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The Cook Islands have progressed to the Pacific Rim Grand Final after a narrow 20-12 victory over the ANZ Fiji Bati side.
The Cooks came up against a determined Bati side that had made massive improvement after their 56-6 thumping by Tonga in the weekend. With the Cooks beating Tonga on Tuesday, they were expected to walk all over the small Fijian team on route to the Grand Final. But it wasn?t until the last minute of the match that the Cooks raped the game up, as Fiji nearly came up with the upset of the Tournament.
The Fijian team is the only team in the Pacific Rim that has not got overseas based players in the team, as the core of the side were members of the national team that played the touring Cook Islanders last month.
Fiji came up with the only points in the first half after a block busting run from lock forward Asaeu Saravaki. Centre Audate Tinivata converted the try to give Fiji an early 6-0 lead.
The rest of the first half was a niggling affair, as several times the match threaten to boil over. However both team produced last gasp defence to keep the first half to only one try.
At the brake, both teams managed to cool down and come out and play some entertaining football for the small 400-500 people that turned up.
Early in the second half a Fijian player was sin binned for a professional foul, which opened up the door for the Cooks. The Cooks spread the ball side to side before finally exploiting the one man advantage to score under the post through replacement forward Tere Taia.
Carlos Mataora converted to level the scores at 6 all.
Fiji managed to keep the Cooks out with suburb last effort defensive until their player came back from the bin. However moments later Cooks centre Cane Pati made a break from 40 metres to score close to the posts.
Carlos Mataora added the extras, plus a penalty goal several minutes later to give the Cooks an eight point lead at 14-6.
With time running out, Fiji hit top gear and started to throw the ball round as they attempted to close the gap. A simple darting run between two forwards from halfback Isimeli Soqe got the Bati?s within two points after Tinivata conversion.
Fiji then came close to stealing the lead after a grubber kick was placed behind the Cooks line with three Fijians chasing. Unfortunately the ball went dead, and a few tackles later the Cooks scored through Tere Glassie to wrap the game up.
As Mataora kicked his fourth goal of the night, the final whistle went with the Cooks running out 20-12 victors and progressing to the Grand Final on Saturday.
The Fijian side showed yet again pride and commitment to each other, and that they can play well against the bigger teams in Internationals. And with none of their Australian based players playing, the Fijian team look well set in the near future with Fiji A beating Malta last week.
Fiji will now take on minnows Niue in the Bowl final; while the Cooks will take on NZ Maori who destroyed an Auckland based Samoan team 70-10 last night.
Cook Islands vs Fiji Round 5 Pacific Rim
Cook Islands 20
Cane Pati, Tere Glassie, Tere Taia : Tries Carlos Mataora (4) : Goals
Asaeu Saravaki, Isimeli Soqe : Tries Audate Tinivata (2) : Goals
Halftime Score : 6 - 0 To Fiji
Thanks to http://www.rugbyleaguenz.com for another great article.