8 May 2017

Sport: Cook Islands encouraged by Pacific Test debut

12:20 pm on 8 May 2017

The Cook Islands believe they have a platform to build from after pushing Papua New Guinea all the way during the Pacific Rugby League Test.

The Kukis trailed 12-0 after 20 minutes but fought back to draw level by half-time.

Two second half tries from man of the match Stargroth Amean inspired the Kumuls to a 32-22 triumph but Cook Islands coach Tony Iro was proud of the way his young team stayed in the contest for 80 minutes.

"I thought the boys did pretty good to drag ourselves back into the game by half-time," he said.

"We did have two tries disallowed previously so we created enough opportunities and at 12-all I was reasonably confident.

"We generally dominated possession in the first half and I thought they were wavering a little bit - they scored two good tries but I thought our boys were on top.

"Then basically in the second half we made a few errors, lost our fullback and our halfback after 20 minutes of the second half and then I was really proud of the way the boys hung in actually...and I thought the Kumuls played pretty good footy as well."

The Cook Islands team for the 2017 Pacific Test v Papua New Guinea.

The Cook Islands team for the 2017 Pacific Test v Papua New Guinea. Photo: Facebook / Cook Islands Rugby League

Tony Iro said says many of the young Kukis players will form the backbone of the national team going forward as the seek to qualify for the 2021 World Cup.

"We've got a lot of guys who are just out of Under 20s footy - a few guys who I know will make their mark in the NRL over the next 12-24 months - who are here currently training at NRL clubs and just waiting for an opportunity," he said.

"So I'm confident they enjoyed the experience, - obviously they will be better for it.

"The big thing about Cook Islands footy is just getting them in and around the culture and experience a different feel to what they normally do week in week out."

Tony Iro said the Cook Islands enjoyed being a part of the Pacific Test for the first time would love to remain involved.

"The game has given our team a bit of profile and we've got to build our national side and find some more fixtures," said Iro.

"At this stage I think the next world cup qualifying will be in 2019, which isn't that far away, so we've got a two year period in which we can start to build some depth in numbers and quality in player."