Fairleigh reflects on Cook Islands’ World Cup exit

Cook Islands head coach David Fairleigh said that Jordan Rapana‘s freak no-try incident was not the reason they lost against Tonga and bowed out of the World Cup.

Rapana inexplicably lost the ball upwards when he had been just inches from grounding the ball over the try line with just over 10 minutes to go, and the Cooks trailing 22-16, the score by which they eventually lost.

The defeat means that they cannot now get out of Group D, with USA the team who will progress to a quarter-final date against likely opponents Australia.

Fairleigh said: “That’s not why we got beat. Jordan’s alright, he’s disappointed. He reckons he would have kicked the goal too!

“Obviously we’re disappointed. It was a great game, and I can’t question the players’ effort, they tried hard. We made a few key errors at really important stages, but we were right there in the end to give ourselves a chance.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but I couldn’t be prouder of the effort and courage the boys displayed.”

Winger Chris Taripo came in for his debut, and scored all 16 points for the Cooks, including a well-taken hat-trick of tries.

Fairleigh added: “Chris is a bit of an unsung hero for us and he took his chance tonight. He’s been playing in the lower grades for Newtown (Jets), and he’s a good talent.

“He put himself out there with that display, and well done to him, he deserved it.”

The Cook Islands round off their World Cup campaign with a trip to Neath to face Wales on Sunday.

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