Cook Islands account for Heartland XV

NZR     17 Nov 2014     NZR

It was a morale boosting win for Cook Islands rugby after their loss to New Zealand Heartland XV earlier in the week, and their mauling by Fiji in the World Cup qualifiers earlier this year.

The match started off much the same as the first game, except this time in bright sunshine.

After an early penalty by the Cook Islands halfback Tiano Arano, who's goal kicking and service to his backline were instrumental in the turnaround for the Cooks, the Heartland XV scored two tries in quick succession to Jon Dampney and James Lash.

Lash's dash down the blind side a show of individual brilliance and again he proved his kicking class converting both tries to get the visitors out to a 3 - 14 lead.

However, this time the Cook Islands came back strongly and this combined with some poor Heartland defence saw the home team reply with two of their own tries.

Arno took the score to 17 - 14.

Both teams traded penalties and when the half time siren sounded the Cooks found themselves in front 26 – 20.

The second half can only be described as scrappy as both sides struggled with undisciplined play and poor handling.

The Cook Islands’ defensive effort was a huge improvement on three days before and the rush defence of the backline disrupted the ball getting out to the dangerous Heartland outsides.

After a Cook Islands’ counter attack and line pressure, the forwards rumbled over for a try to big lock Tutoa Auva'a.

The conversion took the score out to 33 – 20.

Despite a valiant effort by the Heartland team in tough conditions, especially by the tight forwards, they couldn't emulate their last minute heroics of a week before against New Zealand Marist XV. The Cook Islands’ win was tarnished somewhat by the late sending off of second five Mehi Mavele for a high tackle.

It was a historic win by the Cook Island-based team and they deserved to square the two match series. The Heartland XV can be proud of their campaign and the players proved once again what a great pool of talent there is in the competition.

For match highlights of the three games played by the Heartland XV tune into Sky Sports 1 on Thursday 20th November at 7:30pm for the first showing of Mainfreight Rugby's Heartland XV special.