John Kear proud but disappointed as Wales lose to Cook Islands in World Cup opener
Wales coach John Kear spoke of his pride and disappointment after Wales suffered a battling 18-12 defeat to the Cook Islands in their World Cup opener.
Tries from Rhodri Lloyd and Ollie Olds gave the predominantly part-time Welsh a 12-8 interval lead at Leigh Sports Village but the more experienced South Pacific islanders wore them down in the second half.
Even then, Wales had a chance to snatch a draw in the last minute but Caleb Aekins was unable to take advantage of an overlap out wide after Lloyd charged down a kick.
After Wales were hammered in all three of their group games five years ago, coach Kear felt the display made a strong statement.
“I think we have earned the respect of a lot of people,” said the veteran Widnes and former England coach.
“I think that is the best Wales rugby league performance for a long, long time. I am immensely proud of the players and the effort they have put in.
“We are one of the lower-ranked teams and we have got a lot of part-time players. But we’ve demonstrated being part-time isn’t simply about ability sometimes, it is about life circumstance.
“I certainly think anyone who has watched that will come away having had full value for money and with a lot of admiration for the fellas who wore red. The pride comes through, but it is disappointing as well.”
Kear refused to blame his players for failing to take advantage of the last-gasp chance to snatch something from the Group D encounter.
“A lot of players emptied the tank out there,” he said. “The effort to charge down, which gave us the opportunity we almost got – it’s that that needs applauding.”
Tries in quick succession from Davvy Moale and Steve Marsters, after an earlier effort from Anthony Gelling, secured victory for the Cook Islands.
Kukis coach Tony Iro, the former Wigan and New Zealand winger, said: “I think Wales, for the most part of the game, stuck it to us and I thought they played really well.
“I was really proud of our boys for sticking to their guns because I thought there was an opportunity there, a couple of times, when they could have let things go against them.
“But they kept turning up and, for most of our boys, I thought it was a really strong performance.”
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