The scrums belonged to the men in green and yellow as Ioane crossed from an inside ball in the 46th minute.
Mullany, who had already kicked two conversions and a penalty, crossed for a try of his own in the 49th minute which he converted for the Cook Islanders to go to a 29-12 lead.
Liliket crossed for his second in the 62nd minute as PNG launched a comeback but lock Nick Connell barged over to reassert the visitors’ dominance 36-19.
As the penalty count evened, hooker Kapua Kapua edged PNG closer with a try while Mullany slotted a penalty to give his side some more breathing space. The Pukpuks trailing 39-24 started to chance their arm and Flanker Butler Morris scored with three minutes left but that proved a consolation as the Cook Islanders held on for a well-deserved victory.
Cook Islands 39 (J Marsters, I Ioane 2, G Mullany, N Connell tries; G Mullany 4 con, 2 pen) PNG 31 (D Guise, H Liliket 2, K Kapua, B Morris tries; R Susuve 2 con, T Kautu 1 con). HT: 15-12 (Cook Islands) at the Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby.