Cook Islands women’s coach Anthony Matua was left “very proud” after his side put on a spirited performance in their 34-4 defeat to New Zealand.
The Pacific outfit suffered a humbling 74-0 loss at the hands of the Jillaroos in their tournament opener, but came back strong against the Kiwi Ferns and even put points on the board.
“Apart from three players, our side is full of amateurs,” said Matua. “We’re up against professional sides and coming off juggernaut Jillaroos from the previous game.
“It’s quite heartening to see that performance tonight. Very proud of our girls, they know they had a decent game and we’re super proud.”
Mackenzie Wiki made history by scoring the sole try for the Cook Islands.
Looking back at the effort, she said: “It was surreal. It was the first time we put points on the board since we came here.
“Honestly when I scored I wanted to cry. We’re not going home with a doughnut. I was so proud of the effort, it was all the girls, I just finished the job.”
Australia and New Zealand should’ve been in separate groups, says Cook Islands boss
Last week, Matua slammed the tournament organisers for putting the two top seeds in the same group.
He said: “Probably my biggest issue has been with the pools. I just think for starters, Australia and New Zealand should’ve been split between A and B pools.
“That’s a no-brainer. I think that’s just common sense. They’ve played in every Grand Final so I can’t imagine how they ended up in the same pool.
“I don’t see any system that allows the top seeds to be in the same pool. That’s pretty tough, obviously being in the pool of death.
“I said it before, England’s in the spa pool along with the old Brazil and Canada. I think that’s a little bit unfair.”
Can England make history?
When asked whether England stand a chance of upsetting the likes of New Zealand in a potential semi-final, Matua added: “I think it’s possible (upset). But with New Zealand’s best team, I think New Zealand would go in as favourites just because of their NRLW experience. Pretty much the whole team is in the NRLW.
“The NRLW is the pinnacle of rugby league, no disrespect to the Super League up here. But yeah, they’re sharp, their football IQ is amazing, their strength and conditioning is amazing.
“And like for us, it’s like amateurs going up against professionals. The English are a bit closer to their level with their strength and conditioning and their professionalism but I just think on form you’ve got to go with the Aussies and the Kiwis.”
The final set of group games will take place on Wednesday and Thursday. England will take on PNG to determine the group winners while the aforementioned Cook Islands will play France.