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Cook Islands secure final World Cup berth with win over USA

Cook Islands survived the second-half sin-binning of St Helens forward Dominique Peyroux to storm home against the United States and claimed the 16th and final spot at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The Tony Iro-coached Kukis ran out 38-16 winners in the World Cup qualifying match at the University of North Florida on Sunday (AEDT) but they only led 12-10 when Peyroux was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.

Despite being down to 12 men, the Cook Islands extended their lead when Brisbane second-rower Alex Glenn scored midway through the second half and they ran away with the game in the final 10 minutes.

The Cook Islands started the match as they finished it, with South Sydney halfback Troy Dargan and Warrington-bound centre Anthony Gelling scoring early tries but the Hawks hit back with tries either side of half-time to Matt Shipway and Bureta Faraimo.

Dargan scored two tries for the Cook Islands, while Gelling, Glenn, Vincent Rennie, Reuben Rennie and Tevin Arona crossed for one each. Danny Howard scored a late try for the USA.

The win secured the Cook Islands a place in the World Cup for the first time since 2013 after losing a qualifying match against Tonga in the lead-up to the 2017 tournament.

The Kukis join Greece, who secured their berth last weekend with a heavy defeat of Serbia, and Jamaica, who qualified by beating the USA 12 months ago, as nations in the 2021 tournament which did not play at the 2017 World Cup.

USA had featured in the two previous World Cups and beat Cook Islands 32-0 as well as Wales 24-16 at the 2013 tournament.