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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Who ever said International Rugby League was dead should have been at Ericsson number two last night, as Cook Islands and Tonga battled it out in the 3rd Round of the Pacific Rim Tournament.
In what can only be described as one of the most brutal International matches played in recent memory, both teams showed what it meant to play for their country at the highest level.
Winner of the match would more than likely take on NZ Maori in the final of the Pacific Rim, and Tonga were strong favourites to make their final after their 56-6 thrashing of Fiji in round one.
As per the other matches, both nations preformed their hakas simultaneously before it was down to the action.
Straight from the kick off Tonga smashed the Cooks with several impressive hits. But what was to be the flavour of the night, the Tongans gave away a penalty right in front of the post which gave Cook Islands stand off Carlos Mataora an easy kick at goal.
The smallish crowd of just over 700 people had to wait 15 minutes for the first try of the match, which came from a brilliant solo run from the Tongan fullback Lemisio Sete. Sete split the Cooks back line from the scrum base before racing 40 metres to score. Centre Vunga Lilo missed the conversion to make the score 4-2 to Tonga.
Then the real action commenced, as Tonga and the Cooks traded what can only be described as some of the most brutal tackles seen in along time in International Rugby League. Most of the massive hits came from the Tongans in which sent mainly Cook Island players airborne, but what the Cooks got they gave back just as good. It wasn?t just the one hit, but more than a dozen hits through out the match.
After numerous infringements by the Tongans, they lost a replacement forward to the sin bin in which resulted in the Cooks first try to replacement Tere Tala. Tala scored after strong run from 10 metres to score adjacent to the posts.
Mataora converted the try and a penalty several minutes later to give the Cooks a 10-4 lead at the break.
The second half began as the first one started with massive hits from both teams. But it would be the Cooks who scored the first points in the second half after back to back sets of six on the Tongan try line resulting in a try to centre Nathan Ford.
Time was running out for the Tongans as the big hits kept coming, the pressure built. With 10 minutes remaining in the match, another Tongan player was sin binned for a professional foul.
Cooks winger Byron Ford scored in the same corner as his brother to give the Cooks an 18-4 lead with six minutes left.
Tonga then threw everything they had at the Cooks, and were finally rewarded with a try to half back Joe Taufa'ao from close range. Centre Vunga Lilo nailed the conversion as time ran out on the Tongans, going down 18-10.
The tone of the match could only be described by one act of Cooks winger Byron Ford. After being hammered in a tackle by the Tongans, Ford got to his feet played the ball while yelling ?I love it, I love it!?
The only way to describe the hits in the match is to compare them to the hits of young Kiwi Sonny Bill Williams. The hits from Tonga and the Cooks made Sonny?s ?hits? look like normal tackles. In what can only be described as a miracle that only one player was taken to hospital by an ambulance.
The only crime in the match was that yet again it was not promoted and only 700 people turned up.
Without a doubt the standard of the Pacific Islands teams is on the rise, though it will probably never be at the same speed as the Kangaroos and the Kiwis.
With the Rugby League World Cup scheduled in 2008, you can count on Tongan and Cook Islands being their and playing competitively.
Cooks will now play Fiji tomorrow night and have should have to much power for the brave Fijians. Tonga will now play NZ Maori or Samoa in the Plate final on Saturday.
Cook Islands 18
Byron Ford, Nathan Ford, Tere Tala : Tries Carlos Mataora (3) : Goals
Lemisio Sete, Joe Taufa'ao : Tries Vunga Lilo (1) : Goals
Halftime Score : 10 - 4 To Cook Islands
Courtesy of: http://www.rugbyleaguenz.com
In results just to hand from http://www.nzrl.co.nz
PACIFIC CUP RESULTS:
Wednesday 20 October 2004 - Waitemata Stadium, Henderson, Auckland
Samoa vs New Caledonia Samoa 76 Andrew Suniula, Kristian Mene, Steve Matai, Joshua Stowers, Eddie Leuluai, Chanel Tuimavave, James Uoka (2), Andreas Bauer (2), Tone Taula (3), Anthony Swann (3) : Tries Jacob Yandall (1), Jesse Ioapo (2), Leiloa Lafaele (3) : Goals
New Caledonia 0
Halftime Score : 34 - 0 To Samoa
Amerika Samoa vs Cook Islands Cook Islands 28 Travel Tulai, Richard Piakura, Lucas Daniels, Thomas Fortes, Hugh Smith, Kimi Iobu : Tries Corey Wetini (2) : Goals
Amerika Samoa 12 Konelio Alefosio, Tui Samoa : Tries Konelio Alefosio (2) : Goals
Halftime Score : 10 - 6 To Cook Islands