Cook Islands hold off late Welsh fightback and win their first ever World Cup game.

Dylan Napa

There is a first time for everything and for the Cook Islands, after six attempts to do so at the World Cup level, they have won their first game – a 28-24 win over Wales.

They were made to work hard for it, though, as the Welsh fought back valiantly towards the end of the game but the Cook Islands held on for a historic first win in the World Cup.

It was a commanding performance from the Kukis early on as they raced out to a 22-4 lead before relinquishing it but still holding on for the win, as coach David Fairleigh reflected on what was a huge day for his players.

“It is good we have finished on a winning note. We were disappointed losing against America, it was a game we should have won, and then we missed a couple of opportunities against Tonga,” he said.

“There was some really bad defence by us in the second half, but today was our day. It is a big day for the Cook Islands, their first win in a World Cup.”

For Wales, it was a tournament to forget, as they failed to win any of their group games.

Despite that, there were some stellar patches of football from them and even with a poor overall World Cup performance, coach Iestyn Harris knows that there are some positives to take out of the game and the tournament.

“I think our pack is very good and solid and within the next four years, they are going to be formidable,” the former dual-code international said.

“We probably lacked a bit of quality in terms of execution on the edges and it is about going away from the World Cup and seeing what we have to do to improve.

“We are doing a lot of work with our youth policy, so there is a lot being done. Hopefully, over the next three or four years, we will see the fruits of our labours come through.

“We have got some very good quality, we probably just needed a little bit of direction throughout the World Cup.

“We probably lacked that one dominant person to steer us around the field, but that is not a negative against anyone because they did absolutely everything they could do to be at their best.”

For Harris, he knows that the key to gaining success down the track is playing to the right intensity and having the right players involved.

“Whether it is me or whoever else does the work over the next three or four years, it is about getting the players used to that type of intensity and being comfortable with it,” said Harris.

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