Islanders cometh

Normal, Sports

The National, Thursday July 4th, 2013

 THE PNG Monier Pukpuks’ biggest threat to winning the Oceania Cup arrived yesterday.

The Cook Islands, spotting a largely different side to the one that lost to the Pukpuks 29-21 in the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) Cup final in 2009, arrived yesterday. 

They face fellow Polynesians, Tahiti, in their opening match but no doubt will be keeping an eye on rivals PNG.

Coach Barry George said on arrival yesterday that his boys would have to battle Port Moresby’s heat during the two-week Oceania Cup starting this Saturday at the Lloyd Robson Oval (Port Moresby Rugby League).

“Despite the heat which we know will be a factor, my boys are well prepared to take on what Tahiti will bring,” George said.

They will be well-served by their survivors from the 2009 match in goal-kicking fullback Nathan Robinson, hooker and former captain Joseph Marsters, No.8 Nick Connal and 140kg prop Jacob Marsters.

The Cook Islands’ obvious advantage is their forward pack which had the better of the set pieces the last time the two sides met.

Skipper Stan Wright spoke well of his team’s preparation leading up to the tournament and said that things were looking good for his side.

Wright and his men will have to wait a full week before facing off with the homeside in what could be a winner- takes-all last match Saturday week.

Pukpuks skipper Aaron Miai leads a young but talented national side which has undergone an intense preparation with coach Al Manning.

Meanwhile, Minister for Sports & 2015 Pacific Games Justin Tkatchenko wished all four teams luck in the opening round of the International Rugby Board-sanctioned Oceania Cup tournament this Saturday.

Tkatchenko welcomed the visiting teams – the Solomon Islands, Tahiti and the Cook Islands – during a function yesterday at the Adventure Park, 14-Mile.

Tkatchenko said that he was pleased to be able to witness this event.

“Hosting the Oceania Cup is a huge step that the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union is taking as we head towards the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby and I know it will be a success,” he said.

The four teams are currently camping at the Correctional Service facility at Bomana where they have been in training leading up to the opening round of matches over the weekend.