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Stage is set for Pacific Championship showdown between Kumuls and Kukis

The PNG LNG Kumuls and the Cook Islands are ready to face off in the 2023 Pacific Championships opener on Sunday, October 15, at Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.

In their six head-to-head meetings, PNG had defeated the Cook Islands six times. The Kumuls’ recent victory over the Kukis was 32-16 in the Rugby League World Cup last year. The Cook Islanders have yet to beat the Papua New Guineans.

Flashback, PNG defeated Tonga and Cook Islands to win the Pacific Cup in 2009. The Kumuls also beat Fiji in 2016 and 2017 to claim the Pacific Cup twice.

Historically and statistically speaking, PNG has an upper hand over the Cook Islands. The dominance and results the Kumuls have against the Kukis speak volumes.

This match-up should be an interesting one to watch, as the Kumuls and the Kukis will be led by two rookie coaches Justin Holbrook and Karmichael Hunt. Holbrook had his coaching debut for PNG against Australia in the Prime Minister’s XIII match last month, while Hunt will taste his first game as Cook Islands’ coach.

The Kumuls boast plenty of seasoned campaigners, while the Kukis have less experienced players on their team. Regardless, PNG must not underestimate their opponent because the determined Kukis’ outfit will rise to the challenge to give the Kumuls a run for their money. In any sporting code, underestimation is a recipe for disaster.

The hosts will go as favorites, given their vast experience and track record against the visitors. However, the Cook Islands are on a mission to rewrite history and register their first win over PNG. Experience counts in big games but with faith, determination, and team spirit, the insurmountable task can be overcome by the underdogs.

With the appointment of two new coaches at the helm, including a couple of debutants on both sides, the stakes will be higher. The task will be daunting but whichever team completes their sets well, makes fewer errors, disciplines themselves, and executes the game plan, is likely to walk away victorious.

This much-anticipated match promises to showcase flashes of brilliance, entertaining the mad rugby league fans and keeping them on the edge of their seats. It should be a cracker.

With the experienced hands of Alex Johnston at the back; the craftsmanship of Judah Rimbu around the ruck; tackling assassin of Kyle Laybutt in the middle; and Junior Rop’s barn-storming run upfront, the Kumuls are poised to bring the Kukis into submission on home soil.

Both coaches and the players are looking forward to the encounter. They cannot wait to go on the field and entertain the raucous and jubilant Port Moresby crowd. The state-of-the-art stadium is expected to get filled to its seating capacity in hosting the Pacific Test blockbuster between the PNG LNG Kumuls and the Cook Islands on Sunday, 15th October.

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